A few weeks ago I wrote a piece for this web page explaining how my pigeons went from 46 down to 12 over a few months thanks to sparrow hawk attacks. I can update you on that by telling you that the number is now 9 and the dependant young of those birds killed also died through lack of parents.
It is when you witness these things you realise how much frustration exists in Scotland’s countryside. People know, even if they apply for a legal licence to control numbers of predatory birds where there is a genuine and undeniable problem, they won’t get one and there is nothing SNH suggests that will change this situation.
With predatory bird numbers rising the problems faced from them will not go away, they will in fact increase. At a time when wildlife crime statistics are coming down, some joined up thinking will be required to ensure this imbalance is somehow broached. There should never be a situation where people feel the only recourse they have, to ease an intolerable situation, is to consider breaking the law. If this was any other profession, those under pressure like this would expect help from somewhere.
Talking of pressure, many keepers face having extended penalties threatening their jobs and families.
To help carry out our conservation work we all work under general licences. These licences, providing they are read and understood by the users, allow every one to control crows, weasels and foxes, etc. Without them, keepers would be hamstrung.
Yet there is no scale of seriousness when it comes to a wildlife offence, like there is with other forms of law. For example, anyone convicted of a wildlife offence runs the risk of losing their licence for what appears to be an indiscriminate time period, possibly five years or more. There are criminals who have committed acts of public endangerment on a serious scale and have had more lenient sentences than this.
No one is saying wildlife offences are right in any way and the industry has agreements on what is regarded as serious wildlife crime but this lack of proportion would simply not happen in other walks of life.
If someone is careless enough (have we all not been careless at some point in our lives) to miss a crow cage check once during a 24 hour period, or render them inoperable when not in use, as required, and a protected species has to endure extra hours in a cage, that person could find himself/herself out of a job. This is even if the bird had access to food and water and is not seriously injured.
This person has carelessly committed a crime, yes, but enough to lose his job? And what of rehabilitation?
There appears to be no consideration from those promoting this draconian sentencing that in the interval between the act and the court case, the perpetrator will have, in all probability, suffered a large degree of mental anguish and regret. No sensible person is going to repeat this lack of action and go through this trauma again.
The people on the receiving end of these cases are not hardened habitual criminals.
Where in all this is the rehabilitation? Surely the law is there to teach a lesson, not ruin a life completely for one careless act.
Sentencing should be proportionate for wildlife crime as it is in every other walk of life. We can only hope that those judging these cases have a complete understanding of the situation and do not, for the sake of deterring others from carelessness or laziness, decide to ensure wholly innocent families are put out of their homes for inconveniencing a wild animal.