Two Borders properties, Raeshaw Estates and Corsehope Farm, have had their general licences to control wild birds suspended by Scottish Natural Heritage.
This is the first time the conservation body has taken such action and the two Borders properties, both north of Stow, where joined by two estates in Stirlingshire, whose licences were also suspended based on evidence provided by Police Scotland.
Nick Halfhide, SNH director of operations, said: “There is clear evidence that wildlife crimes have been committed on these properties. Because of this, and the risk of more wildlife crimes taking place, we have suspended the general licences on these four properties for three years.
“They may though still apply for individual licences, but these will be closely monitored.
“This measure should help to protect wild birds in the area, while still allowing necessary land management activities to take place, albeit under tighter supervision.
“We consider that this is a proportionate response to protect wild birds in the area and prevent further wildlife crime.”
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, for the conservation of wild birds and for the preservation of public health and public safety.
Scottish Natural Heritage are able to prohibit the use of General Licences granted for these purposes if they have reason to believe that wild birds have been taken or killed other than in accordance with the licence.
Over recent months they have been having discussions with key stakeholders regarding “outstanding concerns” relating to General Licences, focusing on the use of traps.
“One of the key areas of work that has arisen from those discussions has been to examine how traps currently permitted for use under General Licences are used in practice in order to ensure that their use is efficient, effective and with minimal risks in terms of welfare and capture of non-target species,” said an SNH spokesperson.
Investigations continue and SNH say that the period of suspension could increase if more offences come to light.