Archive for the '2018 persecution incidents' Category


Gamekeeper cautioned after merlin killed in illegally-set trap on grouse moor

This merlin was found dead in a trap on an un-named driven grouse moor in Northumberland in July this year. A fell runner discovered the bird and reported it to the RSPB.

The RSPB went to the site the next day and realised that this trap had been illegally-set as no attempts had been made to restrict access to the tunnel entrance, meaning non-target species (such as this merlin) could easily access the tunnel, with the inevitable result.

The incident was reported to Northumbria Police and a wildlife crime officer visited the site with an RSPB investigator.

An ‘experienced’ gamekeeper was formally interviewed and admitted setting the trap. Unbelievably, the police decided to issue him with a police caution instead of seeking a prosecution via the Crown Prosecution Service.

Haven’t we been here before? Ah yes, here and here.

Once again, another gamekeeper gets let off for committing a wildlife crime on a driven grouse moor. And before anyone says, ‘A caution isn’t a let off’, it absolutely is if this gamekeeper is permitted to keep his firearms and shotgun certificates, and his job, despite now having a criminal record.

Sure, he probably didn’t intend to trap and kill this merlin but that’s not the point. If he’s employed as a professional gamekeeper he has a responsibility to operate his traps within the terms of the law. With this trap, he chose not to do that, knowing full well that a non-target species could be killed, which it was. That’s an offence and he should have been charged and prosecuted.

Further details about this merlin case can be read on the RSPB Investigations Team blog here


Police investigate suspicious death of breeding peregrine pair

Irish police, in conjunction with the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) are appealing for information following the discovery of two dead adult peregrines found on their nest ledge in Co Louth in the Irish Republic.

Staff from the NPWS recovered the two dead peregrines, along with three eggs, from a remote nest site in the Cooley Mountains.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said the adult falcons were killed while trying to incubate their eggs and that ‘forensic and other evidence was being gathered in the expectation that a successful prosecution will take place’.

In the expectation that a successful prosecution will take place‘? That’s a strange and optimistic claim but perhaps they already know more than they’re letting on – the cause of death, if it’s been established, has not been revealed in any media reports about this case.

Anyone with information can contact gardaí (police) in Dundalk on 042-9388400 or the local conservation ranger on 076-1002637.

The appeal for information appeared in the Irish Times on Wednesday 8 August 2018 (see here)


Red kite shot near Corby, Northants

The following article appeared in the Northamptonshire Telegraph on Tuesday 31 July 2018:


The bird of prey is being seen to by a local vet after being shot and injured yesterday (Monday).

The shooting took place in the area of Deene park and Fineshade.

A neighbourhood alert posted by Northants Police about the incident said: “Please be aware it is an offence to injure or kill these birds.”

Anyone who witnessed the shooting, saw anyone that looked suspicious or saw any suspicious vehicles in the area at the time is asked to call Northamptonshire Police on 101.


We’ve been unable to find any further detail about this case – there’s no official appeal for information on the Northamptonshire Police website.

UPDATE 13.50hrs: We’ve now been informed this kite was handed in to the Forestry Commission office at Fineshade Wood on THURSDAY 19th JULY (not Mon 30th July as previously thought). It was rescued by a member of the public.

Quote from the Raptor Foundation: “I have taken charge of a red kite that has been shot, with three shotgun pellets, in the leg, shoulder and ear. The leg and shoulder pellets are not really an issue governing the birds potential release as they are below joints. The pellet in the ear is lodged in the bony part of the skull and is causing the bird problems with balance. The vet and I both agree the bird could not be released back with the pellet still inside. We have been treating for infection and pain relief and the bird is making steady improvements. It was unable to stand on admission, but is now mobile along the floor to some degree. The vet is looking to operate later this week“.

