Wednesday, 28 February 2018

SGA AGM WITH SIMPSON GAME LTD: WEATHER UPDATE

Image from the live traffic cam at Drumochter, taken in the last hour.
The SGA office would like to inform everyone that, despite the snow today (Wed), the 2018 SGA AGM with Simpson Game Ltd at Caledonian Stadium Inverness on Friday is still on.
We have a diverse array of speakers lined up for what promises to be a fascinating event for members and we look forward to seeing as many members as possible on the day.
People traveling distances should make themselves aware of weather warnings in their area, and on the journey, and act accordingly before deciding to travel to Inverness.
Should there be any weather-related change to Friday's AGM, the SGA will inform members immediately.
Those planning to attend the AGM should contact the office on info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk so seating and lunch options can be factored into the event planning.

Friday, 23 February 2018

CARRBRIDGE GAMEKEEPER WINS POLARIS ATV IN SGA PRIZE DRAW

Ewan with his prize at The Scottish Gamekeepers Association HQ in Perth- a brand new Polaris Sportsman 570.

Long standing SGA member Ewan Archer expressed his gratitude to Polaris UK after taking delivery of his brand new Polaris Sportsman 570, won in the 2017 SGA raffle.
The Carrbridge gamekeeper, who works at Kinveachy Estate, was handed the keys to the hard-working ATV at the organisation’s Perth HQ on Thursday after buying his winning ticket through the SGA member magazine, Scottish Gamekeeper.
Fringed by SGA Chairman Alex Hogg, Richard Coleby of Polaris and Iain Stratton of supplier Stratton ATV Ltd, Ewan was delighted to get the first glimpse of his prize.
After entering the annual draw every year since the SGA formed 21 years ago, he admitted he entered the 2017 draw more in support than expectation of winning.
Luck proved to be on his side, though, and he was enormously thankful to collect the smooth riding sage green vehicle.
“Since the outset of the SGA, my family and I have always bought tickets but I didn’t believe it when my wife informed me I had won this year,” he smiled. “A lot of the estates around about us are using Polaris to great effect for grouse moor management and for day to day getting about.
“I am very grateful to Polaris. It is a very generous prize.”
The 44 horsepower ATV is built for safety off-road, with smooth suspension and All-Wheel Drive on demand, single lever brake system and automatic transmission.
It is already a highly popular choice on Scottish estates, as Director of Stratton ATV Ltd, Iain Stratton, acknowledged.
“Ninety five percent of our custom comes from sporting estates. A lot of gamekeepers will use them for feeding in areas they can’t reach with bigger machinery and for towing behind game feeders. It is great for deer extraction as well.”
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg was delighted to see the 2017 prize go to a long-time member of the SGA family.
On the back of successful partnership, the SGA and Polaris are set to renew their arrangement for 2018, with the raffle prize again set to be provided by the company.
“It is really important we have partners like Polaris,” said the SGA Chairman.
“I have used a 6 wheeler Polaris UTV myself for 5 years and it has been really good. In terms of this particular bike, it is a quality product, very sturdy with a good engine. I am sure it will suit Ewan perfectly.”
Polaris UK District Sales Manager Richard Coleby said the partnership was a win-win for all parties and both organisations are looking to make the most of their continued association in 2018.
“Shoots, estates and gamekeepers represent a big market for us, as a business, so it is important to support where we can in Scotland. We are probably the leader in the estates market so it is important for us to maintain profile. All our products are designed for heavy off-road performance so they really suit this type of work.”

Left to Right: SGA Chairman Alex Hogg (left), Richard Coleby of Polaris UK, winner Ewan Archer and Iain Stratton of supplier Stratton ATV Ltd at the official hand-over of the 2017 SGA Draw prize in Perth.



