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Don’t let secret camera fears derail crucial corvid trap study, says GWCT

GWCT and SASA reassure corvid trap users that they will not be filmed without their consent for study

Potential participants in an important corvid trap study in Scotland shouldn’t be put off by fears of covert surveillance, the Scottish government forensics laboratory Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) and Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) have said. The study, which looks at how and where traps are being used, is seen as “crucial to safeguard the lawful use of corvid traps”.

The organisations issued a statement reassuring those interested in taking part in the study in the wake of the high-profile conviction of former Kildrummy estate gamekeeper, George Mutch, for wildlife crimes including misuse of a trap. Video evidence obtained secretly by the RSPB – without the permission or knowledge of the landowner or trap user –was crucial to the prosecution’s case against Mr Mutch, who received a custodial sentence. SASA and the GWCT said that some concerns had been raised following the case and they wished to reassure people “that participating in this project carries no personal risks.”

The statement explained that: “To validate users’ records we use trail cameras, set to take one photograph every hour for short periods at individual trap sites. These cameras will be used for collection of data, and not for policing trap users. Cameras will be set only with the explicit permission of the trap user, and photographs will not be published or given to a third party without their permission.

The project has the backing of a number of countryside and fieldsports organisations, including BASC, the Scottish Association for Country Sports, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Scottish Land & Estates and the National Farmers Union of Scotland.

Explaining the importance of the study, the statement said: “It is vital that the use of corvid traps is justified by sound evidence. This is our best – and possibly only – opportunity to collect information that is impartial, detailed, and independently verified. Please don’t let high profile cases of trap misuse cast a shadow over normal trap use. By participating in this research you will help improve the understanding of corvid trapping as a legitimate wildlife management practice. Using your experience and knowledge as practitioners, we will gather information that better informs and justifies licensed activities. It is critical to the success of this work that as many trap users as possible participate in collecting trap records, and with the use of cameras.”

For the current phase of the project, SASA is asking volunteers to keep simple records of trap catches and to allow its staff to monitoring traps using trail cameras for short periods. All data will be collected anonymously and no names will be used in analysis or publications. Anyone willing to take part in the study or seeking further information should contact Seonaidh Jamieson at SASA by email at [email protected] or tel 0131 244 8889.