Archive for the 'Persecution Incidents in England' Category

15
May
17

Suspected peregrine nest robbery: NWCU appeals for info one year on

The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and Cheshire Police are appealing for information about a suspected peregrine nest robbery in May 2016.

The following press release was posted on the NWCU website yesterday:

Peregrine falcons have regularly nested on property owned by Railtrack at Dutton Viaduct in Cheshire.  However, nesting attempts have failed for 9 successive years.  Human interference has been suspected on a number of occasions.

Overnight 1st to the 2nd May 2016 (please note this is 2016) the nest failed.  On this occasion, the images of three men were captured on a trail camera that had been placed on land owned by Railtrack near to the nest.  In the early hours of the morning of 2nd May 2016 the three men were pictured heading up towards the nest site.  A short time later the same men triggered the camera as they headed back down the same route.

There is no public right of access and there seems no legitimate reason why these men should be at the location.

Cheshire Police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit would like to speak to the men shown in the images below in order to ascertain whether they have any information relating to the failure of the nest.

 

Peregrine falcons, their nests and eggs receive the highest level of protection and it is an offence to take, kill or injure the bird, take or possess their eggs or to disturb them whilst they are in or near a nest containing eggs or dependent young.

Anybody with any information should contact the Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

ENDS

It’s not clear why there has been an interval of one year before this appeal for information was made.

This case, along with the theft of gull eggs from Poole Harbour, featured on yesterday’s edition of Countryfile (available on iPlayer for the next 29 days here). The use of covert camera surveillance on raptor nests was mentioned as “a vital tool” in catching egg thieves red-handed.

They didn’t mention that camera surveillance was also pretty good for catching raptor killers red-handed, but if the footage was filmed on land being used for game bird shooting then every legal obstacle possible would be put in the way of it being used as evidence in court. Funny that.

15
May
17

Buzzard shot & injured in Yorkshire Dales National Park

Cumbria Police are appealing for information following the discovery of an injured buzzard in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, according to ITV news.

The bird was found on 3rd May in Cowgill, Dentdale and was taken to Kendal College Animal Rescue Centre where an x-ray revealed it had been shot.

There are no further details.

Anyone with information please contact PC Rolland at Cumbria Constabulary.

15
May
17

Buzzard shot in Harewood, West Yorkshire suffers “massive trauma”

West Yorkshire Police are appealing for information after the discovery of a shot buzzard that has suffered “massive trauma”, according to an article in the Yorkshire Post.

Police believe the bird was shot between 1st and 6th May in the area around Harewood Avenue, Harewood.

It was found by staff from Harewood Speed Hillclimb, and an examination by a vet revealed that it had been shot, with the shot damaging its wing feathers as it passed through.

Appealing for information, Pc Andy Katkowski, based at Wetherby Police Station, said the buzzard was unable to fly as a result of its injuries. He said: “This buzzard has suffered unnecessarily and must have been in a lot of pain and discomfort.”

Witnesses or anyone with information are urged to contact West Yorkshire Police. Any information will be treated with strict confidentiality. Contact Pc Katkowski on Andrew.katkowski@westyorkshire.pnn.police.uk

09
May
17

Sparrowhawk shot dead in North Yorkshire: police appeal for info

North Yorkshire’s shameful catalogue of raptor killing crimes just got a bit longer.

North Yorkshire Police are appealing for information after the discovery of a shot sparrowhawk at Feldom, Richmond.

The bird is believed to have been shot some time during the last week of April in the area of High Waitgate, close to the Marske to Newsham Road, just a few miles north of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

An x-ray revealed this bird died from shotgun injuries, probably shot from close range.

Anyone with information please contact Police Wildlife Crime Officer Mark Wood (Tel: 101) quoting reference number 12170073101.

X-ray from North Yorkshire Police.

04
May
17

Three dead peregrines in Forest of Dean

In March 2017, news emerged of two dead peregrine falcons that had been found dead near the Devil’s Pulpit in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. We didn’t blog about these birds as we were waiting for the Police to publish the findings of a post mortem examination. We are still awaiting those results.

