THREE Scots gamekeepers have been charged over the killing of protected animals using cyanide and illegal traps.

The men were caught after a massive police sting, following tip-offs from members of the public.

In a late-night raid last week, police swooped on the Kelso home of Gibson, 61, and discovered illegal poisons, including cyanide, and snares and traps. He faces seven charges under the Wildlife Act. Police and animal welfare officers also found the carcasses of several horribly-maimed badgers. The protected animals had been caught in the snares which self-lock, causing a wounded animal to fight to free itself, which can result in horrific injuries and even decapitation.

A police source said: “Gamekeepers trying to protect their pheasant or grouse lay these traps to trap foxes, but badgers, squirrels and birds also get caught.” A few days earlier, a raid at part-time gamekeeper Joseph Paxton’s home in Jedburgh uncovered illegal poisons and the carcasses of birds of prey.

Paxton, 69, was charged with 10 offences It is believed he is accused of laying poisoned bait which killed several birds.

His colleague, gamekeeper and TV repair man, Tony Lowrie, 52, also of Jedburgh, is charged with three offences of poisoning protected species.

The men were caught after a huge operation involving police, wildlife charities and the officers from the Scottish Executive’s Environment and Rural Affairs Department.

Tough new powers were announced by the Executive to crack down on criminals who poison rare birds of prey earlier this year.

Offenders can be jailed for a maximum of six months with fines of up to £5000 if found guilty. Constable Mark Rafferty, Lothian and Borders police wildlife crime liaison officer, said: “As a result of a joint operation with officers from the SSPCA, police and SEERAD, three men have been charged.”

The SSPCA said: “We have vast experience of snares and will continue to work to highlight this problem.”