Archive for the 'Persecution Incidents in England' Category

27
Jan
20

Buzzard found shot in Northumberland

An injured buzzard was found by a member of the public near Acklington, Northumberland on 4 January 2020. It was grounded by the entrance to the Rigg & Furrow Brewery at Acklington Park Farm.

It was transferred to Blyth Wildlife Rescue where x-rays revealed shotgun pellets in both wings. The location of the shooting is unknown.

[Photos via Jane Hardy]

The buzzard is still undergoing treatment and assessment at the rescue centre.

 

21
Jan
20

Kestrel found shot in Huddersfield

A kestrel was found shot in the Hade Edge area of Huddersfield, Yorkshire on Saturday 18th January 2020. It has been rescued and is currently undergoing treatment at Meltham Wildlife Rescue.

[Photos from West Yorkshire Police Wildlife Crime Officer PC Newsome, on Twitter as @WYP_CNewsome]

Well done to this police wildlife crime officer for getting the news out so quickly. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Police on Tel 101 and quote reference #13200032608.

You have to wonder what sort of moron takes a shot at a kestrel. Sadly it’s not the first – see here, here, here, here and here and it most definitely won’t be the last.

03
Dec
19

Poisoned red kite in Nidderdale: two local businesses put up a reward

Following the news last week that yet another red kite had been found poisoned in Nidderdale (see here), the Northern England Raptor Forum (NERF) has published a statement.

It’s well worth a read, here.

[A poisoned red kite]

A selected quote from the NERF statement:

‘The population of Pateley Bridge and surrounding area is less than 3,000 people. Whoever put the poisoned bait out in the open countryside and killed the Red Kite is most likely to live locally, shop locally, use the local pub and may have children or grand-children in the local school. In short if you live in the Pateley Bridge area the person indiscriminately putting poisoned baits out in your countryside, putting your life, the life of your pets and local wildlife at risk is your neighbour.

In addition to the physical threats posed by the use of dangerous poison there is also the reputational damage caused to this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and local businesses. This potential reputational damage was recognised by Pateley Bridge businessman Keith Tordoff in 2017 when he and a fellow businessman, jointly offered a reward for information following the unlawful killing of another Red Kite. On that occasion the bird was shot near Greenhow‘.

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

A few days ago RPUK was contacted by a local businessman from Pateley Bridge who has once again put up a £1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspected poisoner(s). The businessman prefers to stay anonymous at this point for fear of retribution but he told us that another local businessman has also agreed to put up a £1,000 reward if the information received leads to a conviction. There may well be other members of the local community stepping forward. The businessmen have been in contact with the RSPB and North Yorkshire Police to facilitate the reward process.

Ongoing concern about the level of wildlife crime in Nidderdale has been raised by residents and visitors alike for a number of years, particularly on the extent of illegal raptor persecution and such is the strength of feeling that the Nidderdale AONB Partnership has now included a specific objective on raptor conservation in its AONB Management Plan. As part of this work, an evidence report was published in September 2019 which placed grouse moor management firmly in the frame.

Incidentally, those of you who read last week’s report on this latest poisoned red kite will know that there was an inexplicable eight-month delay between the discovery of the poisoned red kite and a police appeal for information. It was the latest in a number of cases (as yet unpublished) in North Yorkshire that have caused raised eyebrows, not least because of the previous exemplary efforts (e.g. here) of the North Yorkshire Police Rural Task Force, a team which includes some of the UK’s most dedicated and knowledgeable police officers tackling raptor persecution crimes through Operation Owl.

Last weekend at the annual Wildlife Crime Enforcers Conference we were able to have some full and frank discussions about recent events, including the delayed appeal for information about this poisoned red kite, with some senior members of North Yorkshire Police. The response was impressive, the explanations plausible (it would be inappropriate to provide detail here), the admission of mistakes made admirable, and the determination and commitment to target the offenders was unquestionable.

We look forward to being able to report some more success stories from the UK’s worst raptor persecution hotspot.

