More raptors illegally killed in Peak District National Park: police appeal 5 months later

Derbyshire Constabulary has today issued a press release appealing for information following the illegal killing of an Osprey (caught in a spring trap) and a buzzard (shot) that were discovered in the Peak District National Park last September. The RSPB is offering a £1,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction.

Here’s the press release:

Derbyshire Police and the RSPB are appealing for information following the illegal killing of two birds of prey near to Glossop, Derbyshire. A £1000 reward has been offered by the RSPB for information leading to a conviction.

On September 09, 2015, a dead osprey was found to the west of Derbyshire Level. A post mortem on the bird revealed that both its legs had been recently broken, injuries which were consistent with it being caught in a spring trap prior to its death. Ospreys are rare visitors to the Peak District and this one would have been on migration to West Africa.

On September 30, a buzzard was found shot dead close to Hurst Reservoir, only a short distance from where the osprey was found. This follows the shooting of another buzzard in the same area in March 2014.

Sergeant Darren Belfield from Derbyshire police said: “I would appeal to anyone who might have any information as to who may be responsible for these cruel acts to contact the police on 101. The continued persecution of birds of prey in the Peak District is totally unacceptable. If you suspect someone of committing any crimes against wildlife, act now. Your call will be dealt with in confidence. If you don’t feel you can talk to the police, pass the information to us through Crimestoppers by ringing 0800 555 111.”

RSPB Investigations Officer Alan Firth said: “Yet again, we are seeing the senseless killing of fantastic birds of prey in the National Park.”

Last year, the RSPB published its annual Birdcrime Report 2014, which revealed Derbyshire as one of the worst places in the UK for bird of prey persecution. In 2014, the RSPB received 16 reports of bird of prey incidents in the county including a shot buzzard, a shot sparrowhawk and an illegally trapped goshawk.


So these birds were found “close to Hurst Reservoir”. Have a look at this map and see what else is “close to Hurst Reservoir” (reservoir marked with the red pin). See those tell-tale rectangular strips of burnt heather to the south and south-east of the marker? Quelle surprise, it’s driven grouse moor country.

Hurst Reservoir - Copy

You may remember back in November we blogged about the failed ‘Bird of Prey Initiative’ in the Dark Peak region of this National Park. It was a five-year project aimed at restoring the populations of several raptor species in the area and involved various organisations: The Moorland Association, The National Trust, Natural England, Peak District National Park Authority, and the RSPB. None of the targets were met (see here). In response, the Moorland Association and the Peak District National Park Authority said they’d make ‘renewed commitment’ to protect raptors in the National Park (see here). Riiiiiight, that’s working well then.

Interestingly, the failed initiative was widely reported in the local press, including the Derbyshire Times, whose article on 26th November was entitled ‘Birds of prey killed and abused in Derbyshire’. In reponse to that article, Robert Benson, Chairman of the Moorland Association, penned the following letter:

I would like to emphatically state in response to your story, ‘Birds of prey killed and abused in Derbyshire’, on November 26th, that one single bird of prey killed illegally is one too many.

However, the Moorland Association was heartened to see RSPB’s latest bird crime figures show a dramatic cut across the UK. Significant reductions in the illegal trapping of birds of prey represent a 78 per cent drop since 2013, with just four confirmed incidents last year.

Of the 19 prosecutions for wild bird offences, three involved gamekeepers, but none were employed on moorland managed for grouse shooting.

Our members spend £52.5 million a year maintaining and conserving habitats which benefit all moorland wildlife. This year, grouse moor managers in England were praised for their part in the most successful hen harrier breeding season for five years.

Many other threatened species, such as lapwing, curlew, and golden plover – in serious decline elsewhere – are doing well on managed moorland. Not birds of prey, but wild, endangered and important nonetheless.

Wildlife crime is being successfully tackled. We already have a robust wildlife licensing system which needs to be used fairly to manage conflict between rapidly increasing bird of prey populations and legitimate and beneficial land use“. Robert Benson, Chairman, Moorland Association.


So there we have it. According to Robert, everything’s just rosy, grouse moors are great, and there are too many raptors so gamekeepers should be given licences to kill them legally.

