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Water voles: National Trust releasing 100 in Yorkshire Dales

Water voleNATIONAL TRUST IMAGES / NORTH NEWS AND PICTURES

About 100 water voles are to be released in the Yorkshire Dales.

Ecologists from the National Trust plan to release the new colony into Malham Tarn, England’s highest freshwater lake.

It will be the first time voles have been in high Yorkshire Dales in 50 years.

Vole numbers have dropped by almost 90% in recent decades, and they have become one of the UK’s most threatened mammals.

The animals being released have been bred in captivity and will be introduced in batches over five days.

They will spend two days in cages along the banks of the lake, before the cage doors are opened on the third day.

‘Perfect habitat’

Ecologists will place apples and carrots on floating rafts near the cages to tempt the voles out into their new environment.

Once fully introduced into the wild, they will largely eat grass, reeds and roots.

Roisin Black, a National Trust ranger at Malham Tarn, said: “In the rest of Europe, water voles are common. In Britain, the creatures are incredibly rare.

Water vole releaseNATIONAL TRUST IMAGES / NORTH NEWS AND PICTURES
Water voleNATIONAL TRUST IMAGES / NORTH NEWS AND PICTURES

“We know water voles have thrived at Malham Tarn in the past and thanks to work by the National Trust, the habitat here is perfect for water voles again.”

The UK’s water vole population was decimated in the 1960s, largely by American mink that had escaped from fur farms.

Water voles live in burrows dug into banks along slow-moving rivers, streams or ditches.

The population has been unable to recover, largely due its natural habitat being destroyed by intensive farming, pollution and flood plains being concreted over.

American minkNorth American mink, escaped into the wild in the UK from fur farms, are predators of water voles

Mink have not been seen in the region of Malham Tarn for 10 years.

Rangers say they will closely monitor the area for any signs of the predators by setting devices that can capture their footprints.

Natural predators

Ecologists hope the voles being released at Malham Tarn will improve the local ecosystem, saying their burrowing should provide the space for rare species of moss and liverwort to thrive.

They will also be food for struggling predators such as barn owls and otters.

National Trust rangers will monitor the colony over the coming year.

They should produce between two and five litters every year, with up to eight pups in each litter.

If the water voles in the reintroduction project flourish, ecologists say they plan to breed and release another 100 next year.

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-37127152

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Satellite tagged Aberdeenshire raptor missing in Highlands

Hen harrier ElwoodThe hen harrier, known as Elwood to conservationists, fledged at a nest site in Aberdeenshire

A satellite tag fitted to a hen harrier has stopped transmitting in the same mountains where eight tagged eagles “vanished”, RSPB Scotland has said.

The hen harrier fledged at a nest in Aberdeenshire in July.

The RSPB said its tag last sent information on 3 August from moorland in the Monadhliath Mountains managed for grouse shooting.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said there was “no independent information” on the situation.

Last week, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Moorland Group, whose members include landowners and gamekeepers, clashed over the loss of the eight golden eagles between 2011 and July this year.

The wildlife charity believes they were killed illegally around grouse moors, and their satellite tracking tags destroyed.

The Scottish Moorland Group said it condemned wildlife crime. It added that the RSPB had not considered other reasons for the loss of the tags.

Golden eagleEight tagged golden eagles have vanished since November 2011, says RSPB Scotland

The hen harrier, known as Elwood, was being monitored under a scheme run by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Scotland.

After fledging at a nest site in Aberdeenshire the bird spent time near Tomatin, south of Inverness.

The bird’s tag last transmitted information a few miles from the Slochd Summit on the A9.

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations, said: “This latest disappearance of a satellite tagged bird is deeply concerning, and joins the long list of protected birds of prey that have been confirmed to have been illegally killed or disappeared suddenly in this area.

“The transmitters being fitted to these birds are exceedingly reliable, and illegal persecution is therefore the most likely explanation of the disappearance of these birds of prey.

“The absence of typical breeding raptor species from areas of suitable habitat, or at traditional nesting sites, in large parts of the Monadhliaths is further supporting evidence of a major problem with wildlife crime in this general area.”

‘Appropriate action’

A spokesman for SGA said: “As with other recent allegations, the SGA will work with Police Scotland and Scottish government in an attempt to get to the bottom of this. It is clearly a situation which cannot go on.

“We have no independent information, at the present time, so getting the facts will be the first step. Speculation, at this stage, will not help.

“The SGA does not, and will never, condone wildlife crime. As an organisation we advocate legal solutions, solely, as the means to resolve conflicts. If there is any evidence of illegal activity by an SGA member, appropriate action will be taken.”

Tim Baynes, director of the Scottish Moorland Group, added: “We are as concerned as anyone when a satellite tagged bird goes missing and particularly in this case because the bird was part of a project involving Scottish Land and Estates and our members.

