Archive for May, 2016

31
May
16

Gas gun in use on grouse moor in Peak District National Park

As regular blog readers will know, we have an interest in the use of propane gas guns on grouse moors in the English and Scottish uplands.

For those who don’t know, propane gas guns are routinely used for scaring birds (e.g. pigeons, geese) from agricultural crops – they are set up to deliver an intermittent booming noise and the audible bangs can apparently reach volumes in excess of 150 decibels. According to the Purdue University website, 150 decibels is the equivalent noise produced by a jet taking off from 25 metres away and can result in eardrum rupture. That’s quite loud!

The grouse-shooting industry has claimed these are used for scaring ravens, but we argue they are more likely to be used (illegally) to disturb hen harrier breeding attempts. We are interested in the deployment of these bird scarers in relation to (a) their proximity to Schedule 1 (and in Scotland, Schedule 1A bird species) and thus any potential disturbance to these specially protected species and (b) their use in designated Special Protection Areas and thus any potential disturbance caused.

We, and others, have previously blogged about specific instances of gas gun use on grouse moors (e.g. see here and here) and we’ve been pressing the statutory nature conservation organisations (Natural England & Scottish Natural Heritage) to issue urgent guidelines on their use, so far without much success (see here, here, herehere and here).

Meanwhile, grouse moor managers are still using these gas guns. The following photographs were taken on Sunday 22 May 2016 in the Peak District National Park:

Gas gun 1 Broomhead - Copy

Gas gun 2 Broomhead - Copy

Gas gun 3 Broomhead - Copy

Gas gun 4 Broomhead - Copy

This gas gun is on the Barnside Moor, which is part of the Broomhead Estate, owned by Ben Rimington Wilson, a spokesman (see here) for the grouse-shooting industry’s lobby group the Moorland Association. The grouse moors of the Broomhead Estate are part of a regional Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA), designated as a site of importance for short-eared owl, merlin, and golden plover.

Now, what’s interesting about the placement of this particular gas gun is that it lies a few metres outside of the SPA boundary, although the gas gun is pointing towards the SPA:

SPA OS - Copy

SPA close up - google map - Copy

What’s interesting is whether this gas gun was deliberately placed outside of the SPA boundary, to avoid having to ask Natural England for deployment consent? Although we would argue that even though the gas gun isn’t placed directly within the SPA, it is placed directly adjacent to it and the noise from that gas gun will definitely resonate across the SPA boundary line, potentially disturbing ground-nesting species such as short-eared owl, merlin and golden plover, for which the site was designated. (Hen harrier is not on the site’s designation list, presumably because when the site was designated, there weren’t any hen harriers nesting there, even though this is prime hen harrier habitat!).

But even though the gun isn’t directly placed within the SPA, it does sit (just) within the SSSI boundary:

SSSI close up - google map - Copy

This leads us to believe that the deployment of this gas gun will require consent from Natural England as it falls under the list of ‘operations likely to damage the special interest of the site’, namely, ‘change in game management and hunting practice’.

Has Natural England given consent for the deployment of this gas gun at this site? If so, how has it justified that deployment? If Natural England hasn’t given consent, is the deployment of this gas gun contrary to section 28 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act?

We don’t know the answers to these questions because we’re still waiting for Natural England to publish its policy on gas gun use, even though this guidance document was promised before the start of the 2016 breeding season!

Natural England needs to pull its finger out, pronto, and publish clear guidelines for use. If you’d like to email Alan Law, Natural England’s Chief Strategy & Reform Officer (he’s the guy who last September told us the guidelines would be available by early 2016) and ask him where that guidance document is, here’s his email address: alan.law@naturalengland.org.uk

You may also remember that a couple of weeks ago, SNH gave their opinion of what we should do if we found a gas gun being deployed on a grouse moor (see here). It was a very confused statement, but part of their advice was that intentional or reckless disturbance of a Schedule 1 species (such as hen harrier or merlin) is an offence and any suspected incidents of this through gas gun use should be reported to the police.

In our view, this would be a big waste of time – we can’t see the police having any interest in investigating gas gun use, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t know where to start. But, just as a test case, why don’t we report this gas gun to South Yorkshire Police as a suspected wildlife crime (potential reckless or intentional disturbance of a Schedule 1 species) and let’s see what they do with it.