[Photo of the shot red kite, by Raptor Foundation]


Poisoning suspected after discovery of dead peregrine & tethered pigeon ‘bait’

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is investigating a suspected poisoning incident after raptor workers found the body of a dead young peregrine and the remains of what had probably been a live tethered pigeon close to the peregrine’s nest site. An adult peregrine is reported as ‘missing’ from the site.

The gruesome discovery was made by members of the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group (NIRSG) in the Scraghey area of Castleberg, Co Tyrone, on 10 July 2018. Toxicology results are awaited.

[Photo of the dead young peregrine, by NIRSG]

[Photo of the rock, baler twine & remains of a pigeon leg found at the site, by NIRSG]

Smearing a live pigeon with poison and then tethering it close to a peregrine breeding site to act as a flapping ‘bait’ is a barbaric yet all too common crime. We only blogged about a similar case a few weeks ago (see here).

Jim Wells from the NIRSG said: “The vigilance of several members of the Raptor Study Group and the very quick response by the PSNI have revealed what is likely to be one of the most serious incidents of peregrine persecution in Northern Ireland for several years.

This is nasty, very cruel and callous. We don’t know what the suspected poison is, but if someone had come along and tried to help the pigeon it could have hurt them too.

This has happened on several occasions in areas of Co Tyrone. There are around 15 sites in Tyrone, it’s an important breeding ground. But in some areas there is still a culture of poisoning birds, which is very damaging to the overall population.

All of the peregrine sites in Co Tyrone are monitored on a regular basis every year. This research has revealed that illegal persecution remains a problem in some parts of the county“.

Dr Eimear Rooney of the NIRSG and a representative on the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime NI said there are between 80 and 90 breeding pairs of peregrines across the whole of Northern Ireland, of which around 55 pairs are successful in producing young. She said:

The population of peregrines in Northern Ireland is limited by available nest sites and thus has remained fairly stable for several yearsHowever, illegal killing could result in serious implication for the viability of the species here. Peregrine falcons are primary predators and removal of such predators from our ecosystems can have serious consequences on a wide range of species.

It’s deeply frustrating to think that someone went out of their way to target these birds in such a heinous manner“.

Anyone with information about this suspected crime is encouraged to contact the PSNI (Tel: 101) quoting incident number 1550.10/7/18.


Satellite-tagged hen harrier Lia found dead in suspicious circumstances

The RSPB has reported the suspicious death of yet another satellite-tagged hen harrier.

‘Lia’ was tagged at a nest in north Wales in 2017 and after fledging she spent a bit of time in the Brecon Beacons National Park before a brief sojourn to Somerset, and then had returned to settle in mid-Wales.

[Photo of Lia by Guy Anderson]

In May this year the engineering data from her tag indicated she was dead and the RSPB located her decomposed corpse in a sheep field near the village of Tylwch, south of Llanidloes, an area with an apparent history of illegal raptor persecution.

[Location map from RSPB]:

Lia’s corpse was sent to the Zoological Society of London for a post mortem. Unfortunately a cause of death couldn’t be established but the vets did detect a fractured tail feather.

[Photo of fractured tail feather, via RSPB]:

ZSL’s post mortem report stated that fractures of this type “have previously been found in a hen harrier proven to have been shot with ammunition (Hopkins et al 2015). No other signs of shooting were detected in this bird“.

The Hopkins et al (2015) paper related to a pioneering forensic examination of Bowland Betty (a hen harrier found shot on a Swinton Estate grouse moor in Yorkshire’s Nidderdale AONB in 2012) that detected a tiny fragment of lead which confirmed she had been shot, confounding the protests of the Countryside Alliance.

Although Lia’s cause of death was inconclusive, Dyfed Powys Police have been treating it as suspicious and are investigating.

For further details of Lia’s demise, please read the RSPB’s latest Skydancer blog here


Red kite found shot in Yorkshire Dales National Park

Press release from North Yorkshire Police (23 July 2018):


Police are appealing for information after a red kite was found dead in the Yorkshire Dales.