“This bird was tagged on one of our member estates as part of the Heads Up For Harriers.”

He added: “Estates in the area where the bird went missing are also concerned but have not been approached by RSPB to help in any search. They are unaware of any incident and would be willing to help.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-37107652

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Hunt members will not face police action over video showing hounds kill fox

There is ‘not enough evidence’ to prosecute members of a hunt – despite shocking footage showing a fox being killed by their hounds.

Even though hunt members admitted the fox was killed after the video was released by a hunt saboteur group, the hunt will not face police action.

The graphic clip, filmed at Fields Farm in Grendon, Warwickshire last November, shows a pack of dogs chasing a fox while members of the Atherstone Hunt follow on horseback.

One of the dogs wrestles the fleeing animal to the ground before the rest of the group pounce on the fox.

The hunters, wearing traditional gear, are then confronted by a protester, but turn and ride away.

FILE PICTURE - A pack of dogs appearing to chase a fox. No action will be taken against a Warwickshire hunt despite video footage being released of a fox being killed by its hounds. See NTI story NTIHUNT. Warwickshire Police said there was ënot enough evidenceí to prosecute members of the Atherstone Hunt over accusations the fox had been illegally killed - despite the video, witness statements and the hunt itself admitting that it killed the fox. The video footage was taken by West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs and shows members of the Atherstone Hunt on horseback as a pack of about 20 dogs chase down the animal in a field. As the hounds attack the fox, a member of the hunt reaches down and pulls the lifeless body of the animal from underneath the pack and slings the carcass over the back of a colleagueís horse. The group then rides away towards colleagues in the distance with the limp body of the fox clearly visible. But despite the footage, a spokesman for Warwickshire Police said: ìFollowing an investigation by Warwickshire Police, the decision has been made that there is insufficient evidence to support a realistic prospect of a conviction in relation to any hunting offences connected to the Atherstone Hunt in Warwickshire.î
Footage shows the dog catching the fox (circled) (Picture: SWNS)

The hunting ban

It has been illegal to hunt foxes with dogs since 2005.

But anyone caught hunting will get away without a prison sentence.

The maximum penalty is a £5,000 fine, but any dogs used in hunting could be destroyed.

Despite the release of the footage, Warwickshire Police said their investigation has ended without charges being brought.

A spokesman for Warwickshire Police said: ‘Following an investigation, the decision has been made that there is insufficient evidence to support a realistic prospect of a conviction in relation to any hunting offences connected to the Atherstone Hunt in Warwickshire.

‘Warwickshire Police thoroughly investigate all reports of wildlife crime, we have specialist wildlife crime officers who investigate rural crime and work very closely with a range of partners to raise awareness.

‘Our campaign ‘Rural Matters’ seeks support from the public to help put an end to wildlife crime and to report suspicious activity.’

A statement released by Atherstone Hunt last year read: ‘Unfortunately while riding across an open field between trails, what we strongly suspect was an injured fox appeared in front of the Hunt within yards of the hounds who very quickly dispatched it.

Police officer gets points for taking Lamborghini on ‘joyride’

‘The incident was immediately reported to Warwickshire Police.’

At the time, West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs said the group was ‘blatantly hunting’ and the incident was not a ‘one off’.

FILE PICTURE - A huntsman (L) rides off with the fox draped over his saddle. No action will be taken against a Warwickshire hunt despite video footage being released of a fox being killed by its hounds. See NTI story NTIHUNT. Warwickshire Police said there was ënot enough evidenceí to prosecute members of the Atherstone Hunt over accusations the fox had been illegally killed - despite the video, witness statements and the hunt itself admitting that it killed the fox. The video footage was taken by West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs and shows members of the Atherstone Hunt on horseback as a pack of about 20 dogs chase down the animal in a field. As the hounds attack the fox, a member of the hunt reaches down and pulls the lifeless body of the animal from underneath the pack and slings the carcass over the back of a colleagueís horse. The group then rides away towards colleagues in the distance with the limp body of the fox clearly visible. But despite the footage, a spokesman for Warwickshire Police said: ìFollowing an investigation by Warwickshire Police, the decision has been made that there is insufficient evidence to support a realistic prospect of a conviction in relation to any hunting offences connected to the Atherstone Hunt in Warwickshire.î
The man dressed in black appears to have the dead fox over his saddle (Picture: SWNS)

Article taken from: http://metro.co.uk/2016/08/09/hunt-members-will-not-face-police-action-over-video-showing-hounds-kill-fox-6057735/

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20 per cent increase in abandoned rabbits in Scotland

There has been a 20 per cent rise in the number of rabbits being abandoned by their owners in Scotland over the last five years.

bunnies

Scotland’s animal welfare charity, the SPCA, is now urging people to think very carefully before buying a bunny.