However, yesterday Gloucestershire Constabulary issued another statement about a third dead peregrine found in the same area on 15 April 2017:

Three dead peregrines found in the same area within a month sounds pretty suspicious, especially as there has been a spate of confirmed peregrine persecution incidents in England over the last few months (see here for recent RSPB Investigations blog on these crimes).

Let’s hope the post mortem results on the Gloucestershire peregrines are completed and published without any further delay.

Peregrine photo by Megan Lorenz

28
Apr
17

A poisoned sparrowhawk, a poisoned bait, and a Royal estate in Norfolk

A couple of months ago an article was published in the Mail on Sunday about the ‘mysterious’ death of a satellite-tagged goshawk on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk (see here).

We blogged about it (here) and mentioned a number of other raptor-related police investigations that had been undertaken on or near the estate. On the back of that blog, somebody contacted us and asked why we hadn’t included on our list ‘the confirmed illegal poisoning of a sparrowhawk a few years ago’? We hadn’t included it because we didn’t know anything about it, so we thought we’d do some digging.

First of all we did a general internet search. If there had been a confirmed raptor poisoning on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate then surely that would have made a few headlines, right? We didn’t find any record of it.

So then we started looking at the government’s database on pesticide misuse and abuse (the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme, often shortened to ‘the WIIS database’). In that database we found the following entry:

Although this entry showed that a poisoned sparrowhawk and a poisoned bait had been discovered in Norfolk in October 2009, as usual, no specific location was given. We were, however, intrigued by the ‘Notes’ column, that said even though a confirmed poisoning had occurred, the police were ‘not taking this forward’ and instead the CRD (Chemical Regulation Directorate, which is part of the Health & Safety Executive) had ‘sent a warning letter to the estate’.

So we thought we’d submit an FoI to the CRD to ask for a copy of that warning letter, because it might reveal the name of the estate where the poisoned sparrowhawk and poisoned bait had been found. We were also curious about the content of that warning letter – if there had been a confirmed poisoning, why was a warning letter considered to be a preferred option to a prosecution?

We’ve now received the FoI response and have been working our way through the various files.

The first file we looked at was a series of correspondence letters between the CRD and the estate. The estate’s name had been redacted throughout. Hmm. The letters are really worth reading though – there are some pretty hostile attitudes on display and there’s clearly no love lost between CRD and the estate manager! Download here: CRD correspondence with Estate_2010

There’s also a letter from a Natural England officer to the estate, asking for various documents relating to pesticide risk assessments, gamekeeper contracts, and gamekeeper training certificates: Natural England letter to Estate 19Oct2009

We gathered from the CRD/estate correspondence that no further evidence of Bendiocarb had been found during a Police/Natural England search of the estate which is presumably why Norfolk Police didn’t charge anybody for the poisoned sparrowhawk and poisoned bait, because there was no way of linking it to a named individual. Anybody could have placed the poisoned bait. But a series of alleged offences relating to pesticide storage had apparently been uncovered and it was these issues to which the CRD warning letter referred, although it’s clear from the estate’s letters to CRD that the estate disputed the alleged offences.

While that’s all very interesting, we were still in the dark about the name of the estate where all this had happened. That is, until we read another file that had been released as part of the FoI: CRD_lawyer discussion of FEPA exemption

This file contains correspondence between the CRD and a number of lawyers. They were discussing whether the estate had exemption under Section 20(5) of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA). This exemption applies to land that is owned ‘in Crown interest’. There was a great deal of discussion about whether this estate (name redacted) was owned by the Crown or was privately owned by the Queen.

The lawyers decided that this estate (name redacted) was in fact privately owned by the Queen, and therefore exemption under Section 20(5) of FEPA did not apply. The lawyers had reached this conclusion after several internet searches on the status of this estate (name redacted) had been completed. What the FoI officer failed to do was redact the search phrases that had been used to reach their decision. Those search phrases included:

Now, if you Google the exact search phrase listed under (a) above (“the private home of four generations of British Monarchs“) you are directed to this website:

And if you go to the Crown Estates website and search for the exact search phrase listed in (b) above (“according to the Crown Estates website – one of Her Majesty the Queen’s private possessions handed down from previous generations“), you find this:

It’s all very interesting, isn’t it? This isn’t conclusive evidence that it was Sandringham Estate, of course, and there is no suggestion whatsoever that anyone associated with the Sandringham Estate was involved with placing a poisoned bait, although it is clear a poisoned sparrowhawk and a poisoned bait were found on a Royal estate in Norfolk (how many Royal estates are there in Norfolk?).

