Archive for the '2019 persecution incidents' Category


Buzzard shot dead in North Yorkshire

Appeal for information from North Yorkshire Police (11 October 2019):


North Yorkshire Police is appealing for information after a dead buzzard was found by a member of the public at 11.45am on 3 October on a footpath close to Hagg lane near Sherburn in Elmet.

The bird was recovered and taken to a local vets to be x-rayed which revealed it contained what appeared to be eight pieces of shot.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “This is sadly yet another example of the unacceptable bird of prey persecution which blights our region. Killing wild birds is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and we are committed to putting a stop to this deplorable crime.”

North Yorkshire Police have carried out extensive enquiries in the local area. Officers are appealing for anyone with any information, or who may have witnessed anything taking place in relation to this bird to call 101 quoting ref: 12190183166




North Yorkshire Police appeal for info after Marsh Harrier found shot nr Scarborough

North Yorkshire Police have issued the following appeal for information:

Police appeal after an injured marsh harrier was found near Scarborough

8 October 2019

Police are appealing for information after an injured marsh harrier was found near Scarborough.

The bird was found at 4pm on Sunday 18 August 2019 by a member of the public in a stubble field close to the village of Hutton Buscel near Scarborough.

It was taken to local wildlife rehabilitator Jean Thorpe for care, and was subsequently taken to a veterinary practice for examination. The marsh harrier was found to have a broken left wing with a shotgun pellet lodged next to the fracture, which shows the bird had been subjected to persecution.

[Photo from Lower Derwent Valley National Nature Reserve, where it was subsequently released after being helped by Jean Thorpe and veterinary specialists at Battle Flatts Veterinary Clinic]

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “Sadly, North Yorkshire is the UK’s worst hotspot for confirmed cases of bird of prey persecution. This magnificent bird has been very fortunate to survive, largely thanks to the dedication and care given by Jean Thorpe, but is yet another example of a wildlife crime having taken place against our birds of prey.”

North Yorkshire Police have carried out extensive enquiries in the Hutton Buscel area. Officers are appealing for anyone with any information, or who may have witnessed anything taking place in relation to this bird, to contact PC Mark Atkinson at Malton Police Station by dialling 101, quoting reference number 12190155625.


We believe this Marsh harrier is the one we blogged about on 18 September 2019 (here), having been found injured on a game-shooting estate near Scarborough in August, rescued, rehabbed and then released.

It’s not the first time a Marsh harrier has been found targeted on a game-shooting estate in Yorkshire. This one was found with shotgun injuries next to a partridge release pen on an East Yorkshire sporting estate in 2016 and this breeding pair was shot at and had their eggs removed by men dressed as gamekeepers on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire in 2017.

In 2017/2018 Amanda Anderson (Moorland Association) denied that her members were interested in obtaining licences permitting them to kill Marsh harriers but several witnesses said otherwise.


Legal challenge against hen harrier brood meddling goes back to court

Fantastic news!

Mark Avery is going back to the Royal Courts of Justice in London after being given permission by the Appeal Court to challenge an earlier court decision that hen harrier brood meddling is legal.

[Back to the High Court for Mark and his brilliant legal team. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

The RSPB has also been given permission to appeal.

As Mark explains on his blog today (here), details of the exact grounds for an appeal have not yet been given, nor has a court date, although according to this public notice record it should be before 6th July 2020!

I wonder how many more brood meddled hen harrier chicks will have vanished in suspicious circumstances by then? Two of them disappeared within weeks of being released from captivity back in to the uplands this year: one on a grouse moor in County Durham on 9th Sept (here) and one ten days later on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park on 19 Sept (here).

We don’t know what’s happened to either of them, although an informed and educated guess would suggest they’ve both been illegally killed, exposing the sheer stupidity and futility of the brood meddling scheme.

Well done Mark and the RSPB for continuing the fight.


2nd brood meddled hen harrier chick vanished from grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park

Following earlier blogs about the two ‘missing’ brood meddled hen harriers (here), one of which vanished on a grouse moor in County Durham on 9th September 2019 (here), further detail has now emerged about the loss of the second harrier.

Here’s a press statement published this afternoon by North Yorkshire Police:

Appeal for information about a missing satellite-tagged hen harrier

Police are appealing for information about a missing satellite-tagged hen harrier.