The number of abandoned, unwanted and neglected bunnies has steadily increased with 669 rabbits being rescued in 2015, up from 555 in 2010.

As annual Rabbit Awareness Week kicks off on Monday, the charity is encouraging existing and would be owners to consider taking a rescue rabbit rather than buying a new bunny from a shop.

Anna O’Donnell, manager of the charity’s rescue and rehoming centre in Cardonald said: “This year is proving to be very challenging as well and this worrying trend demonstrates why we need to raise awareness of the hardships many pet rabbits face.

“There are many excuses as to why people are giving up their pet rabbits, the main reason being that their children have got bored of them.

“Although there are lots of loving rabbit owners who treat their pets like one of the family and give them all the care and attention they need, sadly this isn’t true in all cases.

“Some rabbits arrive in our care in a terrible state having been denied basic nutrition and veterinary attention, while others are sadly forgotten pets children have grown tired of.

“Thankfully, the severe cruelty cases are in the minority. The biggest issue is rabbits being put in a hutch and left at the bottom of the garden, with many enduring a life of solitude and boredom. “Often the only interaction they have is a brief visit from their owner to bring food and water. Many owners even find this to be a chore and it is these rabbits which tend to be dumped outdoors or handed into one of our rescue centres unwanted.

“While we never encourage taking on a pet on impulse, we currently have rabbits in our care looking for good, permanent homes.

“Anyone thinking of rehoming a rabbit should ensure they have the time, commitment and financial ability to provide a happy and healthy life. We’d be delighted to welcome potential owners along to our rescue centre to meet the rabbits we have waiting for a fresh start in life and loving new homes.”

For more information about rehoming a rescue rabbit call 03000 999 999 or visit
scottishspca.org/rehoming.

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Scottish Rugby coach Vern Cotter ‘ordered stunned players to kill rabbits in training weekend’

Extraordinary claims have been made that the Scottish National Rugby team were made to hunt and kill rabbits to toughen them up.

A former player spoke out against head coach Vern Cotter, who allegedly ordered players to kill the wild animals with their bare hands during a training exercise.

Jim Hamilton, who attended the camp in France last June before the Rugby World Cup spoke of his shock at being ordered to batter with wild rabbits to death.

He claims Cotter picked on teammate Richie Gray, who did not want to take part in the slaughter.

Animal rights campaigners last night hit out at the unnecessary cruelty, with Elisa Allen, the UK director of PETA saying: “Turning rugby players into killers won’t improve their game, and to call it ‘unsporting’ is an understatement.

“Crushing the skulls of rabbits and slitting their throats are terrifying and agonising ways to kill these sensitive, intelligent animals, and such violent acts may be illegal in France, where this cruelty allegedly occurred.

“PETA is calling on authorities to investigate and also asking the rugby league to take immediate action to put a stop to any further ‘training’ with animals.”


Jim Hamilton said the event took place during a training camp

Recalling the events on the Rugby Pod podcast, Hamilton said: “Vern was sitting there in full outdoor hunting gear – big jumper, walking boots – and he’s got a knife.

“He said: ‘Right lads, we’ve got four hours, we’re cooking for dinner. Who doesn’t want to kill the rabbits?’

“Richie Gray puts his hand up, along with Ross Ford, Stuart Hogg and another guy. Vern then told them, ‘Right you four are killing the rabbits.'”

“An army guy at the camp pulled out this bunny rabbit – it’s not even a wild rabbit – and says: ‘this is how you need to kill it.

“He’s swinging this rabbit round with one hand, then next thing he slams it on the floor.

“I’m not joking, the thing’s eyes popped out of its head, then he cuts his throat.

“So the boys had to go and kill the other three. Richie is spinning this thing round and he’s saying that he can’t slam it, and Vern shouts: ‘f**kin’ kill it!’

“Richie does it, but it’s not dead, it’s shaking like mad and there’s blood everywhere, and he’s slamming it over the head with a stick.

“Needless to say, the rabbits didn’t taste that succulent – they were a bit tough. But that’s all we had for food, with 35 baguettes.”

This incident allegedly occurred at the training base at Font Romeu in the Pyrenees, where the players were forced into a commando-style training exercise with the French Marines.

Hamilton said the training consisted of “no sleeping bags, no tents, no kit – there are 40 big rugby players sat around the campfire”.

However last night Hamilton seemed to backtrack from the events on his Twitter saying that his account of the rabbit deaths were exaggerated.

However, a Murrayfield insider admitted to the Scottish Mail on Sunday that rabbits had been killed by the players at the camp.

The source said: “This was a well organised, well-resourced team-building exercise led by the Marines, where the guys where shown how to survive.

“They were shown, as a survival technique, how to kill rabbits and some took part. It was done properly and humanely and no-one was forced to do it. Vern Cotter did not order any players to do this.