Thursday, 22 February 2018

GAMEKEEPERS SEEK END TO 'TRIAL BY MEDIA' OVER EAGLE


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has called for an end to the ‘trial by media’ over a golden eagle which has gone missing near Edinburgh.
Last week, BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham issued a press release claiming a young satellite tagged eagle had gone missing just miles from the Scottish Parliament, in a wood in the Pentland Hills.
According to the Springwatch presenter, the tag was later found to signal in the North Sea, after appearing to stop transmitting for three days.
A video released to the media by Packham - who actively campaigns for grouse shooting to be banned- implied that the eagle, which has not been located, had been illegally killed.
The video the BBC presenter appeared in, pointed the finger at a grouse moor as it was geographically close to the wood and fields where the bird was understood to be.
Now the SGA has called for an end to what it describes as unsubstantiated speculation and for greater transparency over evidence.
Despite media claims that the area 7 miles to the south of the capital is managed for driven grouse shooting, the moor is used principally as a partridge shoot as quarry numbers are now too low to sustain viable grouse shooting due to high levels of public access.
The area is popular with hikers, dog walkers and mountain bikers from Edinburgh and beyond, with the Pentland Hills welcoming 600 000 visitors per year. *1
A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “Trial by media has already taken place. Now everyone who has been drawn into this needs the truth as to what happened to this eagle. 
“It is not enough for people to be implied as being criminals and those in possession of the satellite tag evidence to walk away, after presenting their judgement to the media, then say no one will probably ever know what has happened.
“If the tags are as reliable as everyone has been told, then the tag data will surely provide conclusive evidence. Many questions need to be answered including why it could not be located in the sea, if it continued to transmit locational data for several days. 
“There needs to be greater transparency because there are too many elements to the carefully stage-managed narrative which do not stack up despite its presentation as a fait accompli.
“If, by releasing this evidence, in full, to Police Scotland, it helps to bring this to a successful conclusion or prosecution, then the SGA and others would be satisfied that justice, as we have come to expect justice to look like, will have run its course. 
“In the meantime, serious allegations have been made against a community of people on the basis of a running commentary of media speculation, implication and suggestion which makes a laughing stock of what looks to be a live investigation.”
*1: Pentland Hills Regional Park annual report 2012/2013.
ORIGINAL STATEMENT ISSUED TO MEMBERS ON WEBSITE, 16th February 2018.
A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “If evidence is forthcoming to prove this eagle’s disappearance had anything to do with grouse interests and involved any SGA member, we will be quick to act and we will act with the appropriate force. The SGA has a very strict wildlife crime policy and will use it, where there is evidence to do so.
“Unlike other organisations, however, we are not going to convene a trial by media or trial by implication. Similarly, we will not label people criminals simply because something occurred within a geographic distance from their work. In no other walk of life does this happen.
“Beyond implication, no one knows what has happened to this bird so anyone with information should contact Police Scotland and we would encourage them to do so. We also feel that Police should attempt to search the water for the missing tag.
“The moor, which lies away from where the eagle was, is - like most in the Pentlands- the site of a very occasional 50-bird day now due to high levels of public access from Edinburgh. It is operated ostensibly for partridge shooting. Notions that this is an area managed for driven grouse shooting, therefore, are suggestive on the part of those making the allegations; people who campaign openly against grouse shooting. 
“Our understanding is that one of the individuals quoted in the media story works for a website (Raptor Persecution UK) which besmirches grouse shoot management, under the veil of anonymity, and seeks to ban it. We will, therefore, continue to investigate the allegations being made, as far as we can, rather than heaping more unhelpful speculation upon existing speculation.”

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS)

DOC 150The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) is an attempt to establish and enforce an international standard on humaneness for traps. It’s likely to be implemented in the UK in the near future, so here is what you need to know.
[Updated 15 February 2018]

What is AIHTS?

The agreement was brokered in 1997 to resolve a trade embargo threatened by the EU in 1991 against countries that traded fur from wild animals caught by inhumane methods. The dispute had begun with pressure inside the EU from animal rights groups protesting against fur trade, focused particularly on the use of leg-hold traps. This backfired to some extent because fur-trading nations pointed out that similar traps were commonly used in EU countries to catch the same species (e.g. muskrat, coypu) or similar species as pests, and that no humaneness standards were applied there. Because fur trading was economically important — particularly for Canada and Russia, but also for some EU countries like Denmark and Iceland — and because pest control was also critical, a compromise was thrashed out: the AIHTS. This requires signatory countries to prohibit traps for fur-bearing species that will not pass a clearly specified humaneness test.
The AIHTS humaneness test was derived from discussions towards an international standard on humaneness in traps, a process which had been derailed by animal rights lobbyists within the technical working group, who ultimately asserted that no trap could ever be considered humane. The ISO standard salvaged from those failed discussions defined how to test traps but stopped short of defining a threshold for acceptability. An acceptability standard was defined in AIHTS. This reflects performance of the better traps available, but is nevertheless realistic.
AIHTS applies only to a list of species commonly caught in the wild for their fur. Of these, only otter, beaver, marten, badger and stoat occur in the UK, and under current UK law only stoat may be taken or killed without special licence. Notably missing from the AIHTS list are mink and fox. This is because fur from those species is mostly taken from fur farm stock, to ensure consistency, and to use variants that are rare in the wild. Weasel is also not listed: this is because it is not caught as a furbearer.
The AIHTS standard is not fixed, and it was anticipated that both the humaneness criteria and the list of species to which AIHTS applied would evolve in time.
A timeline for the evolution of AIHTS and its implementation by signatory countries can be found here.
AIHTS timeline

What does AIHTS mean for gamekeepers?