Here is the information you need:

Gas gun grid reference: SK233978, Barnside Moor, Peak District National Park

Date observed in use: 22 May 2016

Please report this to Chief Superintendent David Hartley, South Yorkshire Police’s lead on wildlife crime: david.hartley@southyorks.pnn.police.uk

We’d be very interested in any responses you receive!

And if you’re in email-sending mode, you might also want to sent one to Sarah Fowler, Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority and ask her whether there is a policy for the deployment of bird scaring devices on sensitive moorlands within the National Park. Email: sarah.fowler@peakdistrict.gov.uk

30
May
16

Police Scotland investigate suspicious disappearance of two breeding peregrines

Peregrine Steve WaterhousePolice Scotland is investigating the suspicious disappearance of two female peregrines from active nests in Dumfries & Galloway.

Both nest sites, at Dalveen on the Queensberry Estate (part of the Buccleuch Estates), were being monitored by experts from the Dumfries & Galloway Raptor Study Group. Eggs had been laid at both sites and the breeding females ‘disappeared’ between 21 April and 20 May 2016.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland at Sanquhar on 101.

Good to see Police Scotland issue an early appeal for information. Well done!

News article on ITV website here

Peregrine photo by Steve Waterhouse

30
May
16

National Trust: bold or bottling it?

It’s been over a month since the National Trust said they were launching an investigation in to what they described as a “suspicious incident” where an armed man was filmed sitting next to a decoy hen harrier on a National Trust-owned grouse moor in the Peak District National Park.

Fake Hen Harrier (1) - Copy

How’s that investigation going? Given that the National Trust knew about this incident when it was first reported to them in February 2016, they’ve had plenty of time to ask questions of their grouse moor tenant and decide on what action, if any, they will take.

As a result of their investigation, we’re expecting them to do one of two things:

  1. Nothing.
  2. Withdraw the tenancy agreement that allows driven grouse shooting on that moor.

The National Trust has previously been bold about withdrawing shooting leases on land it owns. In 2011 it decided not to renew two of three shooting leases on its Wallington Estate in Northumberland (see here), and in 2012 it terminated the lease on a pheasant shoot on the Polesden Lacey Estate in Surrey (see here).

Will the National Trust be bold in the Peak District National Park? We think they’ve got very strong grounds for pulling the grouse-shooting lease in this instance because the grouse moor in question is part of the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative – an initiative that has utterly failed in its objective of increasing the populations of breeding raptors in the Dark Peak area of the National Park. Presumably the National Trust’s grouse shooting lease includes a clause that demands cooperation from the tenant to reach that objective and if cooperation isn’t forthcoming, the contract can be considered to have been breached?

Let’s ask the General Manager of the National Trust in the Peak District, Jon Stewart, when we might expect to hear the findings of the National Trust’s investigation. Emails to: jon.stewart@nationaltrust.org.uk

We’re also intrigued as to why no official statement about this incident has been offered by the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative. We’ve heard from individual member organisations such as the Peak District National Park Authority (see here) and the Moorland Association (see here), but there’s been total silence from the collective  BOP Initiative. Isn’t that strange?

The BOP Initiative is chaired by the Peak District National Park Authority and its ecologist, Rhodri Thomas, is the PDNPA’s representative on the BOP Initiative. We’d like to know how the BOP Initiative intends to respond to the video footage and how this incident will affect the progress of this so-called ‘partnership’? Let’s ask him. Emails to: rhodri.thomas@peakdistrict.gov.uk

28
May
16

Mountain hare slaughter set to continue in breach of EU regulations

A couple of weeks ago, Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell lodged the following parliamentary question:

Question S5W-00044, Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Green Party); Lodged: 09/05/2016:

To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the culling of mountain hares on estates practising driven grouse shooting.

mountain-hare-cull-angus-glens-large - Copy

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham has now answered with this:

The Scottish Government does not support large, indiscriminate culls of mountain hares in Scotland and recognises the concerns that have been expressed about the status of mountain hare populations in Scotland. The Scottish Government acknowledges that mountain hares are a legitimate quarry species and that there may be local requirements to control mountain hares to protect gamebirds and young trees. Any control of mountain hares should be undertaken in accordance with obligations under the EU Habitats Directive.

Given the concerns about possible over-exploitation, information on the management of hares has been reviewed by independent experts from the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Scientific Advisory Committee. This review was published in October 2015 and is available at: http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/A1765931.pdf. The review identified the need for improved monitoring and data to assess national trends of mountain hare populations.

