Gamekeepers fined for killing protected raptors in both U.K. and U.S.

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2008:
NICOSIA–Prince Harry may have dodged the bullet
for allegedly shooting two hen harriers to
protect captive-reared “game” species, as ANIMAL
PEOPLE reported in November/December 2007, but
gamekeepers have been fined in comparable cases
on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Scottish Borders region cattle and sheep
farmer James McDougal became “the first landowner
in the United Kingdom to have his agricultural
subsidies cut as a punishment,” Guardian Scotland
correspondent Severin Carroll wrote. “The
Scottish executive said it had docked £7,919 from
last year’s single farm payment and beef calf
scheme payments to McDougal–more than the £5,000
maximum [fine] for a wildlife crime,” Carroll
reported on January 7, 2008.

Explained Carroll, “McDougal, one of
Scotland’s highest European Union subsidy
recipients, employs George Aitken as a
gamekeeper on a small pheasant shoot he runs near
Lauder in Berwickshire. Lothian and Borders
police, the Royal Society for the Protection of
Birds, and the Scottish Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found two cage
traps near McDougal’s farm at Blythe, each
baited with a live pigeon. Pheasant carcasses
were found beside nearby woods dosed with
carbofuran–a banned agricultural chemical–and a
similar but legal pesticide called carbosulfan.
Highly toxic sodium cyanide was also seized.”
Aitken was sentenced in June 2007 to do
22 hours of community service. Aitken was at
least the fifth gamekeeper in six months to be
prosecuted for killing raptors, and the seventh
in a year.
The known total of raptors killed in the
British Isles to protect animals reared for
shooting were down in 2007 from 2006, but a
record 11 endangered red kites were poisoned,
nine of them found on shooting estates. The
previous high was 10 red kites killed, in 1981.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
told Times of London correspondent David Lister
that 74% of all the people prosecuted
successfully for wildlife crimes in Britain
during the past 10 years were involved in game
On January 3, 2008, meanwhile, the
Pennsylvania Game Commission agreed to drop 14
charges against the Lanco Beagle Club of Martic
Township in Lancaster County, after the club
agreed to pay a fine of $1,600 for allowing
gamekeeper Guy Lefever, 77, to use a leghold
trap illegally set on an eight-foot-high pole to
kill federally protected birds. Lefever, a club
member since 1950, set the trap to keep raptors
from eating rabbits who are raised for beagle
field trials.
Founded in 1946, the 35-member club has
operated a 179-acre shooting preserve since 1956.
“The pole-trapping incident was the
second time in recent months that a sportsmen’s
club in the county has been embarrassed in a
high-profile incident,” recalled Ad Crable of
the Lancaster New Era. Last year, the
Elstonville Sportsmen’s Association was fined
$400 for violating animal cruelty laws by using
live turkeys in an archery contest.”
But there has been no progress in trying
to bring Cypriot bird hunters and trappers into
line with European Union rules, another
situation exposed in the November/ December 2007
edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE. BirdLife Cyprus
executive director Martin Hellicar told
Associated Press that illegal trappers killed
more than half a million protected birds in 2007,
the most since 2003.
In addition, poachers followed an
October 2007 massacre of 52 officially threatened
red-footed migrating falcons by shooting several
dozen protected Egyptian fruit bats. Cyprus is
the bats’ only European habitat.
“We believe hunters went into a
fenced-off and sign-posted restricted area,
entered the cave to scare them out and then
started shooting,” forestry department officer
Harris Nicolaou told Agence France-Press.

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