The young male bird was tagged at its release site in the Yorkshire Dales on 30 July 2019, as part of the hen harrier brood management scheme. The bird had not been named, but is known to the Natural England monitoring team as 183704.

It is known from satellite tag data that the bird had recently spent a few days in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire. On the morning of 19 September it had spent time near Thirlmere in the Lake District, before passing through the Mallerstang Common area in the afternoon. At 6.03pm that same evening the last transmission from the tag was received in the Seavy Gutter area of Askrigg Common, but the bird could have flown on for some distance since the last transmission.

Since then no further transmissions have been received from the tag. Natural England field staff have carried out checks with a hand-held scanner and monitored known roost sites, but the bird has not been found.

North Yorkshire Police have carried out two searches, the first being an initial search in the area of the last known transmission, and the second being a more extensive search covering several square kilometres, along with local enquiries. There have been no further sightings of the harrier or transmissions from the tag. Farmers, land owners and gamekeepers in the area have given both Natural England and North Yorkshire Police full cooperation with the search.

The bird is a juvenile male and will still be brown in colour. The bird was ringed and will bear the BTO ring number EA54306.

At this time North Yorkshire Police are keen to locate the bird safe and well, but if found deceased the bird can be subject to post mortem to establish if the cause of death was from natural causes or predation, or if criminal activity was involved.

If you find the bird or have any information please contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 and quote reference number 12190177425.


At least this police press release doesn’t include a ridiculously glowing estate testimonial (unlike this one) but what’s all this about ‘Farmers, land owners and gamekeepers in the area have given both Natural England and North Yorkshire Police full cooperation with the search‘? So what? Why is that information included? When do you ever see this type of information in any other police appeal for information?

‘Police are investigating a burglary at 123 Letsbe Avenue and the homeowner has given full cooperation with the investigation’.

‘Police are investigating an assault on a dog walker in Dodge Country Park and the park rangers have given full cooperation with the investigation’.

The police (and Natural England and DEFRA for that matter) need to stop pandering to the game shooting industry, which is well known to harbour a criminal element, and just report on the facts of the case.

That gripe aside, this is a decent press statement from North Yorkshire Police and provides useful detail about the date of the tag’s last known transmission and the location. That another satellite-tagged hen harrier has vanished in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park will come as no surprise to anybody. This National Park is a dark pit of persecution for most birds of prey that dare to fly there.

Askrigg Common is marked with a red star on this map:

The Seavy Gutter area of Askrigg Common is circled:

At least part of Askrigg Common is used for driven grouse shooting and the shooting rights appear to be owned by the neighbouring Gunnerside Estate, who in 2015 applied for planning permission for a beaters lunch hut, claiming amongst other things that this building would be in the ‘public interest through the economic and social benefits associated with the shooting activities run by the Estate‘! See: Planning consent Gunnerside lunch hut 2016

As ever, with no hen harrier corpse and no tag, it is impossible for this bird’s disappearance to even be recorded formally as a crime, even though the Government’s very own commissioned research has shown that the 72% of young satellite tagged hen harriers that have vanished in suspicious circumstances are most likely to have been illegally killed on grouse moors.

This is the pitiful state of hen harrier conservation in the UK in 2019.


Another police training event for tackling illegal raptor persecution

This seems timely given the news that one of the brood meddled hen harriers vanished in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in County Durham earlier in September.

From the Teesdale Mercury, 7 Oct 2019:

Fighting raptor crime soars to new heights

A CONSERVATION organisation and the police have joined forces to protect birds of prey.

The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership worked with Durham Constabulary to co-host a training event aimed at raising awareness of crimes against the birds.

More than 20 officers from Durham, Northumbria, Cumbria and North Yorkshire forces attended the event.

They heard presentations from the AONB Partnership, the Northern England Raptor Forum, the RSPB investigations team and North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Task Force.

Officers learned how to recognise raptor crime, including illegal trapping, nest disturbance, poisoning or shooting wild birds.

Chris Woodley-Stewart, director of the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: “It is important to give police officers the knowledge and confidence to deal with raptor crimes.

Some parts of the North Pennines AONB have become something of a hotspot for this type of crime in the last ten years.

Raising awareness among police officers and the public is an important step in stamping this out.”

Insp Ed Turner, from Teesdale Police, said: “This was a great opportunity to share experiences and knowledge across the policing teams and partners that cover the northern Pennines.”

