A gamekeeper from Wiltshire has admitted to dumping nine bird carcasses down a well in England’s largest raptor persecution investigation.

Source: UK Animal Cruelty Files – UKACF/Youtube

Archie Watson pleaded guilty to having five dead buzzards, three red kites, and a herring gull after he was caught on film throwing the carcasses down a well on a Beckhampton farm in 2020.

The 21-year-old denies killing the birds and says that he found them between August and September 2020 on Galtee More Farm. RSPB investigations officer Jack Ashton-Booth said that what they found at the bottom of the well was “gut-wrenching.”

“I wasn’t at all prepared for the scale of what was at the bottom of these rumours,” Ashton-Booth said. “After lifting the cover to the well, I was hit by a gut-wrenching warm air flow and the overriding smell of death.”

“There at the bottom was a lifeless mass of raptor corpses and parts. It was a horrific sight.”

The RSPB team installed a video camera to monitor the well, and footage captured Watson liting the manhole cover before dropping a dead buzzard down the well in one of his 13 visits.

After this was caught on camera, a large multi-agency investigation began, and specialist police officers were lowered into the well, where they brought back up two bags of animal remains.

Watson’s team argued in court that the 21-year-old did not cause any unnecessary suffering to the animals. They claimed that he came into possession of the birds after they died, and there is no evidence that he killed any of the raptors.

Watson is also facing charges relating to firearms. Watson received a 12-month community order to do 180 hours of unpaid work and pay £393 in costs and a victim surcharge of £95.

“The shocking discovery of this tomb of raptors is a reminder of the horrors of raptor persecution,” RSPB’s head of investigations Mark Thomas said. “Whilst it is not known who was involved or where these birds were killed, we believe it is highly likely they were illegally killed.”

“Raptor persecution is at an all-time high and overwhelmingly associated with land managed for gamebird shooting.”

Gamekeepers often fear raptors preying on young grouse and eggs. Natural predation by raptors would reduce grouse numbers and in turn reduce shooting numbers and profits for estates. To handle this, gamekeepers often illegally poison, shoot and trap raptors. This is cruel and absolutely not an ok practice. All raptors in England are protected by the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, which states it is illegal to intentionally kill or injure them.

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