28
Nov
19

Yet another red kite found illegally poisoned in Nidderdale AONB

Press release from RSPB (28 November 2019)

Red Kite poisoned in Nidderdale

North Yorkshire Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after a protected red kite was found poisoned in an area of North Yorkshire with the worst record for the illegal killing of birds of prey in England.

A member of the public found the bird dead under a tree in Blazefield, just outside Pateley Bridge, Nidderdale in March 2019. North Yorkshire Police submitted the bird to be tested for poison, and results show the bird tested positive for the insecticide bendiocarb. This is one of the top five most commonly abused substances involved in raptor poisoning cases. It is also extremely toxic to people and pets.

Killing a bird of prey is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Anyone found responsible for this bird’s death faces an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in jail. The police are now appealing for information. 

[A dead red kite]

[Blazefield, sandwiched between some of the most notorious wildlife-killing grouse moors in the UK]

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “Poison baits deliberately placed out in the open, where anyone could find them, puts people, pets and wildlife in danger. Based on government toxicology data, from 2009 to 2018 the RSPB recorded an astonishing 369 incidents of the illegal use of pesticides to kill or target birds of prey. Bendiocarb, a very toxic insecticide, is something we come across again and again being used for this purpose.”

According to data collated by the RSPB, the Nidderdale area – which is dominated by extensive driven grouse shooting – is the worst black spot for raptor persecution crimes in England, clocking up more incidents in the last seven years than anywhere else.

In September 2019, the Nidderdale AONB published their ‘bird of prey evidence report’ which highlighted the impact of illegal persecution upon the protected landscape’s birds of prey. The report stated that ‘The spread of red kites into the AONB is being restricted by illegal persecution’.

In August 2019, North Yorkshire Police appealed for information after a red kite was found shot and also poisoned in Wath, near Harrogate, within the Nidderdale AONB. This bird contained two pieces of shot, one of which was from an older injury which it had survived, indicating it had been shot on two occasions. But it was also found to contain a cocktail of highly toxic pesticides, and this was deemed the ultimate cause of death.

And in April 2019, a satellite-tagged hen harrier named River was found dead on Nidderdale’s Swinton Estate, following a search by North Yorkshire Police and RSPB Investigations. She too had been illegally shot.

Howard Jones added: “Nidderdale has become a death zone for birds of prey. Our message to the community is this: If you enjoy spending time in the countryside, please be vigilant. Report anything suspicious. If you have information about someone killing birds of prey, please speak out. This is happening on your doorstep, to your wildlife. Let’s make it known that this barbaric, relentless destruction of wildlife is not something North Yorkshire will tolerate.

“Finally, if you are being instructed to kill birds of prey, please do not break the law on someone else’s behalf. Call our confidential hotline on 0300 999 0101.”

ENDS

Eight months for this appeal for information to emerge? That’s pathetic. Let’s hope there was at least a local appeal for information – a spokesperson from North Yorkshire Police is quoted in this article in today’s Yorkshire Post saying “Despite extensive investigations……” so perhaps this included warnings to the local community that some criminal psychopath had been laying out deadly poisons in the area. Also interesting to note that the Yorkshire Post article says the banned poison Isophenphos was also detected in the kite’s carcass.

Regular readers of this blog will be only too aware of Nidderdale AONB’s reputation as a massive wildlife crime scene. We’ve blogged about it many, many times including the poisoning and shooting of red kiteshen harriersbuzzardsmarsh harriers on Nidderdale grouse moors (as reported by the AONB partnership in September 2019). We’ve also seen how the local community is turning against the criminals in their midst which is hardly surprising when according to the Chair of the Nidderdale AONB these crimes are “starting to have a damaging effect on tourism businesses”. 

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Here’s a map we produced a while ago showing the boundary of the Nidderdale AONB (yellow line), illegally killed red kites (red dots), missing satellite-tagged hen harriers (orange stars), shot hen harrier Bowland Betty (red star), shot hen harrier River (red triangle, which we now know should be closer to the red star on the Swinton Estate).