The event was supported by staff from Raby Estate who led a field visit to train officers on recognising illegal and legal traps.

John Wallis, Durham estates manager for Raby Estates, said: “We were only too pleased to support this initiative. Partnership working and closer collaboration will be vital if we are to overcome wildlife crime and other challenges in the northern uplands.

This training was part of Operation Owl, the national police operation against raptor crime.

Supt Nick Lyall, the chairwoman [?!] of the England and Wales Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, a body set up by Defra to tackle the illegal persecution of birds of prey, said: “The ongoing persecution of our birds of prey is an issue that I am delighted partners are supporting me to address it.”



OneKind launches new petition: End the killing of wildlife on grouse moors & elsewhere in Scotland

A new petition has been lodged at the Scottish Parliament calling for ‘an end to the killing of wildlife on grouse moors and elsewhere in Scotland’.

Petition # PE01762 is the work of animal welfare charity OneKind and runs from now until 13 November 2019. Petitions to the Scottish Parliament are different to those lodged at Westminster because (a) there is no requirement to reach a signature threshold (e.g. 10,000 or 100,000) before the Petitions Committee will consider the petition, and (b) anybody anywhere in the world can sign this petition.

Here is some background information from OneKind on why they’re calling for the Scottish Parliament to conduct a full review of the animal welfare impacts of the use of traps and snares on grouse moors and elsewhere in Scotland:

The focus of the review called for in this petition should be:

• The ethics and sustainability of the routine and repeated killing of the same species in the same location;
• The case for banning snares, Larsen traps and certain other types of live traps outright, on animal welfare grounds;
• The animal welfare issues surrounding lethal traps such as spring traps, both approved and non-approved categories;
• Mechanisms to ensure proper scrutiny of all practices undertaken by hunters, shooters and trappers and only to permit the use of traps under exceptional circumstances; and
• Whether activities closely associated with causing unnecessary suffering by means of trapping and snaring, such as driven grouse shooting, should be banned.

OneKind has created this public petition to the Scottish Parliament following the publication on 13 August 2019 of a photograph of a golden eagle – Scotland’s national bird – flying near Crathie in the Cairngorms National Park, with its leg apparently caught in a spring trap.  At the time of writing the fate of the eagle is unknown, but it is thought likely to have suffered considerably and probably to have died.

OneKind is a member of the Revive coalition, along with Common Weal, Friends of the Earth Scotland, the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland and Raptor Persecution UK.  Revive campaigns for significant reform of Scotland’s grouse moors and is working to propose an alternative vision for the estimated 12 – 18% of Scotland’s land currently used for grouse shooting. Such reform will not be achieved overnight and in view of the widespread public outrage provoked by this incident the petitioners see it as urgent to institute a Scottish Parliament review of wildlife persecution with the aim of eradicating inhumane practices associated with driven grouse shooting as soon as possible.

The petitioners are aware that the Grouse Moor Management Group (the Werritty Review), is likely to report shortly.  The terms of reference for the Werritty review group are to: “look at the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices such as muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls and advise on the option of licensing grouse shooting businesses.”  These do not allow for full consideration of the severe animal welfare consequences of continued trapping and snaring practices on grouse moors.

The Crathie incident has caused a public outcry and a petition by Wild Justice to the UK Parliament calling for an outright ban on driven grouse shooting attracted tens of thousands of signatures within a few days of its launch.  OneKind supports that petition, as driven grouse shooting is intimately connected both with so many wildlife offences across the UK, as well as the legal infliction of suffering on animals, including by trapping and snaring.

Given that animal welfare and wildlife protection are devolved issues, the scale of wildlife killing in Scotland and the suffering caused, we believe that action is urgently required in the Scottish Parliament.



This pine marten (a so-called protected species) was caught in a spring trap on a Highland shooting estate in 2017. It didn’t survive these injuries.


Brood meddled hen harrier chick vanished from grouse moor on Bowes Estate, County Durham

Durham Constabulary has issued a press statement about one of the two brood meddled hen harrier chicks that vanished off the face of the earth in September, which the Moorland Association was so keen to play down.

From it we learn that this young male hen harrier ‘disappeared’ on 9th September 2019 (what’s that, just over a month from being released from captivity?) and its last satellite tag signal came from a grouse moor on the Bowes Estate in County Durham.

