Archive for the 'Persecution Incidents in England' Category


Dorset Police investigate reported disturbance of nesting peregrines

There have been a few reports in the media (e.g. here and here) about climbers and a drone-user disturbing breeding peregrines this week on cliffs in Portland, Dorset. This is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act.

[Photos by Weymouth & Dorset Police]

Apart from the fact that there’s supposed to be a lockdown, Police wildlife crime officers have stated that they will look to prosecute anybody ignoring the ‘clear signage’ to stay away from the nest sites between 1 March and 30 June:

These signs have been in place for years, initiated by local climbers keen to protect the peregrines (see here).


Buzzard & kestrel suspected poisoned in Derbyshire

Derbyshire Constabulary has published the following message on social media this evening:

Derbyshire Rural Crime Team is investigating after two birds of prey were found dead in the Ault Hucknall area of Chesterfield.

A Kestrel and a Buzzard were found on Monday 23 March. Initial investigations lead us to believe they have been poisoned rather than shot.

The birds have been recovered and an investigation launched.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Rural Crime Team by emailing quoting reference 20000159754.

You can also pass information anonymously to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or visiting


Well done to the police for a very speedy notification. Obviously the investigation is still in the early stages although the proximity of a plucked wood pigeon in these photos is probably a big clue.


(Another) hen harrier shot on a grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park – police arrest suspect

Just five days ago we blogged about the shooting of a male hen harrier on a grouse moor in the Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, just across the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, that had been witnessed by a member of the public. Impressively, North Yorkshire Police arrested a suspect and he has been released pending further enquiries and forensic testing (see here).

[A male hen harrier, photo by Bill Schofield]

Here we go again.

ANOTHER hen harrier has been shot on ANOTHER grouse moor, this time inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park and again it was witnessed by members of the public and again, North Yorkshire Police have arrested a suspect.

Here’s the police press release, published today (17 March 2020):

Two members of the public witness Hen Harrier being shot near Grassington

North Yorkshire Police are investigating the shooting of another Hen Harrier.

Two members of the public witnessed an incident which they believed was the shooting of a male Hen Harrier.

The incident occurred on Threshfield Moor at approximately 10.45hrs on Monday 27th January 2020.

North Yorkshire Police have been conducting enquiries and a man has been arrested in connection with this investigation.

Anyone with further information about this incident or who may have seen anything in the area shortly before the bird was shot, please call North Yorkshire Police on Tel 101 quoting reference # 12200015792.

If you wish to remain anonymous you can pass information to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

This is the second incident of this type to take place in the last six months, with another hen harrier believed to have been shot in October 2019 near Keasden.


Hang on a minute – Threshfield Moor? That rings a bell.

[RPUK map showing location of Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park]

[Photo of the Threshfield grouse moor by Chris Heaton]

Ah yes, Threshfield Moor was reportedly the last known location of another male hen harrier, called John, who ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in October 2017 – see here.

The people believed to be the owners of Threshfield Moor are interesting and they have interesting connections – see here. Obviously they’ll be devastated to learn about the alleged illegal shooting of a hen harrier on their grouse moor and we’re sure will be doing everything they can to assist the police investigation.

Well done North Yorkshire Police – two arrests for two hen harrier shootings in the space of a few months – that’s really impressive work and the officers involved deserve much credit. There’s clearly some evidence to support reasonable suspicion of involvement because otherwise these arrests wouldn’t have been possible but whether there’s sufficient evidence to proceed to prosecution(s) remains to be seen. Whatever the outcome(s), these latest police investigations in to the alleged shooting of hen harriers on grouse moors expose the shooting industry’s desperate propaganda campaign for what it is and Natural England/DEFRA’s wilful blindness to the bleeding obvious.

So, grouse shooting industry, how’s that professed ‘zero tolerance‘ of illegal raptor persecution going?

So, Natural England /DEFRA, how that’s seriously flawed Hen Harrier (In)Action Plan working out?

Here’s a clue -let’s add the shooting of this latest hen harrier to the ever-expanding list of hen harriers (at least 31 now) believed to have been illegally killed since 2018, the year when grouse shooting industry reps would have us believe that hen harriers were welcomed back on the grouse moors:

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published wholly inaccurate information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false” (here).

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here)

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland (here)

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating death as suspicious (here)

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland (here).

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here)

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lanacashire (here)

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here)

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here). Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap (here).

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB (here). Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot (here).

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site (here)

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 May 2019: A male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive (here)

7 June 2019: A hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot (here)

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here)

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland (here)

18 October 2019: Member of the public reports the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on White Syke Hill in North Yorkshire (here)

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland (here)

January 2020: Members of the public report the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (this post)

There are two more satellite-tagged hen harriers (Tony & Rain) that are reported either confirmed or suspected to have been illegally killed in the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project Report but no further details are available.

And then there were last year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks that have been reported ‘missing’ but as they’re carrying a new type of tag known to be unreliable it’s not known if they’ve been illegally killed or if they’re still ok. For the purposes of this mini-analysis we will discount these birds.