UPDATE 3 December 2019: Poisoned red kite in Nidderdale – two local businesses put up a reward (here)

27
Nov
19

Hen harrier Ada ‘disappears’ on grouse moor in North Pennines AONB

Joint press release from Northumbria Police and RSPB (27 November 2019)

Hen Harrier Ada Disappears

Today, Northumbria Police and the RSPB have issued an appeal for information following the sudden disappearance of yet another satellite tagged hen harrier, a female bird known as Ada.

[Hen Harrier Ada being satellite tagged in the summer. Photo from RSPB]

Ada hatched on a nest on the Scottish borders this summer (2019). She was fitted with a lightweight satellite tag as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project, to learn more about the journeys made by these rare birds of prey and the survival challenges they face.

Ada was the first of the chicks tagged this summer to leave her nest and proved to be naturally adventurous. After fledging she flew north, spending some time on a disused golf course near Dunbar, then she headed south to the North Pennines. On the morning of 10 October 2019 she sent her last transmission from an area of grouse moor east of Allendale, Northumberland. Her tag showed no signs of malfunction and there were several satellites passing over, so it was expected to continue to provide data. RSPB staff were in the area at the time the tag would have transmitted, but neither the bird nor her tag could be found nor have been heard from since.

Her disappearance is being treated as suspicious and was reported to the police.

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. Yet the evidence shows hen harriers continue to be killed, or disappear in suspicious circumstances, particularly on or near land managed for driven grouse shooting.

Scientific research published in March 2019 showed that 72% of the satellite tagged hen harriers in their study were killed or very likely to have been killed on British grouse moors, and that hen harriers were 10 times more likely to die or disappear over areas of grouse moor relative to other land uses.

Dr Cathleen Thomas, Senior Project Manager for the Hen Harrier LIFE project, said:

Over 30 chicks were tagged this summer and we’ve watched with interest as they’ve grown up and flown around the country. We’re absolutely gutted that Ada has disappeared in suspicious circumstances at just a few months’ old.

Emma Marsh, Director for RSPB England, said:

Hen harriers have become a rare breeding bird across the UK mainly due to illegal persecution by humans. In England, the last population survey recorded only four territorial pairs, despite scientific studies showing enough food and habitat to support over 320 pairs. Our own tagging work has shown that survival of young birds post-fledging is very low. This won’t change until something is done about illegal persecution. The Government’s own data has highlighted a loss of 72% of their tagged birds in suspicious circumstances, and we are calling on them to take vital measures to address this appalling situation.”

The RSPB is calling for the Government to introduce of a system of licensing for driven grouse moors, whereby this license to operate could be taken away should illegal activity be uncovered. We believe that this approach will act as a far greater deterrent than current legislation.

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Northumbria police on 101.

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

ENDS

It looks like Ada has vanished in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB):

The tag Ada was carrying is believed to be the same make and model as the other tags deployed by the RSPB on hen harriers (the tag with a known reliability rate of 94%). Technical failures are possible (of course) but are rare (6%), and according to this researchtag failures have always been preceded by irregular transmission periods and, most importantly, a drop in battery voltage (another parameter monitored by the transmitter). This makes it relatively straightforward to distinguish between a likely mortality event and a likely transmitter failure”.

The hen harrier tags deployed by the RSPB are completely different to the new and untested tags that were deployed by Natural England on some of this year’s brood meddled hen harriers; tags that are known to have a high failure rate.

18
Nov
19

Public talk: southern reintroduction hen harrier project

Somerset Wildlife Trust is hosting a public talk on Natural England’s proposed southern reintroduction of hen harriers.

This controversial plan is part of DEFRA’s ludicrous Hen Harrier InAction Plan and is due to begin in 2020 with birds donated from Spain being reintroduced to Wiltshire (more on these details in due course – we’re currently reviewing some FoI docs).

The talk is on Tues 11th February 2020 (7.30-9.30pm) at the Parish Rooms in Somerton, where Flemming Ulf-Hansen from Natural England will ‘explain what has been involved’.

£3 on the door for members, £4 for non-members, under 16s free.

