A Perthshire estate has had its general license suspended for three years over accusations it used an illegal trap against a protected wild bird.
NatureScot states there was “clear evidence” of wrongdoing after a satellite-tagged hen harrier was found dead on Lochan Estate in an illegally-set spring trap.
The public body, responsible for Scotland’s natural heritage, received the evidence from Police Scotland and has now restricted the estate’s general licences.
General licenses allow landowners or land managers to carry out actions which would otherwise be illegal, including controlling common species of wild birds to protect crops or livestock.
The remains of the young female hen harrier, named Rannoch, were found by RSPB Scotland in May 2019.
Its post mortem noted that the hen harrier, which is a protected species, would have experienced “significant unnecessary suffering”.
Lochan Estate, located near Dunkeld and spanning 10,000 acres, said it “categorically rejects any suggestion of wrongdoing” and will appeal the decision.
NatureScot said the estate could still apply for individual licenses but these would be “closely monitored.”
The three-year restriction may be extended if further evidence of offenses comes to light.
NatureScot’s head of wildlife management Donald Fraser said: “We are committed to using all the tools we have available to tackle wildlife crime.
“In this case, there is clear evidence that crime involving a wild bird occurred on this property.
“Because of this, and the risk of more wildlife crimes taking place, we have suspended the general licenses on this property for three years.
“They may still apply for individual licences, but these will be closely monitored.
“This measure will help to protect wild birds in the area, while still allowing necessary land management activities to take place, although under tighter supervision.
“We believe this is a proportionate response to protect wild birds in the area and prevent further wildlife crime.
“We work closely with Police Scotland and will continue to consider information they provide us on cases which may warrant restriction of general licences.
“The detection of wildlife crime can be difficult but new and emerging technologies, along with a commitment from a range of partners to take a collective approach to these issues, will help us stop this from occurring in the future.”
A spokesperson for Lochan Estate responded: “The estate categorically rejects any suggestion of wrongdoing in relation to the welfare of wildlife.
“We made very robust representations five months ago and only received the notification this week, which we found surprising given the material we produced.
“We will therefore be appealing this decision.”
The ban period can increase if more evidence of offenses comes to light.
See the full license restrictions details at www.nature.scot/doc/general-licences-birds-restrictions