So that makes a total of at least 31 hen harriers that are known to have either ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances or have been witnessed being shot or have been found illegally killed in the last two years. And still we’re expected to believe that everything’s perfect, that the grouse shooting industry is not riddled with armed criminals and that hen harriers are doing just fine, thriving even, according to the shooting industry’s propaganda.

Wilful blindness, writ large.

[This male hen harrier was found with his leg almost severed, trapped in an illegally-set spring trap on Leadhills Estate grouse moor in May 2019. He didn’t survive. Photo by Ruth Tingay]



Peregrine found shot in Shropshire: police appeal for information

Press release from West Mercia Police (13 March 2020)


Police are appealing for help after a bird was found with what is believed to be a shotgun wound.

The Peregrine Falcon was found on the morning of Tuesday 10 March near Humber Lane, close to the roundabout on the A442 near Leegomery. It was taken to the vets with a broken wing and an x-ray showed fragments of a gunshot.

[Peregrine, photographer unknown]

Although the falcon is recovering well it is possible it will not be able to fly again.

Anyone with information is urged to contact West Mercia Police on 101 quoting incident 704S 100320 or alternatively information can be given anonymously to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555111.


Well done West Mercia Police for a speedy response and appeal for info.


Hen harrier shot on grouse moor: North Yorkshire Police make an arrest

North Yorkshire Police have arrested a man in connection with the reported shooting of a hen harrier on a grouse moor near the village of Keasden.

He has been released under investigation whilst police await the results of forensic analysis.

This incident relates to the reported shooting of a male hen harrier near White Syke Hill in the Bowland AONB last October. A previous blog on this case can be read here.

[Hen harrier photo by Richard Verroen]

This is significant progress from North Yorkshire Police, not just in this particular investigation but also more generally in the investigation of crimes against birds of prey. Regular blog readers will be well aware of the infrequency of arrests in many of these cases, sometimes due to incompetence, inexperience and/or missed opportunities, sometimes due to lack of support from senior officers, but more often than not due to a lack of witnesses and insufficient evidence to instigate a prosecution against a named individual.

This is an issue that especially affects the persecution of hen harriers. Rigorous scientific research has demonstrated the eye-watering extent of hen harrier persecution on many driven grouse moors in northern England (e.g. here); it happens so often it’s brought the English hen harrier breeding population to its knees, but when was the last time you saw a named individual in court facing prosecution for allegedly killing one?

We have long argued that the scale of illegal raptor persecution, particularly on some driven grouse moors, amounts to serious organised crime and that the people involved are skilled at removing and destroying evidence to avoid prosecution. It takes tenacity, sometimes a bit of luck, and above all, determination, to get these people anywhere near a court room, let alone to secure a conviction.

This investigation is still in the very early stages and it may not progress to a charge if the evidence doesn’t reach the required standard but for now let’s congratulate North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Crime Team for getting it this far.

If you have any information that could help this investigation please contact North Yorkshire Police on Tel 101 quoting reference number: 12190193431.


Raptor persecution in North Yorkshire featured on Crimewatch Roadshow

The illegal killing of birds of prey in North Yorkshire was featured on the BBC’s Crimewatch Roadshow this morning.

The programme is available on BBC iPlayer (here) for 24hrs only (persecution bit starts at 15.20 min)

Well done Inspector Matt Hagen, Head of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Crime Team for telling it how it is and acknowledging North Yorkshire as the biggest raptor persecution hotspot in the country and identifying Nidderdale as an area of particular concern.

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”. 

Police Inspector Matt Hagen also said this:

People out there in the community will know who is committing these offences and we just need that information. We need them to tell us, to make raptor persecution unacceptable“.

Having met Matt a few times and spoken at length about raptor persecution, he’s definitely one of the good guys, who, along with his colleague Sgt Stu Grainger, is leading what could be a formidable team in an area where it’s most needed.

If you have ANY information about raptor persecution in North Yorkshire, even if it’s just a suspicion, pass that info on to these guys and they will investigate.


Sparrowhawk shot in Devon

The RSPB and Devon & Cornwall Police are appealing for information after a sparrowhawk was shot in Devon.

[An x-ray of the shot sparrowhawk, by Westmoor Veterinary Hospital]

Map showing Tamar Foliot, near Plymouth, Devon:

From an RSPB press release issued 9 March 2020:

Devon and Cornwall Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after a protected sparrowhawk was found illegally shot near Plymouth.

The female bird was discovered alive but injured in a paddock in Tamerton Foliot, Plymouth. Seeing it was unable to fly, the finder recovered the bird and contacted the police on 2 February 2020.

The bird was x-rayed by Westmoor Veterinary Hospital in Tavistock and found to contain a shotgun pellet in its wing.

Emily Roisetter, a veterinary nurse, said: “On examination one of our vets could feel an unusual lump in its wing, which lead us to be suspicious that a pellet was present, and this was confirmed with the x-rays.”

The bird is currently being cared for at a wildlife centre.

Investigating Officer Sergeant Northmore, of the Crownhill Neighbourhood Team, said: “We would like to hear from anyone who was in the area at the time and saw or heard anything which could have been related to this incident, or has any information they think could be useful, to contact us.

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Devon and Cornwall Police on 101 or fill in the RSPB’s confidential online reporting form here



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