We’ve blogged extensively about the southern reintroduction project for the last three years. Here are the links for those who’d like to do some background reading:

28 Nov 2016 – Hen Harrier reintroduction to southern England: an update (here)

3 Jan 2017 – Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: the feasibility/scoping report (here)

8 Jan 2017 – Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: the project group and their timeline (here)

9 Jan 2017 – Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: who’s funding it? (here)

9 Jan 2017 – Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: a bonkers proposal for Exmoor National Park (here)

12 Jan 2017 – Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: Wiltshire (here)

14 Feb 2017: Leaked email reveals Natural England’s views on Hen Harrier Action Plan (here)

23 Feb 2017: Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: donor countries (here)

19 July 2017: Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: new project manager appointed (here)

20 July 2017: Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: Dartmoor as potential new release site (here)

20 July 2017: Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: revised costs (here)

21 July 2017: Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: project team vists France (here)

27 July 2017: RSPB statement on hen harrier reintroduction to southern England (here)

15 Aug 2017: Natural England Board making up justification for hen harrier southern reintroduction (here)

24 October 2017: Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: Natural England delays release of information (here)

11 December 2017: Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: report of fieldtrip to France (potential donor country) (here)

12 December 2017: 2018 start date for reintroduction of hen harrier to southern England? (here)

14 January 2018: Stop illegal persecution then no need for reintroduction of hen harrier to southern England, says DEFRA Minister (here)

13 March 2018: Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: has France said “Non”? (here)

28 Feb 2019: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Vulcan’ disappears nr proposed reintroduction site in southern England (here)

10 March 2019: Hen harrier reintroduction to southern England: Natural England suggests persecution not an issue (here)

 

01
Nov
19

Live firing range chosen as release site for brood meddled hen harriers

Earlier this week we blogged about Natural England’s decision to fit the brood meddled hen harrier chicks with ‘untested’ satellite tags and how some of those tags were not functioning reliably in the weeks following the birds’ release (see here). As three of those hen harriers have since been reported as ‘missing’ it is impossible to assess whether they’ve been killed by criminal gamekeepers on grouse moors, as so many have previously, or whether the birds are actually fine, they’re just carrying faulty tags.

The brood meddling fiasco doesn’t end there.

It turns out that as late as June this year, Natural England and its panel of ‘experts’ on the brood meddling project management team had decided that a live firing range on Ministry of Defence land would be a great place to release the brood meddled hen harriers.

Yep, genius. What could possibly go wrong?

[Live firing range on MOD land in Yorkshire. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Perhaps the team thought it would provide acclimatisation for the young harriers – get them used to the sound of gunshot….

Actually, we know that this live firing range was only chosen because no private grouse moor owner had stepped forward to host the five brood meddled chicks (er, even though we’ve been repeatedly told that by removing hen harriers as part of a brood meddling scheme grouse moor owners’ attitudes towards hen harriers would soften and instead of killing them they’d welcome them with open arms).

How desperate do you have to be to think releasing young hen harriers on a live firing range would be a good idea, just to save face that no grouse moor owners wanted the birds?

Mark Avery blogged about this live firing range in September as he published an email from the scientific committee chair (Prof Ken Norris) who was expressing his concerns about the site.

We now know that the live firing range wasn’t actually used as the release site – at the last minute an enlightened estate (Castle Bolton Estate) stepped in and offered to host the five young harriers – but it’s worth viewing the process and conversations of the brood meddling project management team to understand what a joke this trial is.

The live firing range was agreed as a release site during a project team phone call on 3rd June:

Jemima Parry Jones, a member of the project team and the person responsible for the captive rearing stage of the brood meddling trial, was the first (and only?) member of the team to raise concerns about releasing the birds on to a live firing range as she was worried about her reputation if it all went wrong:

Amanda Anderson’s response to these concerns:

On the same day, Richard Saunders (NE’s Principal Advisor) sent around this email discussing the possibility of conducting noise monitoring at the live firing range in an attempt to appease Parry Jones’s concerns:

At some point between 4th and 24th June, the idea of releasing the brood meddled hen harriers on to a live firing range had been abandoned (the FoI response we got from Natural England omitted any detail about the decision-making) and Castle Bolton Estate had stepped forward to play host:

The rest, as they say, is history. The five brood meddled hen harriers were successfully released and then three of them vanished in September and the other two have left the country.




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