The thing is, Robert Benson is not telling the whole story. He’s right to say that there were four confirmed illegal trapping incidents recorded in 2014, but what he ‘forgot’ to mention was that those four incidents were just a fraction of the 478 incidents of illegal raptor persecution recorded in 2014, including 179 reports of illegal shooting and destruction (of which 46 raptors were confirmed victims) and a further 53 confirmed victims of illegal poisoning. Doesn’t sound quite so rosy now, does it, Robert? He also ‘forgot’ to mention that Derbyshire was the 4th worst region in the UK for raptor persecution crimes in 2014. Oh, and he also ‘forgot’ to mention the quote from the National Wildlife Crime Unit:

Intelligence continues to indicate a strong association between raptor persecution and grouse moor management“.

One for you anagram fans: Moorland Association = A sad morons’ coalition.

Here are some photos of the latest victims (photos by RSPB)

An x-ray of the shot buzzard:

shot BZ PDNP Sep 2015 - Copy

The osprey alive, with two smashed up legs:

osprey springtrapped PDNP Sep 2015 - Copy

The osprey dead, with two smashed up legs:

osprey springtrapped 2 - Copy

The osprey’s smashed up right leg:

osprey right leg - Copy


21 Responses to “More raptors illegally killed in Peak District National Park: police appeal 5 months later”

  1. 1 dave angel
    February 3, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    ‘Many other threatened species, such as lapwing, curlew, and golden plover – in serious decline elsewhere – are doing well on managed moorland’


    It’s curious that birds which don’t predate grouse apparently thrive on grouse moors, but those that do, don’t.

    The grouse industry use this argument to put a positive slant on their activities, but to me logic suggests that they must be responsible for the absence of raptors. If the habitat is right for some species why else are other species absent?

  2. 2 Tony Warburtopn MBE
    February 3, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    How to identify a member of the Moorland Association: – a person with a patch over one eye.
    How to identify Robert Benson – a man with patches over both eyes and flicking oiut a forked tongue.
    How to identify a member of the Derbyshire Constabulary – a policeman taking a tortoise for a walk.

    Information requests and rewards fiive months after the crimes eh? Offer must have been from the Police ‘rapid response’ team then!

  3. February 3, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    I know from direct experience that most of these sort of crimes, if they are ever going to be successfully investigated ..ie ending with some person identified, evidence gathered and charges made…this will happen within a few days of the crime being reported. I can see no excuse for withholding the killing of an osprey from the public..who might just include a witness of some sort …but only if they know it has happened!..No this was a political decision, someone didnt want this getting out at that particular time.

    • 4 Daniel Brooks
      June 1, 2016 at 12:16 am

      ciao Dave…😄 How’s life? I still dream about staking out a harrier nest..the way I always wanted to do and getting the footage.

  4. 5 Les Wallace
    February 3, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    The image with location of reservoir and the proximity of muirburn says it all. How transparent that whilst trying to argue persecution of raptors is fading away another rep of a shooting body simultaneously asks for licensed killing! And for what so some people can shoot a few more birds for sport. Driven grouse shooting seems to be bad for peoples’ mental health, think that’s another reason to ban it.

  5. 6 Jack Snipe
    February 3, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    It’s simply not true that Lapwings, Curlews and Golden Plovers are “doing well” on Scottish grouse moors. It’s time to drive that home against the claims of the grouse shooters. Their claims are based on outdated and flawed comparisons.

  6. 7 lesley
    February 3, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Oh my God this is just getting out of hand the amount these beautiful birds of prey being killed is just obscene…what’s wrong with people ?? this has to stop!!!!!

  7. February 3, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    In therapy groups they used to say ignore everything before the ‘but’.
    With the grouse lobby ignore everything before the ‘however’.
    ‘I would like to emphatically state in response to your story, ‘Birds of prey killed and abused in Derbyshire’, on November 26th, that one single bird of prey killed illegally is one too many.

  8. 9 Marco McGinty
    February 3, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Sergeant Darren Belfield might as well have said spingly flobble bibbetybop, for all the good that this press release will do.

    So, may I take this opportunity to state, that in my opinion, Derbyshire Police are utterly fucking useless, and corrupt with it.

  9. 12 Tracey S
    February 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    If this happened in September why wait until February to release a statement. Would the police do this for any other type of crime? of course not they would be taking statements, looking for witnesses within days , when they might actually stand a chance to solve the crime , but 5 months on no chance

  10. 13 Doug Malpus
    February 3, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    5 months between crime and asking for help is only marginally better than some Scottish police requests!!!!! Like so many crime investigations, they prioritise so little and forget the rest.
    Tony you forgot the: How to identify gamekeeper a grumpy git with a big gun, bad attitude and a pocket full of poison and snares. Of he/she is going about his/her lawful occupation.