This work is underway in the form of a collaborative four year study (2014-17) involving SNH and scientists in the James Hutton Institute and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, on trialling various methods of counting hares. The study has the aim of developing a reliable and cost-effective means of assessing mountain hare population density.

SNH is also working with Scottish Land & Estates to encourage greater transparency in the reasons why estates cull hares and to encourage estates to collaborate and develop a more measured and coordinated approach to sustanable hare management.

END

Oh, where to begin!

The Cabinet Secretary for the Environment says the culls should be done in accordance with obligations under the EU Habitats Directive. Yes, they should be, but they’re not, are they? They can’t possibly be because one of the obligations is a legal requirement to ensure the management of this species “is compatible with the species being maintained at a favourable conservation status“. To assess whether the species’ conservation status is favourable or unfavourable requires decent population-level data to establish the impact of these unregulated mass culls. Those data are not yet available (although Dr Adam Watson has provided long-term mountain hare counts, see below).

The Cabinet Secretary for the Environment says work is underway to get these data, but that work doesn’t finish until 2017. In the meantime, SNH should have applied the precautionary principle and placed a temporary moratorium on mountain hare culling, as they were asked to do in 2015 by ten conservation organisations (see here). SNH has chosen instead to call on sporting estates to undertake ‘voluntary restraint‘, a doomed policy already proven not to be working (e.g. see here and here). Of course this approach isn’t going to work when the estates’ representative organisation, SLE, insists, without supportive evidence, “there is no issue over population reduction” (see here).

The Cabinet Secretary for the Environment refers to an independent review of sustainable moorland management, which included information about mountain hare culling. She mentions that the review identified the need for improved monitoring and data. What she forgot to mention was that this review also included the following statement (see page 20):

Given that culling can reduce mountain hare densities to extremely low levels locally (Laurenson et al., 2003), and population trends are poorly known despite the species being listed under the Habitats Directive, the case for widespread and intensive culling of mountain hares in the interests of louping-ill control has not been made.

She also forgot to mention something else reported in this review, the availability of long-term time series data of mountain hare counts by Dr Adam Watson (see page 21):

These latter data derive from 63 moorland sites, mainly in upland Aberdeenshire, with data in some cases extending back to the 1940s. Initial examination of this remarkable data set provides a strong prima facie case for long term population declines across moorland but not arctic-alpine habitats.

The Cabinet Secretary for the Environment also says that SNH is working with SLE to encourage ‘greater transparency’ about why mountain hares are culled. That’s an interesting one. Earlier this year, SLE provided explanations for why these culls take place. Apparently it’s because “hares can affect fragile habitats through grazing pressure, can spread sheep tick which also affects red grouse, and can cause the failure of tree-planting schemes”. They also said, contradictorily, that mountain hares are culled “to conserve the open heather habitat” (see here). At the time, we took these reasons apart as follows:

Hares can affect fragile habitats through grazing pressure“. They probably can, although if their natural predators weren’t being exterminated this would lessen any pressure. And would those be the same fragile habitats that are routinely burned with increasing frequency and intensity as part of grouse moor ‘management’, causing industrial-scale environmental damage (e.g. see here and here)?

Mountain hares can cause the failure of tree-planting schemes“. They probably can, but how many tree-planting schemes are taking place on driven grouse moors? According to Doug McAdam (CEO of SLE), hare culling takes place “to conserve the open heather habitat“. So which is it? It can’t be both.

Mountain hares can spread sheep tick which also affects red grouse“. Ah, and there it is! What this all comes down to – mountain hares are inconvenient to grouse moor managers whose sole interest is to produce an absurdly excessive population of red grouse so they can be shot for fun.

Given that the independent review, referenced above by the Cabinet Secretary, states that “the case for widespread and intensive culling of  mountain hares in the interests of louping-ill control has not been made”, how come SLE and their member estates are still permitted to carry on with this slaughter?

In summary then, the Scottish Government doesn’t support large, indiscriminate culls of mountain hares, and neither do ten conservation organisations, and neither does a large proportion of the general public who responded angrily to images of this year’s massacre. The culls are in clear breach of the EU Habitats Directive because the impact of culling on the species’ conservation status is unknown, although long-term counts, dating back to the 1940s, provide a strong prima facie case showing long-term population declines of mountain hares on grouse moors.

And yet the culls are set to continue again later this year when the closed season ends on 31 July.

