More than 700 birds of prey have been illegally killed in Scotland over a 20-year period, according to a review.

In total, 468 were poisoned, 173 were shot and 76 were caught in illegal traps between 1994 and 2014, said RSPB Scotland.

The figures include 104 red kites, 37 golden eagles, 30 hen harriers, 16 goshawks and 10 white-tailed eagles.

The charity said its report by the specialist investigations team deals only with incidents that have been confirmed as involving criminal activity and the number of birds killed could be higher.

The team revealed there were a further 171 incidents, poison baits and/or non-bird of prey victims of poisoning, including 14 cats and 14 dogs.

RSPB Scotland said its review showed a "significant majority" of cases took place in areas associated with game-bird shooting but it noted that in recent years there have been some "welcome reductions" in the number of cases reported from lowland areas of the country.

Stuart Housden, the charity's director, said: "We recognise that many landowners and their staff have helped with positive conservation efforts for birds of prey, particularly with reintroduction programmes for white-tailed eagles and red kites, and that the majority operate legitimate shooting businesses; but there are still far too many who do not act responsibly and there will be no improvement in the conservation status of raptors until all land management is carried out wholly within the law.

Illegal killing of raptors continues to be a widespread problem in significant parts of upland Scotland

"We welcome measures taken by the Scottish Government over the past 20 years to improve the laws protecting our birds of prey and the recent improvements by Police Scotland and the Crown Office in tackling wildlife crime.

"However, our data shows that illegal killing of raptors continues to be a widespread problem in significant parts of upland Scotland.

"These crimes impact the natural wealth of Scotland and undermine our international reputation, wildlife tourism and diversified rural businesses."

A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said: "This document is solely about RSPB's lobbying objective of grouse moor licensing.
The only concrete evidence in it is the small section on the official figures from 2013/2014 verified by Police Scotland, Scottish Government and SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture), and used by all agencies, including ourselves, in the fight against wildlife crime.

"The latest official statistics, released in September, showed the number of crimes committed against wild animals in Scotland, including birds of prey, fell to its lowest level in five years, which was praised by Scottish Government, although no-one is being complacent.

"The rest of this report's figures are taken from historic RSPB Scotland reports with its own context applied on what may or may not have happened, which is unhelpful." 

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