There will be changes to the list of traps that are approved to catch stoats. From what we already know about trap performance, the Fenn Mk 4 and Mk 6 traps (and copycat designs), and all the BMI Magnum traps fail the AIHTS standard. These probably account for 90% or more of all traps currently used as tunnel traps in the UK.
So the main likely consequences of AIHTS are:
  • Cost of replacement traps
  • Modification of tunnels to suit replacement traps
  • Cost of deployment in the field
  • It will probably be necessary for rat and squirrel control to become separate exercises using pre-baiting, appropriate baits, in more intensive campaigns focused on specific locations. Stoats and weasels can then be targeted using traps approved for them, with suitably restricted entrances to the tunnels.
Some other traps currently approved for stoat have not been tested to AIHTS standard, and are unlikely to be tested because of lack of interest from the manufacturer or the user community. These include the WCS tube trap.

Are Fenn traps going to be made illegal?

Fenn traps, and all copycat designs such as those by Springer and Solway, will be made illegal to catch stoats, because tests have shown that they fail to kill stoats reliably within the time-frame required by AIHTS (45 seconds). We do not yet know whether Defra will continue to allow their use to catch other target species for which they are currently approved (e.g. weasels, rats, squirrels). That decision will not be made until after a public consultation expected to be launched in January 2018. The AIHTS does not apply to those other species, and few traps have undergone humaneness testing for them, because of cost constraints.

Is the UK obliged to implement AIHTS?

The AIHTS is binding on all EU member states, and Defra has indicated that the UK will remain committed to it after Brexit. Morally, a commitment to raise humaneness standards in wildlife management is unarguable, provided it doesn’t render management ineffectual or prohibitively expensive. We do, however, have concerns about its implementation, which we will voice in our response to the public consultation.

Why didn’t we get more warning?

The AIHTS allowed an eight-year period for implementation, from the moment the agreement was signed in 2008. Most of this was squandered through protracted negotiations and indecision within the EU and lack of preparedness at member-state level. As far as we know, only Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and possibly Hungary were already compliant with AIHTS by the July 2016 deadline. See the next section for more detail about the UK specifically.
Because few fur-bearing species addressed by AIHTS are trapped in the UK, the UK was largely compliant by July 2016, with stoats the principle outstanding issue. The problem with stoats was that no trap had been found that made a satisfactory substitute for Fenn traps from a practitioner’s point of view. The UK therefore argued that it needed extra time to facilitate changes.

How did the UK reach the current predicament?

Following completion of signatures to the AIHTS in 2008, a period of five years was allowed for trap testing to take place, followed by three years for trap users to make any necessary changes to their practices. The total eight-year transition expired at the end of July 2016. The GWCT began warning about the implications of AIHTS for predator and pest management in 1997, with an article in the Review, but the UK was slow to implement AIHTS. In part, this was because, for four years after ratification, the EU was apparently working towards a Directive on the matter. The EU dropped that ambition in 2012, arguing that member countries should in any case be implementing the agreement in their domestic law. That still left four years before implementation had to be complete.
In the UK, Defra is the government department responsible for regulation of spring traps (Pests Act 1954). All spring traps must be approved by Defra, although there has not previously been any published standard they must conform to for approval. In 2012, Defra stated that future new trap approvals would be granted only to traps that pass the AIHTS standard, irrespective of species. They even extended this scrutiny to fox snares, which did not fall under either the Pests Act (because a snare is not a spring trap) or AIHTS (because fox is not one of the species it covers).
Defra finally got to grips with implementation of AIHTS in spring 2015, leaving only 15 months of the original eight years to complete trap testing, amend legislation relating to traps, inform the trap-using community of changes to trap approvals, and for the ‘industry’ (manufacturers, importers, retailers, users) to effect those changes. In spring 2015, Defra held discussions with organisations (including the GWCT) associated with shooting and pest control, and with UK trap manufacturers/retailers, to clarify the options for trap testing and trap approvals. Defra expected to progress to a public consultation on the matter by the end of September 2015, but this was deferred pending further developments. When the deadline of July 2016 passed, no suitable substitutes for failed stoat traps had been identified.
Subsequently, however, Defra set up a Technical Working Group with members from organisations representing all the major practitioner groups (including the GWCT). This group oversees the use of a fund to cover the cost of humaneness-testing for promising candidate traps. 50% of the fund was put up by Defra; 50% by the other members of the group. It is expected to be sufficient to see a handful of models through to approval. Trap-testing progress has been slow, chiefly because of a shortage of suitable candidate traps that are developed to a point where they could be manufactured in quantity.
Defra has proposed that in future, those who submit new traps for approval (i.e. manufacturers/importers/retailers) will have to bear the (substantial) cost of trap testing.

