Archive for the 'Persecution Incidents in England' Category


Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority reacts to public concern on illegal raptor killing

Last year the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority opened a consultation to find out what issues the general public would like to see addressed by the Park’s latest five-year management plan (2018-2023).

The results were clear – visitors and residents of the National Park raised serious concerns about illegal raptor persecution and land management, with a particular focus on grouse moor management (see here).

When these findings were published in September 2017, we blogged about whether the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority would be up for the challenge of taking a lead role in tackling raptor persecution within the Park. It seemed unlikely, given the scale of illegal raptor killing and the many years of in-action by the Park Authority.

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

But it seems like public opinion has finally forced change and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has recently been taking steps to highlight illegal raptor persecution and is getting involved with various initiatives to apply pressure on the raptor killers.

In February the Park Authority was closely involved with Operation Owl, a multi-agency initiative led by North Yorkshire Police designed to target those who continue to persecute birds of prey in the region.

And last week the Park Authority published an ‘evidence report’ detailing the illegal persecution of birds of prey in the Yorkshire Dales National Park over the last ten years. This report, which is very well written and referenced, is a significant move. There’s no attempt to deny or hide or obfuscate the facts, as we’ve seen so often before. It is a clear description of what’s been happening in this National Park and places grouse moor management at the centre of it all. It’s well worth a read:


The publication of the report was accompanied by a press release (take note, Peak District National Park Authority!). The press release also provided details of a wildlife crime seminar organised by the Park Authority in February, where Park staff and police officers received expert training from RSPB investigators on how to identify raptor persecution crimes. The staff will now be passing on that knowledge to Dales Volunteers. That’s excellent, pro-active work by the Park Authority.

Photo: Howard Jones (RSPB) providing training to police officers and Yorkshire Dales National Park staff (photo by YDNPA)

David Butterworth, CEO of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, has also been busy writing. In February he wrote an article for the Yorkshire Post on illegal raptor persecution and it was reproduced on the Park’s website here.

He hasn’t minced his words and deserves much credit for speaking out. However, his last paragraph is less impressive:

I believe that the Moorland Association, which represents some of the estates, is making genuine attempts to tackle bird of prey persecution. The Park Authority wants to see grouse shooting remain and thrive. It is part of the cultural heritage of the Dales and a part of the local economy. But the Association must know that change cannot come quickly enough.  We want birds of prey back in this iconic National Park“.

If he’s banking on actions by the Moorland Association to help bring an end to raptor persecution in the Park he’ll have a very long wait. Others have been down this road, many times over, and have recently called out this organisation for what we consider to be continued disruptive behaviour in tackling these crimes (e.g. see here and here).

Meanwhile, legal proceedings against a gamekeeper accused of the alleged shooting of two short-eared owls on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park continues in court this week. More to follow soon.


Satellite-tagged hen harrier Marc disappears on grouse moor at Wemmergill

And so it continues.

Joint press release today from RSPB and Durham Police:


Durham Constabulary and the RSPB are appealing for information following the disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier near Middleton-in-Teesdale.

The harrier, named Marc, was one of a nest of two chicks tagged as part of the EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE+ project in July last year from a nest in the Scottish Borders.

Photo of Hen harrier Marc (right) photographed at the nest last summer with his brother Manu, who also disappeared on a grouse moor in the North Pennines. Photo by Tim Jones.

Marc’s tag had been transmitting regularly, showing no signs of any problems, until it suddenly stopped on the afternoon of 5 February. Data from Marc’s tag indicated he had been in the same area of upland farmland since late November before moving 10km north west on 27 January to an area of driven grouse moor, from here he posted several positions on the 5 February until 2.04pm, after which the tag inexplicably failed to send any further data.

Hen harriers are one of the UK’s rarest raptors with only three successful nests recorded in England in 2017. There have been a number of other hen harriers that have gone missing in similar circumstances both in England and Scotland since the tagging project began in 2015. This includes Marc’s brother, a bird called Manu who was tagged in the same nest but went missing in October 2017 with his last known location being close to a grouse moor in Northumberland.

Mark Thomas, RSPB Principal Specialist, said: “Hen harriers are facing an uncertain future: these spectacular birds should be flourishing in our uplands but studies show that we are down to just a handful of pairs in England with illegal persecution identified as a prime factor. So it’s depressing when yet another hen harrier goes off the radar like this, especially when the supporting tag data is so precise.”

A spokesperson for Durham Constabulary said: “We are very concerned at the disappearance of one of these iconic birds of prey. Hen harriers are fully protected by law and raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority. We urge you to come forward if you have any information about the disappearance of this bird.”

If you have any information relating to this incident (ref 163 2022018), call Durham Constabulary on 101 or the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101. All calls are anonymous.