Massive failure by the Scottish Government and its statutory conservation agency SNH.

But watch this space – the charity OneKind is planning to launch a campaign against mountain hare culling – more details to follow later this year.

27
May
16

Scottish gamekeeper fined for leaving loaded gun ‘on hillside’

A Scottish gamekeeper has been fined for abandoning a loaded gun that was found by two hill walkers.

Shaun Wilson, 29, had left his weapon ‘on the hillside above the village of Kippen’ , Stirlingshire, on 6 August 2015. He was fined £675 under the Firearms Act (see BBC news article here).

That description, ‘on a hillside above the village of Kippen’ is interesting. The main ‘hills’ around there are the grouse moors of Burnfoot Estate. That name might ring a bell with some of you. Burnfoot Estate is currently subject to a three-year General Licence Restriction Order, applied by SNH due to “some issues associated with poisoning birds of prey, birds of prey being found poisoned in that location, and illegal use of traps” (see here).

Kippen map

The name Shaun Wilson might also ring a bell. There was a gamekeeper of that name who, two years ago (then aged 27) was investigated for posting a video of himself on Facebook slitting a deer’s throat and drinking its blood (see here). Obviously just another of those strange coincidences.

26
May
16

More procrastination on extending SSPCA powers

sspca logoLast month we blogged about a series of Parliamentary questions relating to wildlife crime that had been lodged by recently elected Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell (see here).

One of those questions was about giving extended powers to the SSPCA:

Question S5W-00030 (Lodged 12/5/2016)

To ask the Scottish Government when it will announce its decision regarding extending the powers of the Scottish SPCA to tackle wildlife crime.

Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has now responded with this:

A decision on whether to extend the investigatory powers of the Scottish SPCA will be announced in due course.

That’s it. No explanation for the protracted delay (it’s been over five years since the public consultation was first suggested, and twenty months since that public consultation closed) and no time estimate of when this decision might be announced. Just, “in due course“. Marvellous.

A couple of weeks ago we blogged about how Dumfries & Galloway Council had recently given extended powers to the SSPCA to allow them to tackle the illegal puppy farm trade (see here). We argued that if the SSPCA was entrusted with extended powers to tackle serious organised crime, there should be no good reason why they shouldn’t be given extended powers to tackle wildlife crime.

Something else the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment might want to consider is the result of an SSPCA investigation which ended in Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday (see here). As a result of a covert surveillance operation, Craig Aitken, 43, pleaded guilty to setting 47 illegal snares, without authorisation, on Seggarsdean Farm in Haddington, East Lothian in January 2015. He was also convicted of stealing some of the SSPCA’s covert cameras, which, unbeknownst to him, had GPS trackers attached which enabled the SSPCA to trace them to Aitken’s home (see here). The evidence against him was so strong that he didn’t contest the charges. Yesterday he was sentenced with a 180 hour Community Payback Order and a six-month Restriction of Liberty Order which requires him to remain at home between the hours of 9pm and 8am. As an aside, someone else with the name Craig Aitken, of the same age, in the same town of Haddington, was convicted in September 2015 for exactly the same offence (setting illegal snares on another farm, caught by an SSPCA covert surveillance operation!) and received a 200-hour Community Service Order (see here). What a coincidence, eh? Those penalties for wildlife crime are really working as a deterrent.

its-not-fair1The reason we’ve mentioned this recent wildlife crime conviction is because this case demonstrates a number of things about the ability and competence of the SSPCA to conduct wildlife crime investigations; things that those opposing extended powers for the SSPCA (Police Scotland, gamekeepers, estate owners etc) said the SSPCA couldn’t do.

One of the main objections they gave to the SSPCA receiving extended powers was the SSPCA’s supposed lack of impartiality. It was claimed that because the SSPCA campaigns for a ban on snares, the charity couldn’t possibly remain impartial when investigating wildlife crimes involving snaring offences. Oops! This recent conviction for snaring offences suggests otherwise.

Another objection was that SSPCA Inspectors don’t undergo “the same rigorous training, selection and vetting” as police officers so they shouldn’t be allowed to undertake criminal investigations. Oops! This recent wildlife crime conviction suggests otherwise.

Another objection was that there may be resistance from the public who view these powers as a traditional remit of the police. Oops! We don’t see the public objecting to this latest wildlife crime conviction on the grounds that the SSPCA investigated and Police Scotland didn’t.

