Police Scotland arrest man for disturbing lekking capercaillie

The Cairngorms Capercaillie Project, led by the Cairngorms National Park Authority, is working with Police Scotland to safeguard capercaillie this breeding season. This work has led to an individual being charged for intentionally disturbing a capercaillie whilst it was lekking. The Police Scotland statement can be read here.

The individual was spotted at dawn by surveyors at a lek site in Strathspey. Working to strict protocols under a NatureScot licence, the surveyors, employed by Seafield and Strathspey Estates, were present to count the capercaillie attending the lek as part of a national monitoring programme conducted each year.

The arrest follows a plea from the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project calling on birders to not search for capercaillie this spring. This message was shared by the birdwatching media after birdwatchers, including groups and individuals, were found searching for capercaillie. The subsequent arrest of an individual comes after a new report by the NatureScot Scientific Advisory Committee advised that disturbance by people is one of the main causes of capercaillie population decline, along with predation.

Carolyn Robertson, Project Manager for the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project said: “If we want to save capercaillie in the UK we need to act now and work together to tackle the multiple threats to the species, including disturbance. We are pleased that our work with partners and Police Scotland will, we hope, prevent further disturbance to the birds at this critical time of year.
“We know that the birding community cares about capercaillie. It has been frustrating, therefore, to find a minority of birders actively undermining both the breeding success of the birds and the work being done locally to improve conditions for the bird. If you are in the Highlands this spring with an intention to look for capercaillie, please don’t. Please follow the signage in capercaillie areas. The Rangers, Gamekeepers and volunteers working hard to keep capercaillie safe this breeding season will continue to report people to Police Scotland if they are found searching for capercaillie.”

It is likely that there are now fewer than 1,000 capercaillie left in the UK and almost all of them are found in the Cairngorms National Park. Due to their vulnerable status, capercaillie are listed as a Schedule 1 species of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. This makes it an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb a capercaillie whilst it is lekking. It is also an offence to:

  • Disturb capercaillie whilst they are nest building
  • At or near a nest with eggs or young
  • Obstruct or prevent a capercaillie from using its nest
  • Damage, destroy or interfere with a capercaillie nest while it’s in use or being built
  • Disturb the dependent young of a capercaillie
  • Kill, injure or take a capercaillie
  • Take or destroy the eggs of a capercaillie

For more information about the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project visit cairngormscapercaillie.scot

To read the NatureScot Scientific Advisory Committee report click here: Review of Capercaillie Conservation and Management

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