A Borders gamekeeper has admitted using live pigeons as bait in a Larsen Trap and lacing pheasant carcasses with poison in a way likely to injure to birds of prey.

George Aitken, 56, admitted eight wildlife offences at Selkirk Sheriff Court while not guilty pleas were accepted to another seven charges.

He was caught in a joint operation last August when banned pesticides and traps were found at Blythe Farm near Lauder.

Sentence was deferred on Aitken for background reports.

The operation involved the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Lothian and Borders Police.

Aitken was described by officers as showing no remorse for his blatant disregard of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Sheriff Kevin Drummond said background reports were necessary due to the number and nature of the offences.

Wildlife crime investigators have described it as one of the worst cases they have come across.

Welfare officers have called for jail sentences to be imposed to get the message across to gamekeepers that poisoning birds of prey is a serious offence.

Unnecessary suffering

Natalie Smart, of the SSPCA, said: “This is a really serious case involving the blatant and illegal misuse of highly toxic poisons.

“We are very pleased that he has pleaded guilty to these offences and also causing a great deal of unnecessary suffering to the pigeons used as bait.

“In these sorts of cases a child or a person could easily have been injured and it is a relief he was caught before any people suffered.”

Dave Dick of the RSPB – who took part in the raids – said it was one of the worst cases he had seen in 20 years.

“We have fought long and hard for prison sentences for these kind of offences,” he said.

“I hope the sheriff is looking at the option of a jail sentence.”

Source: BBC News

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