Gamekeeper condemned in court for buzzard death

The poisoned buzzard
The poisoned buzzard

A gamekeeper who poisoned a buzzard after it killed one of his pheasants has been fined £4450 and has been removed from the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association.

Finley Bell, 62, of Physgill Cottage near Whithorn also plead guilty to two other charges in court on Tuesday, including being in possession of strychnine, carbofuran and alphachloralose, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The court had previously heard that a walker, who was also a keen bird watcher, had stumbled across a dead pheasant and a buzzard in the final throes of life on 23 December last year whilst walking on Physgill Estate. Investigations showed the protected buzzard had died after eating the pheasant carcass, which had been laced with poision.

The court heard that Bell, who recently celebrated 40 years’ service at the estate, had witnessed the buzzard kill one of his pheasants and had taken out his frustration on the raptor.

It was also explained by Bell’s lawyer that the poison had been kept in Bell’s gun cabinet, where it was put after clearing out his uncle’s belongings following his death, and hadn’t been used since.

He added that the effects of a conviction will have “catastrophic consequences” for Bell, whose only trade is that of gamekeeping.

Sheriff Kenneth Robb told Bell: “You clearly knew your responsibilities and that there were other options available to you, yet you went out and killed this bird. You’re also clearly a man of considerable skill and reputation but sadly it appears that your values towards your animals askewed your legal responsibility.”

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association said following the sentencing: “The SGA and its 5300 members condemn illegal poisoning and advocate those facing problems with predation to look to legal routes and options.”