The bird was found on Thursday 12 July 2018, at Barden, near to the popular area known as the Strid. Enquiries are ongoing to establish the cause of death.

Sergeant Kevin Kelly, wildlife crime lead for North Yorkshire Police, said: “We have commenced an investigation and aim to establish the circumstances leading to the bird’s death.

It is key to examine whether the bird has flown to the location injured and subsequently died or whether it has been shot near to where it was found. A detailed pathology report will assist us in establishing this.

What we know at this time is that a triage x-ray shows a small piece of shot inside the bird. This will be recovered and forensically tested. We will be working with partner agencies and the Bolton Abbey Estate to establish the facts that will assist an effective investigation.

[Photo of the shot red kite via North Yorkshire Police]

Doug Simpson, Yorkshire Red Kite Co-ordinator, said: “This latest incident brings the total confirmed Yorkshire red kite illegal persecution victims up to 42 since releases began in 1999, thirteen of these birds having been shot.

It is sickening that a small minority of people appear intent on breaking the law by targeting these birds, which have become an integral part of our beautiful North Yorkshire countryside.

Benedict Heyes, from the Bolton Abbey Estate, said: “We were disappointed to be notified by a member of the public that they had found a dead red kite on the Bolton Abbey Estate.

Red kites and other birds of prey are often seen at Bolton Abbey and are enjoyed by many visitors to the Estate. The Estate alerted the authorities and would ask that anyone who has any knowledge or information in relation to the death of this bird to contact North Yorkshire Police, so as to assist them in their investigation.”

Sonya Wiggins, who coordinates Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group, said: “We have been made aware of this incident and fully support a police investigation. At Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group we believe in good practice and accountability, we work closely with the local police and other agencies to tackle wildlife crime.

Killing wild birds is unacceptable and we would ask for anyone with any information to contact the police.”

Anyone with any information is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 2 and ask for Sgt Kevin Kelly, or email

Please quote reference number 12180131874 when passing information.



Buzzard shot dead in Dorset

RSPB press release (23 July 2018):


A shot buzzard and dead barn owl spark concerns of a local persecution problem

Dorset Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after a dead buzzard and a dead barn owl were found near Melplash, Dorset in May 2018.

[Photo of the shot buzzard via RSPB]

The buzzard was taken to a nearby vets, where an X-ray revealed the presence of a piece of shot in the bird’s skull, which is believed to be the cause of death. A barn owl was also found dead in suspicious circumstances under its nest box, though the body was too decomposed to determine cause of death. Sadly there are also previous reports of another dead barn owl and a number of dead buzzards in this area, though the bodies were not recovered for testing.

Local enquiries by Dorset Police have not uncovered any leads so far, and they are appealing to the public for information.

Birds of prey and owls are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which makes it an offence to intentionally harm them. Anyone found to have shot or killed these birds faces an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in jail.

Tony Whitehead from RSPB South West Regional Office said: “The deliberate persecution of birds of prey is not only brutal but illegal. Raptors are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem, not to mention a glorious sight to see. We are grateful to the member of the public who took the trouble to report these incidents and we urge anyone with information to come forward.”

The illegal persecution of birds of prey is a widespread and unrelenting problem which continues to affect the conservation status of some raptor species in the UK. As a result, the RSPB has set up a confidential ‘Raptor Crime Hotline’ to give whistleblowers a chance to speak out in confidence and help end this culture of criminality.

Claire Dinsdale of Dorset Police’s Rural Crime Team said: “Raptor persecution is one of the UK Wildlife Crime Priorities which includes poisoning, shooting, trapping, habitat destruction and nest destruction or disturbance. There is a clear responsibility with legitimate firearm users to accurately identify the species before any shot is taken. It is totally unacceptable to act outside the law and shoot these protected birds. I would urge anyone with any information to speak to us or the RSPB in confidence.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, please call Dorset Police online in confidence at and quote reference 55180073229. Or contact the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form here.


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