A FORMER gamekeeper shot and killed a buzzard on a Perthshire estate “in desperation to keep his job,” his lawyer told Perth Sheriff Court on Wednesday.
Fifty-three-year-old Graham Barclay Kerr, who was also caught in possession of highly toxic pesticides, which are fatal if eaten by birds and other wildlife, was fined £400.
The court heard that young pheasants being reared on the Redmyre Estate, Abernyte, were being targeted by one particular buzzard.
Kerr, who was working as a gamekeeper on the estate at the time, subsequently shot it with a .243 rifle.
The incident came to light when police carried out a search at the estate on September 9 last year.
Depute fiscal Stewart Richardson said that officers asked him if he was in possession of any pesticides and he showed them a small plastic tub containing granules.
Analysis showed they contained carbofuran and alpha-chloralose.
The first chemical is known to be highly toxic to birds and if ingested brings on convulsions and death.
A single grain can prove fatal – birds often mistake them for seeds and die shortly thereafter.
The alpha-chloralose is an immobilising agent used on mice and birds deemed to be pests.
It can render them incapable of movement, resulting in a slow and painful death.
When police asked if they could search Kerr’s vehicle, he produced the dead buzzard, which was seen to have a broken wing.
He admitted he had shot it with the rifle, which he then handed over.
Solicitor Tom Cruishank, for the accused, said he was “very much ashamed” of what he had done.
He now appreciated the seriousness of his actions.
Mr Cruickshank pointed out that according to the website operated by the Royal Society for the Protection of birds, the buzzard is one of the commonest raptors and wasn’t an endangered species.
“But that doesn’t excuse his actions,” added the lawyer.
Imposing the fine for killing the bird, Sheriff Robert McCreadie told the accused: “You may not have appreciated how serious the courts take the illegal destruction of wildlife.
“I think you will be aware of that now.”
Kerr, who was allowed to keep his rifle after the Crown withdrew a motion to forfeit it, was admonished on the pesticides charge.