A gamekeeper has avoided prison after being sentenced for the deaths of dozens of wildlife on a Scottish estate.

Alan Wilson, 60, killed badgers, an otter, goshawks and buzzards and set 23 illegal snares on Longformacus Estate near Duns in the Scottish Borders.

He also admitted possessing two bottles of carbofuran, a toxic pesticide which is banned in the European Union

The 60-year-old, who pled guilty to nine offences at at Jedburgh Sheriff Court, was sentenced to a 225 hour community payback order, and a 9pm – 6am restriction of liberty order to last 10 months.

The court ruled he was responsible for the deaths of numerous wildlife, including protected species.

Investigators found the animal corpses when they searched Henlaw Wood in 2017.

HeraldScotland:

The owl was kapt as a lure, the court heard 

A captive eagle owl which the Scottish SPCA suspects was being used as a live lure on birds of prey - which were subsequently shot and killed - was also discovered at Wilson’s residence.

Last year, the gamekeeper was fined £400 and banned on from keeping birds of prey for ten years for failing to ensure the welfare of the eagle owl.

After an investigation which involved experts from the Scottish SPCA’s special investigation unit (SIU), RSPB and Police Scotland, Wilson was found to have used techniques including illegally set snares and unlawful items such as banned pesticides and gin traps to trap and kill wildlife.

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A land inspection also found ‘stink pits’, where dead animal carcasses are left to attract other wildlife. These ‘stink pits’ were surrounded by illegally set snares and animal remains, including mammal skulls, were recovered.

Wilson came to the attention of the Scottish SPCA on 25 May 2017 after a tip-off from the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS).

An inspector from the LACS discovered several snares and the remains of a number of birds including a goshawk in Henlaw Wood. The following day, Scottish SPCA inspectors assisted the police with a search where dead birds and badgers were found.

A further search of the area, including Wilson’s residence at Henlaw Cottage in Duns, took place in early June 2017, and uncovered more traps for catching birds and animals.

HeraldScotland:

Wilson created 'stink pits' filled with carcasses to attract other animals

One undercover Scottish SPCA SIU investigator said: “This is a despicable case of serious and systematic crimes to indiscriminately remove wildlife from an estate. The sheer volume of dead wildlife discovered and the variety of methods used, which include shooting, trapping and snaring, is truly shocking.

“The Sheriff alluded to the fact he was restricted in the sentence that could be served in this case due to regulations surrounding wildlife crime. Whilst we welcome the sentence, we hope this case highlights the need for increased sentencing for crimes of this nature in the future.

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Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland said: “This is an appalling case, involving the systematic illegal slaughter of wildlife so that more grouse can be shot for entertainment, and in our view is one of the worst wildlife crime incidents in recent years.

“While we are pleased Alan Wilson has been brought to justice for his crimes, this case illustrates the scale on which wildlife is being persecuted in order to prop up the commercial shooting industry which relies on eradicating any species deemed to be a threat to game birds.

HeraldScotland:

Otter bones were among the remains discovered. All pics: SSPCA

Detective Constable Andy Loughlin, who led the police inquiries, added: “This has been a complex inquiry that has amounted to a large-scale police investigation spanning the past couple of years.

“We have worked with experts in the field to secure Wilson’s conviction and I would like to thank our colleagues from the Scottish SPCA, RSPB, veterinary pathologists at the Scottish Agricultural College, specialists at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture and independent experts, for all their assistance.

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“The illegal killing of birds of prey and protected species cannot, and will not, be tolerated, nor will the inhumane use of illegal traps and pesticides. Whenever such offences are reported to us we will work closely with partners to identify those responsible and ensure they are brought before the courts.

“If you have concerns regarding this type of criminal activity in your area, please report it to us via 101 so that we can investigate thoroughly.”