Another objection was that the SSPCA is “unequipped” to deal with RIP(S)A regulations (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 which puts strict controls on when surveillance operations are permitted and how they are to be conducted. These regulations only apply to public bodies, e.g. police, customs). Oops! This recent wildlife crime conviction, based on the use of covert surveillance (albeit with the landowner’s permission) suggests otherwise.

Isn’t it about time the Scottish Government stops procrastinating over this issue and gives extended powers to the SSPCA to allow them to bring their expertise and proven skills to bear against those who continue to illegally kill birds of prey? This is supposed to be a National Wildlife Crime Priority. Let’s see Scot Gov treat it as such.

26
May
16

Judicial review underway re: general licence restriction on Raeshaw Estate

Last month we blogged about a pending judicial review of SNH’s decision to apply a three-year General Licence restriction order on Raeshaw Estate in the Scottish Borders for alleged raptor persecution crimes (see here).

We noted that SNH had temporarily suspended the GL restriction order until the judicial review hearing on 20th May.

Last week, the judicial review began at the Court of Session:

Raeshaw Farms Ltd Judicial Review called 20 May 2016b - Copy

It was a starred motion (indicating that the motion was opposed and would require a a court appearance) that was only scheduled for 30 minutes. We’re not entirely sure about the judicial review process but we would guess, for an opposed motion, that a more substantive hearing will be required at a later date.

Meanwhile, SNH has updated its website with the following notice:

Raeshaw SNH temp restriction again 20 May 2016

Whereas the temporary GL restriction on Raeshaw Estate was previously applied until 20th May, SNH has now applied a temporary restriction ‘until further notice’, which means that the Raeshaw Estate is free to carry out trapping activities under the General Licence.

In other words, the three-year GL restriction order that was applied to Raeshaw in November 2015 as a penalty for alleged raptor persecution offences is no longer in place. It’ll be interesting to see, if Raeshaw ‘loses’ the judicial review, whether all these lost months of trapping restrictions will be added to the GL restriction to ensure the estate serves a full three-year penalty.

25
May
16

Scottish landowners still in denial about raptor persecution

Roseanna Cunningham MSPToday, new Cabinet Secretary for Land Reform & the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, will deliver a keynote address at the spring conference of Scottish land owners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates (SLE).

According to an amusing article in this morning’s Telegraph, clearly orchestrated by SLE to coincide with this conference, ‘Ministers have been warned they need to re-build trust with Scottish landowners’ who are miffed about the way the Land Reform agenda has been pushed through and are still whining about the reintroduction of sporting rates on their huge multi-million pound shooting estates (see here). The arrogance and sense of entitlement is there for all to see.

Obviously, we have no idea what Roseanna Cunningham will be saying at this conference but we hope that as well as land reform, the issue of raptor persecution will also feature. It’s been five years since she was having to deal with raptor persecution in her former role as Environment Minister and the issue hasn’t gone away. Although, according to SLE, it has.

We’ve been sent a copy of SLE’s Policy Update, an internal document written for SLE members, dated April 2016. Here are some excerpts:

Mountain hares

Although there is no issue over population reduction, it continues to be highly emotive and even a long distance photograph of a cull is enough for the Herald and social media. Meeting arranged with GWCT, SNH, and CNPA [Cairngorms National Park Authority] on 27 April to tighten up joint statement.

So yet again SLE claims ‘there is no issue over population reduction’, even though there isn’t a shred of supportive scientific data to back up this claim. And this is the group that SNH is relying upon to exercise voluntary restraint! In March 2016 we asked SLE to provide evidence that the current mountain hare slaughter was sustainable (see here). No reply.

Raptor persecution maps 2015

A small increase from 18 to 20 recorded incidents, many unrelated to land / sporting management. This issue is dying away statistically and in media interest, but pro-raptor groups in overdrive trying to make new publicity out of it.

So, raptor persecution is acknowledged as a National Wildlife Crime Priority, SLE serves on the PAW Raptor Group, and yet here they are, telling their members that it’s no big deal and it’s just us lot making a big fuss about nothing. They do have a long track record of denial, of course, because it’s in their interest to pretend that everything’s just fine and no further sanctions or legislation is required.

Rather than focus on one year of data (even though those data showed an increase in recorded incidents, not a decline!), SLE would do well to take note of the long-term data trends, all recently published by RSPB Scotland (see here):

A total of 779 birds of prey were confirmed to have been illegally killed during the period 1994-2014, either by poisoning, shooting or trapping. The known victims included 104 red kites, 37 golden eagles, 30 hen harriers, 16 goshawks, 10 white-tailed eagles and 458 buzzards.

