A SCOTTISH estate used for grouse shooting has had three-year curbs placed on its licences after police found evidence of wildlife crime.

A satellite-tagged hen harrier was found dead on the grounds in an illegally-set spring trap. The protected species is amongst the most persecuted raptors and the young female, named Rannoch, was discovered by the RSPB in 2019.

National agency NatureScot has now taken action after evidence was passed to it by Police Scotland.

General licences allow landowners or land managers to carry out actions which would otherwise be illegal, including controlling common species of wild birds to protect crops or livestock.

But controls have now been put on Lochan Estate, Perthshire. According to its promotional material, it is "renowned as one of if not the finest place to shoot grouse in Scotland".

The restrictions will prevent people from using the general licences on the land for three years. This can be extended if more evidence of offences emerges.

However, the measure does not apply to the shooting of game birds.

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The estate offers "100 brace days starting from early September", with grouse across 10,000 acres of high ground and pheasant, partridge and duck elsewhere.

Donald Fraser, head of wildlife management at NatureScot, said: "There is clear evidence that crime involving a wild bird occurred on this property. Because of this, and the risk of more wildlife crimes taking place, we have suspended the general licences on this property for three years. They may still apply for individual licences, but these will be closely monitored.

"This measure will help to protect wild birds in the area, while still allowing necessary land management activities to take place, although under tighter supervision. We believe this is a proportionate response to protect wild birds in the area and prevent further wildlife crime.

"We work closely with Police Scotland and will continue to consider information they provide us on cases which may warrant restriction of general licences. The detection of wildlife crime can be difficult but new and emerging technologies, along with a commitment from a range of partners to take a collective approach to these issues, will help us stop this from occurring in the future."

A spokesman for Lochan Estate said: “The estate categorically rejects any suggestion of wrongdoing in relation to the welfare of wildlife.

"We made very robust representations 5 months ago and only received the notification this week, which we found surprising given the material we produced. We will therefore be appealing this decision.”