A DISTRESSING image show the moment a frantic buzzard was found caught in a “deliberately” set up, illegal trap in the Cairngorms.
The shocking photograph shows the legally-protected bird struggling to free itself while surrounded by feathers and what could be the remains of a second bird.
The bird of prey was discovered in the metal trap by a member of the public near Auchintoul, Strathdearn, in the Highlands.
The passer-by managed to free the bird from the trap and release it back into the wild.
But in doing so, the buzzard’s rescuer is believed to have been slightly injured in the process.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is illegal to “kill, injure or take a buzzard, or to take, damage or destroy an active nest or its contents”.
The RSPB described the incident as “raptor persecution” and added that this could be related to a number of tagged birds of prey that have disappeared in the area recently.
Yesterday, Police Scotland revealed they were investigating the trap which they believe may have been set up deliberately to target birds of prey.
Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, said: “Yet again, we have a flagrant incident of raptor persecution in the northern Monadhliath, an area that has become synonymous with wildlife crime in recent years.
“The indiscriminate use of illegal traps, such as in this case, gives a clue as to what may have happened to some of the satellite-tagged birds of prey that have disappeared in this area.
“Despite recent welcome announcements from the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, about investigating options for better regulation of gamebird shooting, there are those who continue to think that killing protected wildlife is a valid way of maximising their profits from grouse shooting, and are refusing to alter their behaviour.
“The Scottish Government needs to take immediate and robust action to bear down on these criminals.”
Inspector Mike Middlehurst said: “It is very disappointing to have an incident like this reported, especially when there is a great deal of positive work going on in the Highlands to tackle wildlife crime.
“Unfortunately, there are some who continue to deliberately target birds of prey; there is nothing accidental in the setup of these traps.
“I am grateful to the member of the public who came across the bird and for their assistance in trying to free it.
“They were slightly injured in the process of releasing the bird and had the knowledge to photograph it.
“We are keen to speak to anybody who was walking or mountain biking in this area over the weekend of 3 and 4 June 2017.
“If anyone saw people or vehicles on these tracks that they thought out of place or acting suspiciously I would encourage them to contact us.
“Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 quoting reference NN13977/17 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 if you wish to remain anonymous.”
The buzzard is the most common bird of prey in the UK and has a wingspan of over a metre wide.
It is considerably smaller than an eagle and is described as a “slow flier” and “patient predator”.
In the early 1900s, there were as few as 1,000 breeding pairs in the UK after many were killed off by gamekeepers frightened the birds would destroy their pheasants and grouse.
Nowadays there are thought to be around 60,000 breeding pairs in Britain.