Archive for the 'Persecution Incidents in England' Category


East Arkengarthdale Estate: some questions for the grouse shooting industry

Following on from today’s earlier news that in December 2014 a poisons cache had been uncovered on a driven grouse moor at East Arkengarthdale Estate in Yorkshire, and that a gamekeeper had admitted that he was responsible for placing poisons in the cache, but he avoided prosecution and had his firearms certificates reinstated (see here), we’ve got some questions for the grouse-shooting industry.


Let’s start with questions for the Moorland Association. Email:

  1. Is East Arkengarthdale Estate a member of the Moorland Association?
  2. When were you first aware of the discovery of this poisons cache, that was found two years ago?
  3. Were you aware of it when you gave evidence at Westminster on the petition to ban driven grouse shooting?
  4. If East Arkengarthdale Estate is a member, will you be expelling them from your organisation?
  5. If not, why not?
  6. Will you be publishing a statement about the discovery of a poisons cache on a driven grouse moor in Yorkshire?
  7. If not, why not?
  8. Will you be praising the superb work of the RSPB Investigations Team for uncovering this poisons cache on a driven grouse moor?
  9. Can you confirm whether Adrian Thornton-Berry, a Moorland Association official, was the sporting agent (via Dalesport Sporting Agency) at East Arkengarthdale Estate in December 2014 when the poisons cache was discovered?
  10. Did Amanda see the poisons cache through her kitchen window?

Questions for the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation. Email: 

  1. Is this (unnamed) gamekeeper a member of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation?
  2. If yes, do you intend to expel him from your organisation?
  3. If not, why not?
  4. Could you explain why this gamekeeper had an electronic calling device (typically used to attract predators) with a series of raptor calls stored in it?
  5. Could you explain why this gamekeeper was visiting a poisons cache on a driven grouse moor?
  6. Could you explain why those poisons had been hidden in a bucket, underground?

Questions for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust. Email:

  1. When did you first become aware of the discovery of a poisons cache at East Arkengarthdale Estate?
  2. Were you aware of it when one of your 2014 auction prizes (some driven grouse shooting on 4 Yorkshire grouse moors, including East Arkengarthdale Estate) was fulfilled in October 2015?
  3. Have you received funding/donations from East Arkengarthdale Estate?
  4. