01
Jun
16

Attempted hen harrier persecution on grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park

An unnamed man has received a police caution for setting three illegal pole traps in the middle of a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The three traps were discovered on Friday 6th May 2016 by a member of the public, who also saw a female hen harrier hunting in the vicinity. The RSPB Investigations Team moved swiftly and first made the traps safe and then installed covert cameras that night, to find out who was responsible for the traps. When they retrieved the cameras on Monday 9th May, their video footage revealed an armed man attending the traps and re-setting them (see photo below). North Yorkshire Police responded very quickly and attended the site the following day (Tuesday 10th May) to seize the traps.

Mossdale pole trap May 2016

The full details of these crimes can be read on the RSPB Investigations Team’s excellent blog here and there’s an accompanying video here.

The individual who was filmed setting the traps has received a police caution (which is presumably why he hasn’t been named). Quite why this case didn’t proceed to a prosecution is a matter of deep concern and the RSPB is writing to North Yorkshire Police to establish why the decision was made not to prosecute. We’ll come back to that in a later blog.

The location where these traps were set has been named by the RSPB as Widdale Fell on the Mossdale Estate.

Mossdale (1)

What the RSPB didn’t say was that this grouse-shooting estate is owned by the van Cutsem family. That name might be familiar to some of you. Indeed, if you google ‘van Cutsem hen harrier’ you’ll see a long list of entries relating to the alleged shooting of two hen harriers at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in 2007. William van Cutsem was interviewed, along with his friend Prince Harry, as they were both out shooting on the estate that evening. They both denied all knowledge of the shot harriers and nobody was ever prosecuted (see here).

The van Cutsem family name is well known in grouse-shooting circles and has many royal connections. The late Hugh van Cutsem was a personal friend of Prince Charles and all four sons have featured regularly in the shooting press, mostly being recognised for their shooting prowess. The youngest van Cutsem son, William, is Prince George’s godfather, and Prince William is godfather to Grace, the daughter of the eldest van Cutsem son, Edward.

The van Cutsem’s Mossdale Estate sits within the Yorkshire Dales National Park (YDNP). This region is no stranger to hen harrier persecution. Hen harriers have not bred successfully in the YDNP since 2007. According to 2007-2014 hen harrier satellite data, published by Natural England in 2014, at least nine young sat tagged hen harriers have ‘disappeared’ within the Park boundary:

Female, tagged N England 26/6/07: last known location YDNP 5/10/07. Status: missing.

Female, tagged N England 16/7/09: last known location YDNP 27/9/09. Status: missing.

Male, tagged Bowland 29/6/09: last known location YDNP 17/8/09. Status: missing.

Female, tagged N England 29/6/10: last known location YDNP 25/11/10. Status: missing.

Female (Bowland Betty), tagged Bowland 22/6/11: last known location YDNP 5/7/12. Status: shot dead.

Female (Kristina), tagged N England 25/6/12: last known location YDNP 9/10/12. Status: missing.

Male (Thomas), tagged N England 4/9/12: last known location YDNP 4/9/12. Status: missing.

Male (Sid), tagged Langholm 21/9/14: last known location YDNP 21/9/14. Status: missing.

Female (Imogen), tagged N England 26/6/14: last known location YDNP 1/9/14. Status: missing.

The YDNP, as with other areas where land-use is dominated by driven grouse moors, is a magnet for young hen harriers, but few of them seem to survive. Why is that? What with gas guns, decoy hen harriers and illegal pole traps, all being reported from driven grouse moors in recent weeks, it’s not hard to take an educated guess. It seems there’s an ‘alternative’ Hen Harrier Action Plan at work.

We’ll be coming back to this latest crime in future blogs but for now, you might want to contact David Butterworth, Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, and ask him why illegal pole traps are being set on grouse moors within the National Park, why hen harriers have failed to nest within the National Park since 2007, why so many young satellite-tagged hen harriers seem to ‘disappear’ within the National Park, and what action the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority intends to take? Emails to: david.butterworth@yorkshiredales.org.uk

Petition to ban driven grouse shooting here

MEDIA COVERAGE

RSPB press release here

RSPB investigations blog here

Mark Avery’s blog here and here

ITV news here

The Moorland Association’s response to this news has been to publish a fluffy article entitled ‘Testimony to dedication of moorland men‘. No mention of raptor persecution at all. Looks like Director Amanda Anderson still suffering from wilful blindness.

Unbelievable statement from North Yorkshire Police here

Interview with senior RSPB Investigations team member Guy Shorrock on BBC Radio York (starts at 1:45:20, available for 30 days here)

BBC news here

Independent here

Daily Express here

The News Hub here

UPDATE: https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/north-yorks-police-try-to-justify-police-caution-for-criminal-activity-on-grouse-moor/

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49 Responses to “Attempted hen harrier persecution on grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park”


  1. 1 Simon Tucker
    June 1, 2016 at 11:45 am

    The police are corrupt: you cannot draw any other conclusion. When you look at their inaction over bird of prey persecution; their continued harassment of hunt monitors and saboteurs, whilst ignoring the thuggish behaviour of hunt supporters, the continuing use of terriers and just plain illegal hunting, it is clear that the police are only interested in serving the interests of the landed “gentry” and their political masters.

    • 2 crypticmirror
      June 1, 2016 at 11:51 am

      Truly and utterly corrupt. It was bad enough when they were all in the Masons and used the funny handshake to get each other off on charges and into the right golf clubs and social events, but this takes it to a whole new level.

  2. 3 Nigel Raby
    June 1, 2016 at 11:49 am

    A Police caution! is that it?

  3. 4 crypticmirror
    June 1, 2016 at 11:50 am

    The individual who was filmed setting the traps has received a police caution A caution, that isn’t even a slap on the wrist these days. Might as well have stuffed a fiver in his pocket for inconveniencing him by daring to ask any questions. It is beyond pathetic. This is what it means to be truly and utterly above the law. Direct action is the only way we’re ever going to get rid of these bastards.

    • 5 heclasu
      June 2, 2016 at 1:11 am

      Problem is – this just encourages further offences. They know that they will likely get off with it and, should an offence of this nature ever go to court in the future, any defence lawyer worth his salts will quote this case with much wringing of hands and…….

  4. 6 peter hatton
    June 1, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Perhaps a protest outside royal ascot could gain some media coverage if dare I suggest it in these times some pretty “birds”were involved.There could be falconers who would bring along various raptors and if it raised some support it could have a more positive effect than our comments which to be fair are more or less preaching to the converted

    • 7 crypticmirror
      June 1, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      The protest would have to be more than just a few flyers and placards. It would have to be more sort of Emily Davison level (although, hopefully more survivable) of protest. The sort of protest they cannot resist reporting on because it is so sensationalist and dramatic that even hearing about it via the Murdoch regime’s propaganda rags with all that implies would still sell papers (and thus, even though heavily biased at least inform the public there was still an issue at hand). I’m not saying there needs to be blood spilled…

    • 9 Andrew
      June 1, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      How about a big banner on a vehicle or trailer parked / driven back and forth in front of Yorkshire Police headquarters with advance notification to the press. It needs a better photo of Any man with a gun and Pole traps and details of the police response to the actual incident. Would that get enough press coverage to at least embarrass the dept. involved.

      • 10 crypticmirror
        June 1, 2016 at 2:25 pm

        The press, except for very local ones, would not be interested. Look who owns the press these days. Now driving that trailer over a policeman (please do not ever drive a vehicle towing a trailer over a police officer, example for hyperbole only) that would get press interested. They will only report in order to condemn us right now, but that is okay because while they are busy screaming at what sort of savage disrespectable bastards we are, they are also publicising the issue. I’ve been in protest groups before, and before you can talk respectably about the issue you have to have acted militantly for years in order to break the press blackout and force the issue into the public eye. Protest by all means, but don’t do it in a safe middle class slacktivist way, that won’t do anything right now. Do it with some big stunts, melodrama and militantly. Do it in a way that xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx

        [Ed: Please note, Actively ‘interfering’ with a legitimate pursuit (e.g. grouse shooting) is an offence. As is intentionally encouraging an offence (previously known as ‘incitement’)]

        • 11 crypticmirror
          June 1, 2016 at 3:29 pm

          Of course it is an offence. Things that are not, are things that the state can ignore.

        • 12 Andrew
          June 1, 2016 at 5:48 pm

          I’m not so sure it would be ignored. The police are in the spotlight right now. Hillsborough, Birmingham six today and others. How about a drive around go slow in York publicising this pathetic caution.

    • 13 Bimbling
      June 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm

      A bit of crowdfunding for a banner trailed behind an aircraft worked for ManU supporters. Can it be a problem to fly around about the Ascot area?

  5. 14 crypticmirror
    June 1, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Again, a reminder you can use http://www.writetothem.com to write to your MP and demand to know why such a pathetic not-even-a slap on the wrist was issued in such an open and shut case. Ask them what they are doing to crack down on crime on grouse moors and protect hen harriers and all birds of prey in the UK. Remind them it undermines our authority when talking about wildlife crime across the globe, and especially with Malta, when such brazen unlawful activity is allowed to take place virtually unpunished at home.

  6. 15 Gerard
    June 1, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Dear Sir

    I am deeply concerned that the Yorkshire Dales National Park (YDNP) is complicit in raptor persecution over land that it manages. Why are illegal pole traps being set within the national park, why do so many young satellite tagged hen harriers disappear within the park boundaries and what action does the YDNP Authority intend to take?

    In my opinion the YDNP must act boldly and decisively to send a clear message to those who would illegally persecute our protected birds of prey. The YDNP should actively canvass parliament for the stiffest penalties for those who either participate in or benefit from raptor persecution.

    I would like to relay as someone who regularly walks in this area, my bitter disappointment, felt when clear examples of raptor persecution in this area go unpunished. The absence of key species in the area such as goshawks, peregrine falcons and hen harriers saddens me greatly. These magnificent creatures have clearly been systematically removed by local gamekeepers. If per chance we see an endangered bird nowadays over this region we have learned to “keep our mouths shut” in case the news gets into the wrong hands (ie local gamekeepers). This is a totally unsatisfactory situation.

    I expect you to act now and send a decisive message.

    Yours sincerely

    Gerard

    Dr Gerard Hobley

  7. 16 Gerard
    June 1, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Yorkshire Police, again?

  8. 17 Andrew
    June 1, 2016 at 11:59 am

    One law for the rich ………

    compare to http://www.nwcu.police.uk/news/nwcu-police-press-releases/father-and-daughter-plead-guilty-to-trying-to-sell-wild-peregrines/

    A stupid girl and her father who seemed ignorant of the law and certainly ignorant of the value of a peregrine trying to sell them for £150. Suspended jail sentences and fines.

    or systematic persecution of rare wildlife. – virtually a pat on the bum and “behave yersen and on yer way lad”
    Is he a fit and proper person to hold a firearms or shotgun certificate. Seems he is.

    f**k f**k f**k f**k f**king pathetic.

  9. 18 Gerard
    June 1, 2016 at 11:59 am

    I sent this to YDNP

    I am deeply concerned that the Yorkshire Dales National Park (YDNP) is complicit in raptor persecution over land that it manages. Why are illegal pole traps being set within the national park, why do so many young satellite tagged hen harriers disappear within the park boundaries and what action does the YDNP Authority intend to take?

    In my opinion the YDNP must act boldly and decisively to send a clear message to those who would illegally persecute our protected birds of prey. The YDNP should actively canvass parliament for the stiffest penalties for those who either participate in or benefit from raptor persecution.

    I would like to relay as someone who regularly walks in this area, my bitter disappointment, felt when clear examples of raptor persecution in this area go unpunished. The absence of key species in the area such as goshawks, peregrine falcons and hen harriers saddens me greatly. These magnificent creatures have clearly been systematically removed by local gamekeepers. If per chance we see an endangered bird nowadays over this region we have learned to “keep our mouths shut” in case the news gets into the wrong hands (ie local gamekeepers). This is a totally unsatisfactory situation.

    I expect you to act now and send a decisive message.

  10. 19 NorthernDiver
    June 1, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    For 5 years I was a volunteer warden for YDNP. I quit soon after Heather Hancock became head of YDNP. Her husband (property developer) is a grouse moor owner in upper Wharfedale. Their shoot has been filmed as propaganda for the Moorland Association. She is now head of the Food Standards Agency and will be presumably in charge of amending recommendations on the selling of toxic lead-contaminated game [ if the Lead Ammunition Group report ever gets in the public domain]. The shooting industry has its people in all the positions of influence from the Royal Family downwards.
    Who holds sway over what happens in the YDNP do you think? People concerned with environmental conservation? I don’t think so. My opinion only, of course.

  11. 20 Colin McP
    June 1, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Lets hope that North Yorkshire Police are going to review this guys firearms license; carrying a gun while committing an illegal act should surely raise concerns about his suitability.

  12. 21 SOG
    June 1, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    See comment 8 – did Gerard intend to include his full name?

  13. 23 Andrew
    June 1, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Have a laugh – or weep. Taken from the YNDP website ( http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/ydnpa/our-service-to-you/what-we-aim-to-do )

    “What we aim to do

    The National Park Authority’s aims, as a public body are inextricably linked to our mission and core values.
    Our mission

    The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority exists to secure for the public good the conservation, enhancement, enjoyment and better understanding of the special qualities of the Yorkshire Dales: its landscape, wildlife and cultural heritage.

    We will promote these purposes in a context of a sustainable and dynamic rural economy, paying special attention to the needs of local communities within the National Park.

    We will work with partners and stakeholders to engage a wide audience in support for; and delivery of, National Park objectives.

    Our aim is to be widely recognised as a centre of expertise and excellence in environmental and conservation policy and practice, and in the quality of services we deliver and in the quality of the landscape.”

    and it continues in the same vein.

  14. 24 Phil
    June 1, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Just a caution?! The police are definitely corrupt…

  15. 25 Andrew
    June 1, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    I am at a loss as to why the National parks allow this.

    Can anyone give an indication as to what percentage of grouse moor is controlled by all the national parks?

    They are obviously concious of the income this generates but if they have, say, 50% (or even 30%) they are in a position to dictate what goes on.

    In this case – Lease terminated. And they want to draw up contracts that specify 2 year advance payment so if a contact is terminated in a case like this the lease holder forfeits next year’s rent to allow the park to find another tenant without being compromised by the unlawful activities of the leaseholder or their employees or agents or contractors.

    They should also be giving notice to quit where they feel the management of the moor is not conducive with their “What we aim to do” statement.

    If they control 50% and less grouse are available under different management strategies the market will change to accept lower numbers being shot.

  16. 26 Chris Roberts
    June 1, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    The scum in the photo should be named and shamed, not have his identity protected. The Yorkshire police certainly appear to be corrupt, and the fact that the estate owner has royal connections speaks volumes.

  17. 27 NorthernDiver
    June 1, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    I think in 2007 the head keeper at Mossdale Estate was Nick Parker. He left in 2008 and moved to Holkham, Norfolk and had an interesting career!
    https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/gamekeeper-charged-with-wildlife-crime-firearms-offences-at-holkham-estate-norfolk/
    Wonder who is head gamekeeper at Mossdale now? Were they trained by Nick Parker?

  18. June 1, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    Disgraceful response from the police, ashamed to be a Yorkshireman

  19. June 1, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    I’ve just sent a complaint about this to the newly re-elected Police & Crime Commissioner for the area Julia Mulligan (julia@juliamulligan.org.uk). In her pre-election campaign, she made rural crime a particular issue. I look forward to her reply (if any)

    • June 1, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Well done, John. You might want to take a look at the unbelievable statement just published by North Yorkshire Police re: their decision to caution and not prosecute. We’ll be blogging about this shortly:

      http://www.northyorkshire.police.uk/16817

    • June 2, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Julia Mulligan has now replied as follows:

      “I have forwarded your emails to my case worker who will respond to you. However, you will be aware that I cannot intervene in specific cases and as you are not a constituent, it would probably be impractical for you to attend one of my surgeries.

      However, having said this, I am extremely interested in looking at the issue more widely as North Yorkshire does not have a particularly good reputation in this regard. To this end, we have just set up a new Rural Crime Task Force which includes specialist wildlife officers. I am sure we can bring this to their attention to see if there are any wider lessons to be learnt”.

  20. 33 Stephen MacSweeney
    June 1, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    I always follow up by writing to the contacts you suggest. Could you let me have your current email address if you would like to see copies of replies Thanks

    Sent from Samsung Mobile on O2

    [Ed: Thanks Stephen. Our email address is: raptorpersecutionscotland@hotmail.com ]

  21. 34 steve macsweeney
    June 1, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    It is very simple and utterly clear.Only mandatory custodial sentences for the perpetrators and the vicarious liability will save raptors from extinction on the Yorkshire grouse moors.In the meantime lack of interest or concern shown by the North Yorkshire police must be reported to the PCC

  22. 35 I C T
    June 1, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Incredulous. Blatant corruption by North Yorkshire Police.

  23. 36 Alan William Gregory
    June 1, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    Unbelievable !!! All the evidence and an admission what more do they want, intent was surely enough. They should of revoked his gun licence at least. For as long as these individuals are getting off with wildlife crimes the longer it will go on

    [Ed: One word changed. It hasn’t been confirmed that the criminal involved here is a gamekeeper]

    • 37 heclasu
      June 2, 2016 at 1:27 am

      What is he then? It would appear the police knew where to find him in order to ‘invite’ him to the station. Had it been you – or me – involved you bet we would have been named! I can almost hear the conversation between the police and the estate now – anything to avoid them embarrassment!

  24. 38 billy smithers
    June 1, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    The head keeper at mossdale now is xxxxx xxxxx former milden headkeeper! that says it all but xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

    • 39 heclasu
      June 3, 2016 at 12:52 am

      Surely there can’t be a problem merely naming the present mossdale head keeper? I would like to know who they are!

  25. 40 Dave
    June 2, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Does anyone remember the case of the householder being fined £1500 for drowning a grey squirrel he trapped? Does anyone see any similarities in the case? No, me neither.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/man-fined-for-drowning-squirrel-2030149.html


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