Wild hacking – what we learn from an FOI request (4)

This post continues to explore the licensing of wild hacking of non-native falcons in the UK and uses information received from SNH about wild hacking licensed by them in Moray in 2019.

To catch up on the story enter wild hacking into the search facility on this blog (top right) and all posts on this subject will be listed.

In 2019 SNH issued a second licence for wild hacking of a large number of Gyr Falcons; well actually they had two goes at it with the first (15 May) limiting the number of Gyr Falcons to 35 in total;

…and a second the very next day (16 May) increasing the licence to 100 Gyr Falcons with up to 40 at a time (as with the Moray licence).

We don’t know the exact location of the hack site but we do know that it is located inside a Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds; the Muirkirk and North Lowther Uplands SPA.


This area has breeding raptors in it. SNH required the licensee to carry out watches for Schedule 1 species before and during the period of wild hacking – presumably because they felt that dealing with an SPA required more and better monitoring than at the Moray site.


8 Replies to “Wild hacking – what we learn from an FOI request (4)”

  1. They have asked the licencee to carry out watches? Is it likely that the licencee would report anything that may jeopardise the licence?
    Nothing to report here sir!

  2. Where are the proper surveys? Instead, the licencee had to carry out watches! Makes me laugh. Fox in charge of the henhouse springs to mind.
    Wild hacking 100 falcons on a SPA? Is anybody waking up to this?

    And increasing the number by 65 birds overnight; somebody must have a lot of clout.

  3. Whether we allow wild hacking or not it is quite clear that SNH are falling down badly on this in terms of the possible effects on important wildlife. Asking the licensee to keep a watch is so inadequate as to be nearly meaningless, they have a bested interest in there being no problems.
    To my mind what should be happening here is that the licensee should be paying for SNH to organise appropriate INDEPENDENT surveys both pre hacking to ensure nothing of local, regional or national importance is potentially at risk and if necessary the watches/surveys during hacking to confirm this. Anything else is just totally inadequate and certainly not transparently unbiased.

  4. Documents released under the FOI/EIRS show under ‘Habitats Regulations Appraisal’ for the Muirkirk Uplands SSSI/North Lowther Uplands SPA sites:

    Yes. The proposed release sites are within the Muirkirk & North Lowther Uplands SPA. There is clear connectivity between the proposal and the qualifying interests, with potential pathways by
    which released falcons could affect the breeding qualifiers, e.g. through predation and/or disturbance.

    The applicant proposed a flying period between 20 June to 10 August 2019. Other birds were found breeding (for instance short ear owl, merlin) but focusing on hen harrier here: RSPB tells us that they can be breeding/raising their chicks into August in Scottish uplands.

  5. I know a guy who lives up the road from me who keeps racing pigeons. He often tells me conspiracy theories about how ‘wildlife activists’ are breeding and releasing peregrines and goshawks in the area to boost wild populations. He’d love to know about this kind of activity I’m sure. I wonder if racing clubs are made aware of the increased predation risk in this area so they can avoid it on race routes?

  6. If the licencee was to carry out watches, does this mean SNH played no role in checks on that area before, during or after the hacking activity. Why was this permitted if SNH can clearly not police it. Self policing – interesting!

  7. Naive as I may sound, but why is an SPA so called?

    Is there a set of guidelines, stipulations or recommendations in existence with regard to SPAs? If not, why not?

    What do they say about releasing alien species into areas bearing SPA status?

    I don’t mean these questions to seem rhetorical. I’d really like to know. SNH?

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