In addition to these confirmed victims, a further 171 incidents were documented where poisoned baits and/or non-birds of prey victims were found, including 14 pet cats and 14 pet dogs, and then a further 134 incidents where no victim had been found but clear attempts to target raptors had been uncovered (e.g. illegally-set traps).

Drilling down in to the detail, there’s a useful analysis of land-use type of confirmed poisoning incidents between 2005-2014 (219 incidents). A shocking (or not) 81% of confirmed poisoning incidents during this nine-year period were on land used for game-shooting: 57% on grouse moors and 24% on land managed for lowland pheasant shoots. This tells us a great deal about who is responsible for the vast majority of illegal raptor poisoning. Despite their continued denials and protestations, and their increasingly-desperate attempts to minimise the scale of these crimes (“it’s just a few rogues”, “it’s just a small minority”, “this issue is dying away”), this graphic exposes the criminality at the heart of the game-shooting industry:

RSPB persecution review 1994 2014 land use

And of course, there has also been a recent scientific paper documenting the long-term decline of peregrines on grouse moors in NE Scotland (here), reflecting a problem that is widespread across the Scottish & English uplands (here) and another scientific paper documenting the catastrophic decline of hen harriers on grouse moors in NE Scotland (see here).

A big fuss about nothing, eh? Let’s see if Roseanna Cunningham shares their view. It’s so obvious that with this level of denial, calling for the game shooting industry to self-regulate is utterly futile. If change is going to happen, it will have to be forced upon them.

Petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting can be signed HERE

24
May
16

A bit of light relief

Hitler's grouse moorThanks to the blog reader who sent this.

Click on this link:

http://captiongenerator.com/91045/Hitlers-Grouse-Moor

And here’s the petition to which Mr Hitler is referring; please sign HERE

 

23
May
16

Red kite shot & critically injured next to grouse moor in North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire Police are appealing for information after the discovery of yet another illegally shot red kite that was found at the weekend.

Press release as follows:

Police are urging members of the public to support them in the fight against red kite persecution, after another bird was found shot last weekend.

On the morning of Sunday 22 May, a walker on Hall Lane, Blubberhouses, found an injured red kite, in distress and unable to fly. They contacted a wildlife charity, and the bird was taken to a specialist avian vet in Harrogate.

RK_Blubberhouses

Examination revealed the bird had been shot and had a shattered wing. Sadly, its injury was so severe, it had to be euthanised. The shooting may have taken place a few days before the bird was found.

In the last two months, five red kites in North Yorkshire have been shot or died in circumstances that suggest poisoning, as well as three further afield in the region.

Of those eight red kites, five have been shot. One, found near Malton, was rehabilitated and released back to the wild, but the other four were so badly injured they had to be euthanised by a vet. The three suspected poisoned birds are being examined by the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme.

PC Gareth Jones, Wildlife Crime Co-ordinator at North Yorkshire Police, said: “Red kites were persecuted into virtual extinction in the UK, but in recent years they have been re-introduced through breeding programmes at a number of locations nationally. In Yorkshire, they have spread from their release site at Harewood House, and are now breeding over a large area. Red kites are scavengers, and normally eat carrion, their favourite food being rats and rabbits.

“Red kites are magnificent birds than can be regularly seen soaring over our area, bringing pleasure to many people. They are a Schedule 1 bird and as such are afforded special protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. I am personally saddened by the scale of persecution of these birds – it has to stop, and I would ask for anyone who can help this investigation to get in touch.”

Anyone with information that could assist the investigation is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 2 and ask for PC Gareth Jones, or email gareth.jones1237@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk. You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

END

Well done North Yorks Police for getting this information out so quickly – kite found on Sunday, press release out the following day, including a photograph, and with additional context about other recent red kite deaths to put this crime in to perspective. That’s excellent work.

The injured kite was found at the edge of Nidderdale AONB, just to the east of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This is driven grouse-shooting country – check out the tell-tale rectangular strips of burnt heather on the map – and it’s also a well-known black spot for the illegal poisoning of red kites. Oh, and satellite-tagged hen harriers also ‘mysteriously’ disappear here.

Over 38,000 people have now signed the petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting. Please add your name HERE

Blubberhouses map - Copy




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