“Unfortunately, some of what Jim Hamilton has talked about on the podcast has been exaggerated.”

Taken from: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/scottish-rugby-coach-vern-cotter-8579524#J2T6XVrkDLjkWBAl.99

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Public asked to be on the lookout for stranded pufflings

People living next to the sea have been asked to be on the look out for young pufflings.

While this might sound like the latest addition to the Pokemon craze, it actually refers to baby puffins who often end up in the most unusual places.

To prove the point, conservation and education charity the Scottish Seabird Centre has already had to rescue one puffling which was found under an ice cream van in North Berwick.

Mike Thornton, who found the young bird, said: “I have some experience of catching puffins after working on the Farne Islands, where they would often get trapped in the walled garden and would occasionally come into the warden’s house!

It is a crucial time in the puffin season and we want to ensure as many as possible of these wonderful seabirds make it out to sea

“I had the opportunity to name the puffling and have chosen the name Mr Whippy as he was found under the ice cream van!”

Alexander Turnbull, seabird centre manager, said: “The puffling itself was fine though a little confused and scared. I waited until sunset before releasing it by the old pier just as high tide was spilling over onto the surface.

“It flew out of my hands and gently landed on the water a metre away from the pier, before diving a few times. It then started to paddle itself out, looking quite happy and calm.”

Puffins and their pufflings are now leaving their burrows on the islands of Craigleith, Fidra and the Isle of May National Nature Reserve, and heading out to sea. The adults will not come ashore again until they return to breed next spring.

However, after leaving their burrows on the island of Craigleith, just offshore from North Berwick, some pufflings become disorientated by lights from the mainland. Their first ever flight may see them flying into town and seeking somewhere dark to hide from predators often underneath cars and under plants in gardens.

This year to help raise awareness of this, the North Berwick Wildlife Watch has created a video with award-winning photographer Barrie Williams.

The video (see below) is a step-by-step guide about what do to if someone sees a puffling and wishes to help with its rescue.

It features Tammie Junior, a knitted puffling created by Seabird supporter, Hilary Smith.

The Scottish Seabird Centre’s chief executive, Tom Brock OBE has appealed for everyone to be vigilant and to call the centre on 01620 890202 if they are in the vicinity or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999 if they find a puffling.

He said: “Pufflings look completely different from their adult counterparts, so often people don’t realise what they can see is a puffling! They are shades of grey, white and black; their smaller beaks don’t have the characteristic bright colours that the adults have in summer.

“It is a crucial time in the puffin season and we want to ensure as many as possible of these wonderful seabirds make it out to sea.

“We are appealing to people to please contact us if they do spot a puffling – and also to watch the fantastic video created by Barrie and North Berwick Wildlife Watch, so they know the best way to deal with these amazing seabirds.”

Taken from: http://thirdforcenews.org.uk/tfn-news/be-on-the-lookout

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Call for greater protection of mountain hare as shooting season begins

An animal charity is calling for greater protection of the mountain hare as the 2016/17 open season begins.

LEPUS TIMIDUS

OneKind said the creature is “routinely” targeted by shooting parties and gamekeepers, with tens of thousands being killed every year.

Scottish wildlife charities, including the RSPB and Scottish Wildlife Trust, have called on the Scottish Government to impose a three-year ban on all mountain hare culling on grouse moors until safeguards are in place to that ensure killing is sustainable.

The Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Land and Estates and the Wildlife Conservation Trust have also called for “voluntary restraint” on large-scale culls, after one survey found 24,529 mountain hares were killed in Scotland between March 2006 and February 2007.

The risk of injury rather than a clean kill is heightened, meaning many shot hares will inevitably suffer

However, OneKind said this does not go far enough and is calling for the mountain hare to be completely protected from all forms of commercial hunting and culling.

Harry Huyton, the charity’s director, said: “OneKind wants to see complete protection of the mountain hare which would mean an end to culls and commercial hunting. The indiscriminate and ruthless killing of such an iconic species is wholly unacceptable.

“Shooting hare is notoriously challenging as they are small, fast moving animals and because the shooting takes place in an environment where plenty of cover is available the risk of injury rather than a clean kill is heightened, meaning many shot hares will inevitably suffer.”

The campaign has the backing of Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart.

He said: “Mountain hares are wonderful animals and they need our protection from being shot. As a vital part of the ecosystem and heritage of the Highlands, it is a tragedy that so many are needlessly killed each year.

“Hopefully OneKind’s campaign, which I fully support, will be able to raise awareness and win them the greater protection they need.”

Open season on the mountain hare – which is native to Scotland – runs from the first day of August until the last day of February.

Taken from: http://thirdforcenews.org.uk/tfn-news/call-for-greater-protection-of-mountain-hare-as-shooting-season-begins