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Moy Estate gamekeeper stuffed sparrowhawk in bag after shooting it from sky

By John Davidson

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Sparrowhawks are a protected species.
Sparrowhawks are a protected species.

A gamekeeper on a Highland estate shot a sparrowhawk and stuffed it in a bag while being filmed by an RSPB Scotland investigator.

Rory Parker (24) pleaded guilty at Inverness Sheriff Court on Friday to shooting the bird while employed as a gamekeeper on the Moy Estate, near Inverness.

The incident was filmed on September 16, 2021, and the video shows the bird circling overhead, before a gun is raised by the defendant and then the bird is shot out of the sky, before finally being collected by the gamekeeper.

A plastic ‘decoy’ owl, thought to be used to lure birds of prey, can be seen close to the gamekeepers position.

A search led by Police Scotland of the suspect's address and land on the Moy Estate took place on September 19, 2021, when he was arrested and interviewed.

All birds of prey are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and killing them is against the law, punishable by an unlimited fine and/or jail.

Parker, who was 22 at the time of the offence, was fined £1500.

Ian Thomson, head of investigations for RSPB Scotland, said: “This conviction was the end result of exemplary partnership working between Police Scotland, RSPB Scotland, the Wildlife DNA Forensics team at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture and the Wildlife & Environmental Crime Unit of COPFS.

“It is clear, however, with the shooting of a red kite on another Highland grouse moor earlier this week, and ongoing investigations into incidents on other estates, that current sanctions appear to be no deterrent to criminal activity by employees of the grouse shooting industry, with their onslaught against protected birds of prey continuing unabated.”

The conservation charity said he was the 56th gamekeeper to be convicted of raptor persecution offences in Scotland since 1990.

It is now calling for the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill, which will bring in grouse moor licensing, to be urgently implemented.

Mr Thomson added: “We hope that the Scottish parliament expedites the passage of laws in the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill, introducing proper regulation of that industry, where the right to shoot grouse is dependent on operating within the law.”

The land where the incident took place on the Moy Estate is run by a sporting tenant which operates the shooting rights and land management.

A spokesman said: “As the sporting tenant on this area of land, which is used for pheasant and partridge shoots, we were shocked when made aware of the incident and the individual employee was suspended. He has subsequently resigned and has taken full responsibility for his actions.

"This incident was totally unacceptable to us and we remain committed to the highest standards of game management.”

Scottish Land & Estates also condemned the behaviour of the gamekeeper.

Dee Ward, vice chair (policy) at the organisation, said: “We condemn raptor persecution in the strongest possible terms and it is right and proper that anyone who commits such an act is prosecuted and convicted.

"In this case, the illegal persecution of a sparrowhawk near pheasant and partridge release pens is particularly disappointing given the progress made by the sector in driving down raptor crime in recent years and industry-wide condemnation of this unacceptable behaviour.

"We will continue to do all that we can to prevent, detect and condemn anyone who thinks this kind of abhorrent behaviour is acceptable.”

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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