  11. 14 Jimmy
    February 3, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Its an ongoing joke the policies approach to such matters. Its also a new low for the scumbags that target our iconic raptors when you see what happened that Osprey

  12. 15 I C T
    February 3, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    It wouldn’t have looked good having a butchered osprey found by a grouse moor at the height of the grouse shooting season. It goes without say it was a dispicable act, but Derbyshire Police are just as dispicable for surpressing the crime. A nod & a wink at a high level!

  13. 16 M Andrew
    February 3, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    In a breach of health and safety law the person committing the breach may be prosecuted but so, too, can his/her management, who have ultimate responsibility for the actions of their staff/employees. Why is it not the same in countryside law? If a gamekeeper commits a crime then his employer should also gain a criminal record. I have no doubt that at least some raptor killings are committed under duress or on the orders of the landowner.

  14. 17 Jack Snipe
    February 3, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    According to the Chairman of the Moorland Association, “grouse moor managers in England were praised for their part in the most successful hen harrier breeding season for five years.” Praised by whom? I don’t think patting oneself on the back counts as praise! A successful breeding season in England requires an established breeding population which occupies at least the majority of suitable habitat. My calculations suggest that the number of pairs breeding in England last year was no more than 5% of the potential. Well done, grouse moor managers!

  15. 18 Mark Thomas
    February 4, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    It’s very easy and natural to be angry when reading about crimes like this but without the full facts comments can be harsh and unfair. In this case Derbyshire Police and Sgt Belfield in particular do not deserve that. I can’t comment on other such examples. Derbyshire Police has consistently been a very good force in relation to wildlife crime, they were instrumental in the prosecution of keeper Glenn Brown in the Derwent Valley in the biggest case of its kind in the county in recent times. In this case the osprey was found alive by a walker who put it in social media asking if anyone knew what it was? A raptor group member saw that post 2 days later and replied. It was then sadly found dead at the scene and RSPB informed. The body was sent off and the expert PM was conducted in late October. The result led to the matter being reported to the police as a crime. In this case, any conclusion from the death of the bird prior to post mortem was amateur speculation as the x-ray proved it had not been shot. Investigations started and a press release was drafted. Developments then led to the press release being tactically postponed until now. Evidence has led this investigation and the tool of going to the media has been used at an appropriate time. They are the facts and as I said, other cases are other cases and shouldn’t be used as a basis to comment on this case. I hope that helps address concerns. Now please, if anyone knows anything come forward.
    Mark Thomas (RSPB)

    • 19 Julie Wright
      February 7, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      Why didn’t the walker call the police or RSPB ? because there isn’t enough press or TV exposure. Why not start educating the general public, put posters up in these hot spots. Make a TV advert specific to wildlife crime & who to call, point out what to look for & what to do. That Osprey may have been saved who knows, but who in their right mind leaves a bird or animal to suffer in a trap. No one is going to remember something that happened 5 months ago. Wildlife criminals are getting very clever at removing the evidence, so I don’t doubt numbers of illegally killed raptors are a lot higher than stated. I donate to various animal charities and to the Black Isle Massacre, but who knows about this apart from people locally, those of us in the birding world & people who read the RSPB mag, get it out there and show the shocking pictures let the public see it in all its nasty glory.

  16. 20 Jack Snipe
    February 4, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    Mark, perhaps if you had provided more details on the developments which led to the press release being “tactically postponed”, that might have satisfied some people’s criticism about the delay. You say these are the facts, but they’re not what I would call particularly informative. Less cloak and dagger would be welcomed.

  17. 21 Merlin
    February 5, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    I dont understand your thought process on this Mark, I must be missing something, you found a Raptor in a known persecution hotspot with two broken legs, you send it for a post mortem to see if its been shot? on finding its not been shot you then release a press statement!
    Once again a protected species killed in a National park by the untouchables, National park, the words are a joke, the poor women who started the RSPB must be spinning in their graves, I picked up a copy of shooting times today and read the editors comments, another new editor someone called Dimbleby, it must be hard being the editor of a magazine and having to put your name to so much bullshit which probably accounts for the high turnaround of editors, read the same old rubbish as spouted by Robert Benson the moorland ass, when is the RSPB going to stand up to these criminals stop acting like the cast from the wizard of Oz, no brains no courage and no heart

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