What is Defra’s proposal for implementation of AIHTS?

Defra’s proposals will be revealed in a public consultation expected to be launched in late February 2018. It proposes that the use of traps that have failed the AIHTS for stoat will now be withdrawn on 31 December 2018. The consultation documents will detail what alternative traps will be approved for stoats by that date.
We understand that Defra will propose to implement AIHTS by moving stoat to Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. This would make stoat a protected species, but there would then be a General Licence allowing it to be caught using specific trap types detailed in a Spring Traps Approval Order.
Defra’s final policy decision will be influenced by the outcome of the public consultation. Although the GWCT will of course respond to the consultation, individuals from all sectors (gamekeepers, landowners, pest controllers, trap manufacturers) are also encouraged to respond. A major concern will be the desperately short period allowed for outgoing traps to be replaced, particularly considering the modest production capacity of the trap-manufacturing companies. We will include a link to the consultation on this web page when it is announced.

What is the UK situation as of January 2018?

We understand that approval for stoat will be withdrawn from the following traps:
  • Fenn Mk 4 and Mk 6 and copies thereof (e.g. Springer 4 and 6; Solway Mk 4 and Mk 6)
  • BMI Magnum 55, 110 and 116
  • WCS tube trap
As well as a few ‘legacy’ models (e.g. Juby, Imbra) that are no longer manufactured. Subject to conclusions of the public consultation, approval of these traps for other species will be unchanged, but wherever there was a risk of catching a stoat you would have to use a trap approved for stoats.
Approval for stoat will be continued for:
  • DOC 150
  • Goodnature A24
The list of traps approved for stoat will be supplemented further by the time the AIHTS is implemented, but Defra has not yet announced the details. Watch this page for further news.

What if I need to buy traps right now?

If you are considering buying traps for use in 2018, you currently have four options:
  • Option 1: Don’t buy anything until it’s all a lot clearer. Cheapest and safest, but if you are short of traps for spring/summer 2018, may not be a real option.
  • Option 2: If you want to do untargeted tunnel trapping where there’s a likelihood of catching stoats, and really don’t mind if they become redundant at the end of 2018, Fenn Mk 4s are the cheapest option. But at some time in the near future (probably 1 January 2019, but this is not yet absolute) these will definitely become unlawful for stoats.
  • Option 3: If you want to do untargeted tunnel trapping where there’s a likelihood of catching stoats, and you want the traps to be useable beyond 2018, you’d have to go for DOC 150s, because these are the only future-proof brand that’s already legal and compatible with existing tunnels. During 2018, you’d have to use these in the currently prescribed (single-entry) tunnel design, although it’s likely that Defra will relax this restriction later. DOC 150s are a more expensive option than Fenn Mk 4s, and by making this investment now, you miss the chance to consider other trap designs that will be approved during 2018/19.
  • Goodnature A24Option 4: In England only, if you want to be adventurous, you could go for Goodnature A24s, which are not a tunnel trap but are self-emptying and self-resetting, and therefore need less frequent maintenance visits than other traps. Efficacy in UK conditions is unproven, but their use in attempted stoat eradication in New Zealand is well documented on the manufacturer’s website. A24s are relatively expensive, require a radically different approach, and depend on the use of a long-life scent lure.

    Unfortunately, the manufacturer’s stoat lure is not yet available in the UK, although we understand that plans are afoot to remedy that. Also, A24s are coloured orange and black, which is not ideal where the public might interfere with traps. Finally, in New Zealand these traps are approved as humane to kill hedgehogs, which are an introduced pest in New Zealand, but a protected native species in the UK. To be right side of UK law, you must take precautions to exclude hedgehogs and other Schedule 6 species from A24s. The UK importer sells an add-on hedgehog excluder. Goodnature A24s are not currently authorised for use in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Credit for Article to Game & Wildlife Cconservation Trust - https://www.gwct.org.uk/

Friday, 16 February 2018

EAGLE DISAPPEARANCE: PENTLANDS


SGA position regarding media stories of an eagle missing in the Pentlands. 