[Bowes Moor, photo from Natural England]

It’s good that the police have managed to put together a press release about this missing hen harrier but the content is quite extraordinary. As you’d expect it includes statements from ‘partner’ organisations such as Natural England and the North Pennines AONB Partnership, but it also includes what almost amounts to a testimonial from the Bowes Estate, including the line:

The police have stressed that there is no suspicion of any wrongdoing by Bowes Estate or its staff…...”

Really? That would be an astonishing statement from the police. A police spokesman said that the possibility of a crime being committed had not been ruled out, so presumably everybody is still under suspicion, whether connected to the estate or not? And no, that doesn’t mean we’re accusing the estate staff of anything.

Here’s the press release in full:

Concerns over welfare of missing hen harrier

4 October 2019

Concerns have been raised about the welfare of a satellite tagged hen harrier which has dropped off the radar in County Durham.
The signal from a young male hen harrier was lost while it was flying over the Bowes area on September 9. It is one of two which have gone missing recently in northern England.
Hen harriers are one of the UK’s rarest birds of prey. Like all wild birds, they are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Inspector Ed Turner, from Durham Constabulary, said: “The fate of these birds is not yet clear. Until we can rule out the possibility that a crime has been committed, we will be taking this matter seriously and bringing our increased knowledge and awareness to bear on it wherever possible.
Natural England Director, Rob Cooke, said: “We are extremely concerned by the unexplained disappearance of this young hen harrier.
Restoring the hen harrier population to favourable conservation status across their entire range is one of Natural England’s key objectives, so any loss from such a small population is significant.”
A spokesman for Bowes Estate said: “We have been informed by Natural England that a satellite tagged hen harrier ceased transmitting on Monday, September 9 and the last known signal came from our moorland.
Staff have been collaborating with Natural England on the ground to ensure the increase in hen harrier population as part of the Defra Hen Harrier Action Plan.
We have a good relationship with Natural England fieldworkers and harriers, along with other birds of prey, are regular visitors hunting over the moor and frequently use roost sites on the estate.
We have been proactively scouring the large area on our land looking for any sign of the bird but have so far had no luck.
Satellite tags are not infallible and we very much hope that the harrier will start re-transmitting soon meaning the bird is safe and well.
We want to stress that the estate and its management oppose all forms of wildlife crimes and are fully supportive of all efforts to restore the UK’s hen harrier population.
The police have stressed that there is no suspicion of any wrongdoing by Bowes Estate or its staff and the estate is fully cooperating with the police. We join the police in appealing for information.”
The North Pennines AONB Partnership said it would be supporting the police in the search for evidence and would encourage the public to share information or any sightings.
Director Chris Woodley-Stewart said: “Juvenile mortality in raptors is common, but the trackers on birds that have been killed by predators or died from other natural causes/accidents usually continue to give out a signal, facilitating their recovery.
Though rushing to judgement isn’t wise, and for now we still hope they turn up safe and well, as the police have said, there is also a possibility that crimes have been committed in relation to the missing bird.
In mid-September we hosted a full day raptor crime training session with four police forces, aided by the RSPB, the North East Raptor Forum and a local estate that is also committed to ending raptor persecution.
Should the birds be re-found alive, this would be great news. If they have died a natural or accidental death, this is sad but not uncommon. But if a crime has been committed, police are now better informed than ever and are eager to stamp it out.
We urge people to keep a keen eye out for hen harriers in the North Pennines and report any sightings to the RSPB. If you have evidence of any illegal activity in this matter, we urge you to contact Durham Constabulary.”
Anyone with any information about the hen harrier’s disappearance should contact Durham Constabulary on 101, quoting incident number 87 of September 17.
Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Bowes Moor is managed for grouse shooting and Natural England has a restoration plan in place for the SSSI. It makes for a very interesting read (increased frequency of burning, burning in designated ‘no burn’ areas, active draining, vehicle damage on blanket bog…….):

Bowes Moor SSSI Restoration Plan 2018_2028

A ‘seriously injured’ Marsh harrier was found in the Bowes area in 2011 with gunshot injuries to both wings and a leg (see here) leading to an offer of a reward for information. We’re not aware of any subsequent prosecutions (thanks Guy Shorrock for the info).

We’re still waiting for further details of the second brood meddled hen harrier that vanished. We know it disappeared in September, in North Yorkshire, on a grouse moor, but no further information has been revealed yet.

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