The RSPB has also published a blog about Marc’s suspicious disappearance here

The RSPB has published a map showing the last known location of Marc’s tag:

A quick look on Google Earth shows this area is managed for driven grouse shooting:

We’ve done a bit of research and it looks like this area is part of the Wemmergill Estate, a well-known driven grouse shooting location in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is also part of a Special Protection Area (SPA) designated specifically for hen harriers. There should be at least 11 breeding pairs of hen harriers in this SPA – there are none.

The estate boundary (in red) on our map suggests the estate is divided in to two separate areas, but this could just be a function of the system used to assess rural payments received by the estate, which is the source of the estate boundary we have used above.

This map below, from the North Pennines AONB, suggests Wemmergill is not split in to two separate areas:

This is not the first time that the police have investigated a suspected raptor persecution incident in this location. In 2015, two dead short-eared owls were found shoved inside a pothole – both had been shot (see here).

So, it looks like DEFRA’s outrageous Hen Harrier Action Plan is continuing to fail. Launched in January 2016 and designed to supposedly protect hen harriers from criminal persecution, here we have yet another satellite-tagged hen harrier that has vanished without trace in an area managed for driven grouse shooting.

As Dr Hugh Webster commented recently, “They can hide the bodies. They can hide the tags. But they can’t hide the pattern“.

If you’re sick to the back teeth of hen harrier persecution and you have no faith in DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Action Plan, there’s no better time than now to support this legal challenge to the brood meddling part of that Plan – please support the crowdfunder here.

Here’s DEFRA Wildife Minister Dr Therese Coffey visiting Wemmergill Estate last August with her friends from the Moorland Association, the grouse moor owners’ lobby group.

Captions, anyone?


Buzzard found shot dead in Suffolk

From East Anglian Daily Times (26 Feb 2018)


Police are investigating the shooting of at least one Common buzzard – a legally protected bird of prey – that was found dead in a Suffolk wood.

Two buzzard corpses were reported to Suffolk Constabulary’s wildlife crime team in an incident described by naturalists as “appalling and abhorrent.” The bodies were found in woodland known as Little Carr, “on the edge of a shooting estate” on the banks of the River Dove, near Hoxne, the team’s Sgt Brian Calver said yesterday.

The discovery was reported by “a person with shooting rights”, but when a police officer visited the site only one corpse could be found. It was believed that the birds died in January, he said.

At first it was thought the bird that was found may have died as a result of poisoning but analysis of X-rays has proven that the bird was shot. We are in the process of looking into this and we will be as absolutely thorough in our investigations, as we are with all wildlife crime – and we will be trying to secure a prosecution,” said Sgt Calver.

He urged members of the public who discovered any bird of prey corpse in the countryside to report their find and its exact location to police. Any corpse should not be handled, because of the risk of poison being involved, but photographic evidence would be helpful, he added.

[Buzzard photo by RPUK]

Gi Grieco, chairman of the 400-strong Suffolk Ornithologists’ Group, said the latest persecution case was “appalling and abhorrent.”

The illegal persecution of birds of prey on the grouse moors of upland Britain is a well-documented, ongoing and major conservation issue but cases such as this latest one in Suffolk – which is certainly not the first of its kind – shows that this illegal activity is also a problem in lowland Britain,” said Mr Grieco.

This is a disgraceful incident and we hope that the police investigation results in a prosecution that ends with the appropriate penalty imposed on the perpetrator.”

The site of the incident is in Waveney Bird Club’s catchment area and club founder Steve Piotrowski, the author of The Birds of Suffolk, said: “This is yet another upsetting case of raptor persecution. It’s a shame that countryside thugs are tarnishing the name of the shooting estates that do stick to the law and do some good things for conservation.

The criminals think they can get away with it. The police do seem to struggle with prosecutions and they need all the help a vigilant public can give them.

Common buzzards were rare in Suffolk up to the 1980s because of heavy persecution that took place previously but now they are recovering, hopefully, to the level they should be at. For them to still be persecuted is not just upsetting, it’s illegal.”

Lewis Thornley,the British Association for Shooting and Conservation’s director for central England, said: “While it’s important to remember that an investigation is ongoing, BASC utterly condemns crimes against protected raptors and would urge anyone with information to assist the police.

Anyone shooting a protected species damages shooting’s reputation and puts at risk the freedoms currently enjoyed by those who shoot legally and sustainably. Such actions have no place among the law-abiding shooting community.”

Anyone with information relating to the buzzard deaths is asked to contact Suffolk police on 101 and ask for Pc Lee Andrews-Pearce, quoting the crime reference 37/8990/18



Sparrowhawk shot dead nr Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Press release from North Yorkshire Police:


Police are appealing for information after a sparrowhawk was found shot near Knaresborough.

The dead female sparrowhawk was found by a member of the public north of the village of Nidd, between Knaresborough and Ripley, with a fresh, bloodied injury, on Sunday 25 February.