“If evidence is forthcoming to prove this eagle’s disappearance had anything to do with grouse interests and involved any SGA member, we will be quick to act and we will act with the appropriate force. The SGA has a very strict wildlife crime policy and will use it, where there is evidence to do so.
“Unlike other organisations, however, we are not going to convene a trial by media or trial by implication. Similarly, we will not label people criminals simply because something occurred within a geographic distance from their work. In no other walk of life does this happen.
“Beyond implication, no one knows what has happened to this bird so anyone with information should contact Police Scotland and we would encourage them to do so. We also feel that Police should attempt to search the water for the missing tag.
“The moor, which lies away from where the eagle was, is - like most in the Pentlands- the site of a very occasional 50-bird day now due to high levels of public access from Edinburgh. It is operated ostensibly for partridge shooting. Notions that this is an area managed for driven grouse shooting, therefore, are suggestive on the part of those making the allegations; people who campaign openly against grouse shooting. 


“Our understanding is that one of the individuals quoted in the media story works for a website which besmirches grouse shoot management, under the veil of anonymity, and seeks to ban it. We will, therefore, continue to investigate the allegations being made, as far as we can, rather than heaping more unhelpful speculation upon existing speculation.”

SIMPSON GAME LTD ANNOUNCED AS AGM SPONSOR


The SGA is delighted to announce that partners, Simpson Game Ltd, in Newtonmore, will sponsor the 2018 SGA AGM at Caledonian Stadium, Inverness, on Friday March 2nd.
The highland game dealer is one of the UK's leading venison and game suppliers, working with local estates and gamekeepers to supply the finest quality game for UK and overseas markets.
Started in 2006, the company has grown considerably and is about to create a new 'Super chill' facility which will mean greater capacity and the development of more relationships with local estates (see article in the forthcoming magazine).
The SGA is proud to have Simpson Game Ltd on board and looks forward to working with Camey and Tony in the months ahead.
Find out more about the company, here: http://www.simpsongame.co.uk



Thursday, 15 February 2018

TAKE PART IN THE CAIRNGORM FORESTRY CONSULTATION


The Cairngorms National Park is undertaking a public consultation on the future direction of their forestry policy within the Park over the next two decades.
This is likely to overlap many areas of our members' work and we recommend that all those interested in this issue take the time to respond to the consultation.
You can find the details, here: http://cairngorms.co.uk/consultation/foreststrategy/




Thursday, 1 February 2018

2018 SGA AGM WITH SIMPSON GAME LTD: SPEAKERS ANNOUNCED


The SGA is delighted to announce its full speaker line-up for the 2018 AGM with Simpson Game Ltd in Inverness.
The organisation will host members only on Friday March 2nd at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, Stadium Road, Inverness IV1 1FF. http://ictfc.com/info/club/the-stadium
The meeting is a key event in the organisation’s calendar, alongside the GWCT Scottish Game Fair (29th June to 1st July) and Moy Highland Field Sports Fair (3rd and 4th August).
The organising committee is delighted to have enlisted an excellent programme of speakers covering a diverse array of topics which are sure to be of interest to the membership.
As is customary, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg will deliver the opening address, with a number  of new SGA initiatives to announce for 2018 and topics such as Scottish Government's deer and grouse reviews to discuss.
Also on the podium will be Simon Lester- former Head Gamekeeper on the Langholm Moor Demonstration project, River Dee Trust Director Mark Bilsby and Laurel Foreman who has added an on-site butchery to her successful organic farm operation at Alford.
Joining them will be crofter and land manager Robbie Rowantree, whose recent Erasmus visit to Norway raised questions about how species management can be broached from a differing perspective. Megan Rowland, assistant land manager, deer stalker and blogger will address the issue of perceptions within the game industry and how we can all play a part in attempting to change them.
Nick Hesford of GWCT will speak to attendees about the SGA/GWCT/SLE mountain hare game bag survey; an important objective for the early part of 2018.  https://www.gwct.org.uk/news/news/2018/january/mountain-hare-survey-returns-after-10-year-absence/

All those hoping to attend the AGM should inform the office as soon as possible on 01738 587 515 or  info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk so arrangements can be made to cater for all in comfort. Lunch will also be served at the close of proceedings, as usual. Please specify, when contacting the office, whether you would prefer Cottage pie or Chicken and Ham pie.


Please put the date in your diary. We look forward to seeing you all on the day.

Langholm Moor Demonstration Project: http://www.langholmproject.com

GWCT Scottish Game Fair: http://www.scottishfair.com
Moy Highland Field Sports Fair: http://www.moyfieldsportsfair.co.uk
Megan Rowland’s blog: https://wayfaringhind.wordpress.com
Event Sponsor- Simpson Game Ltd:http://www.simpsongame.co.uk