But what this does highlight, again, is the complete lack of transparency when the authorities investigate the discovery of highly toxic poisonous baits laid out on private estates with game-shooting interests, or the discovery of illegally killed raptors on privately owned estates with game-shooting interests.

Why has this case been kept secret since 2009?

16
Apr
17

Shot hen harrier Rowan: no further metallurgical tests

The farcical reporting about the shooting of young hen harrier Rowan continues.

As you’ll recall, Rowan was satellite-tagged by the Hawk & Owl Trust / Natural England at Langholm in 2016. His corpse was discovered, in suspicious circumstances, in Cumbria /Yorkshire Dales National Park in October 2016, shortly before the Westminster debate on banning driven grouse shooting.

A press release issued by Cumbria Police (after consultation with Natural England and possibly the Hawk & Owl Trust) stated he was ‘likely to have been shot‘. We questioned that phrasing and a series of FoIs revealed that Cumbria Police had changed their statement from ‘was shot‘ to ‘was likely to have been shot‘. Why did they introduce an element of doubt? Was this a political move?

We asked Cumbria Police and Natural England to publish the post mortem report and the x-ray of Rowan’s corpse – they refused, saying it ‘might affect the course of justice‘. This made us even more suspicious as police forces routinely publish x-rays of shot birds as part of their appeals for information. By not publishing Rowan’s x-ray, it was almost as though they had something to hide.

Then on 3 February 2017, the RSPB published an image of Rowan’s x-ray on their blog. The image was clear: Rowan had suffered gun shot injuries to the leg and metal shot fragments were visible at the fracture site.

Later that day, the Hawk & Owl Trust issued a statement saying ‘the initial post mortem results were not wholly conclusive and further metallurgical tests were required‘.

We asked the Hawk & Owl Trust, several times, who had decided the post mortem results were inconclusive, who had decided that further metallurgical tests were required, had those tests been done, and if so, what were the findings?

The Hawk & Owl Trust did not respond.

So in March 2017, we submitted an FoI to Natural England to ask about these ‘further metallurgical tests’. Here’s their response:

You’ll notice that our questions about whether further metallurgical tests were ‘required’ and if so, who deemed them a ‘requirement’, were carefully dodged. The response to question 1 should really have been the response to question 3.

But that little anomaly aside, it’s clear from Natural England’s response that further metallurgical tests are not being undertaken. Does that mean that it is now accepted that Rowan had been shot? And if so, why all the obfuscation in the earlier press releases? To us, it looks remarkably like a cover-up job, albeit a bodged one.

Meanwhile, in the March edition of the RSPB’s Legal Eagle newsletter, it was stated that ‘the Zoological Society of London post mortem examination, including a radiograph of its fractured left leg, showed the bird’s injuries were entirely consistent with it having been shot‘.

And what of the Hawk & Owl Trust? Well, last week they published a statement on their website, out of the blue, about this case:

Why did they publish this statement last week? Was it because they’d been tipped off by Natural England that an FoI had been submitted seeking clarification on the claim that ‘further metallurgical tests were required‘? It certainly looks that way. So now they’re trying to put responsibility for this claim back on to Natural England! (“All subsequent statements from the Hawk & Owl Trust were based soley on information provided to them by Natural England“).

So, was it Natural England who determined that ‘further metallurgical tests were required‘ and if so, why haven’t these tests been done? Or was it the Hawk & Owl Trust who determined that ‘further metallurgical tests were required‘ in an attempt to introduce an element of doubt about the circumstances of Rowan’s death, to justify their continued involvement in the DEFRA Hen Harrier Inaction Plan, even though they’d previously stated that they’d pull out if criminal activities continued?




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