The results from a subsequent x-ray showed that the bird had a smashed and broken wing. The x-ray also revealed a piece of shot lodged in the bird’s body. A police investigation is now underway.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds. Nevertheless birds of prey (raptors) are still shot, poisoned and trapped, and North Yorkshire has more confirmed incidents of raptor persecution than any other county in England. As part of a bid to tackle this, in February North Yorkshire Police teamed up with the RSPB, RSPCA, and North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks to launch ‘Operation Owl’. The joint initiative saw staff distribute flyers and posters to local businesses and talk to members of the public about raptor crime, to raise awareness of the issue.

Sergeant Kevin Kelly, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said: “Our wonderful countryside is host to many specially-protected birds of prey. It is absolutely unacceptable that people think they can ignore the law and subject these birds to poisonings, shootings, nest destruction and the illegal use of spring traps without consequence. We will be doing everything in our power to catch these offenders, supported by our colleagues in the RSPB and the volunteers in the national parks.”

Guy Shorrock, RSPB Senior Investigations Officer, added: “Two years ago a red kite was found shot in this same area, so there is clearly a problem here. We believe there will be someone out there who has information about what is going on in this area. We urge you to come forward and call us, in complete confidence, on our Raptor Crime Hotline.”

Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to call North Yorkshire Police on 101, choose option 1 and be ready to quote reference 12180034821.

Alternatively email If you wish to remain anonymous, call the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline for free on 0300 999 0101.


An impressively detailed and quick press release & clear evidence of genuine partnership working. Great stuff from North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce.


Barn owl with horrific injuries found in North Yorkshire

A barn owl with horrific injuries has been found near Marishes in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire.

According to expert raptor rehabilitator Jean Thorpe, the barn owl was found close to death. It had suffered two broken legs and its injuries were consistent with having been caught in a spring trap. Jean believes the owl had been released from the trap and then left to die a lingering death, unable to hunt with badly infected wounds.

The owl was taken to Jean’s wildlife centre but died shortly after arrival.

This area is a notorious raptor persecution blackspot. Spring traps are only legal if they are set within either a natural or artifical tunnel to prevent non-target species getting caught in the trap’s jaws.

Anybody with any information about this horrific case please contact Wildlife Police Officer Jez Walmsley at Malton Police Station (Tel: 101).

Photos by Jean Thorpe. Map by RPUK.


Marsh harrier nest attacked on Yorkshire grouse moor: an update

In August 2017 we blogged about how a marsh harrier nest on Denton Moor in Nidderdale, Yorkshire had been repeatedly attacked by armed men dressed as gamekeepers (see here).

The adult harriers had been shot at and the eggs had been removed from the nest during a series of visits in May 2017, all caught on camera by the RSPB.

North Yorkshire Police launched an investigation, including a public appeal for information, and the RSPB released its video footage in the hope that somebody might be able to identify any of the armed men.

Unsurprisingly, there was a deafening silence from the leading representatives of the grouse-shooting industry (Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, Countryside Alliance, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust), which can’t have helped the efforts being made by the police.

As is so often the case we didn’t hear any more about this investigation and we assumed that in the absence of any witnesses or new evidence, and the wall of silence from the shooting industry, the case had been quietly parked along with all the others that never make it to court. However, it seems we’d underestimated North Yorkshire Police’s new Rural Taskforce.

Earlier this week, the RSPB Investigations Team provided an update on this criminal investigation and it’s quite clear that North Yorkshire Police has deployed a certain level of creative determination in its efforts to bring these criminals to justice.

According to the RSPB blog, North Yorkshire Police had tried to use forensic voice analysis to compare the voices caught on the camera footage with the voices of several suspects who had been brought in for interview. Unfortunately, the sound captured on the video footage was of insufficient quality to allow a comparison. That’s a shame, but full marks to the police for trying.

Think how much easier it would be, not to mention the savings to the public purse, if those within the grouse shooting industry stepped forward to help the police identify these criminal gunmen dressed as gamekeepers on this Yorkshire grouse moor.


Last chance saloon for Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative

Following last week’s news that the RSPB has terminated its involvement with the failed Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative (here), one of the local raptor study groups has now issued a statement on where it stands.

The Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group, which has played a central role in raptor monitoring and providing breeding data for the Initiative, has decided to give the Initiative one last chance to succeed, despite strong reservations about the intent of the local grouse shooting industry, particularly the gamekeepers and the Moorland Association.

The full statement can be read on the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group’s website, here.

The Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative is in the last chance saloon. We learned last week that the Peak District National Park Authority will be “looking for an increase in birds in the breeding season before committing to working with the other organisations in the Initiative beyond 2018” (see here).

All eyes on the Dark Peak this spring.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 3,804,342 hits


Our recent blog visitors