North-east is worst area in Scotland for hunting with dogs

The north-east is worse than any other area in Scotland for crimes using dogs to illegally hunt wildlife.

Nearly half of all the offences recorded in the country were traced in the region during 2015/16.

Yesterday it emerged that the number of crimes relating to hunting with dogs had more than doubled in the space of a year.

And figures from the Scottish Government showed that 20 of the 44 offences took place across the north-east.

Chairman of the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust charity, Roger Owen, described the figures as “extremely disappointing”.

He said: “I would have thought that people would have more concern for wildlife than that.

“It is unfortunate this is so prevalent in the north-east, but I believe young people are more in tune with wildlife issues and hopefully in time these practices will die out.”

The 44 offences during 2015/16 represent a five-year high, with only 20 reports of the act in 2014/15.

Hare coursing accounted for 38 of the offences, fox hunting for four and deer were the target in two cases.

In addition to the 20 reports in the north-east, there were 11 in the Lothians and Borders and six in Tayside.

The highest number of wildlife offences in 2015/16 were recorded in Tayside with 53, followed by the north east on 41 and the Highlands and Islands with 33.

However, overall statistics on wildlife crime show a decrease in offences from 284 to 261 across Scotland.

Fish poaching remains the most common wildlife crime, but instances have declined from 101 to 75.

Bird persecution was the second most common offence with 46 instances recorded, down three from the previous year.

Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, said there was “no room for complacency” despite overall figures being down.

She said: “We know that it is very likely that golden eagles and other raptors are being illegally killed every year, but where there is no body or tag to be found, these losses do not make it into the recorded crime figures.”

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent, Mike Flynn, added: “Wildlife crime continues to cause us great concern.

“The increase in hunting with dogs is very worrying and we will work with police to tackle it.”

RSPB Scotland said stronger sanctions are needed to further reduce offences.