GAME SHOOTS and fisheries have been warned to be extra vigilant following increased incidents of 'anti-shooting' crimes and poaching.

With the number of people taking access to the countryside reportedly rising by four times the normal amount, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has highlighted the apparently deliberate destruction of woodland pheasant shoot facilities in northern England last week, where a fire caused over £30,000 worth of damage, and more locally, vandalism on the Borders Estate where SGA chairman Alex Hogg works.

A trout fishery in Kinross recently reported a spike in poaching since the fishery was closed, with CCTV cameras having to be installed to monitor the property remotely. Two men have also been arrested for illegal fishing in Kelso.

As more of the urban public take access to the countryside for leisure, there are less rural workers out and about monitoring land and rivers. Some have been furloughed by employers or simply feel unable to check their workplaces due to the Government advice against unessential travel.

SGA member Bryan Carman was involved in the Warrington-based shooting syndicate operation that was burned to the ground last week. Built up over several decades, four wooden cabins and tools such as chainsaws and power generators, pheasant feeders, furniture and communication radios were all destroyed in the blaze. Police and fire brigade officials who attended the scene have classified the incident as a deliberate criminal act. The shoot has been targeted before, with holes being cut in pheasant rearing pens by individuals using wire cutters.

“We are a bunch of working blokes who have put years of our lives into building up the shoot from scratch," said Mr Carman, who joined the Warrington shoot 30 years ago. "Now all that is left is ashes. It might not seem a lot to some folk but, to us, the shoot was a little sanctuary."

He said that the perpetrators had taken advantage of the fact that people were not on the ground because of the lockdown: "It wasn’t theft, either, they’ve just set fire to everything, then left. I contacted the SGA as we are members, to warn others that people might take advantage during this time. We wouldn’t want the same thing happening to others. We are all absolutely devastated.”

Mr Hogg said that there was a fear that anti-fieldsports campaigners and poachers will be 'emboldened' by the lockdown, with less people monitoring the ground.

“Sporting estates were already living with legal traps and property being vandalised by people opposed to shooting," he said. "What happened to our members in Warrington last week has been absolutely soul destroying for them.

“There’s enough to be worrying about just now without things like this, but everyone should be extra wary during lockdown.”


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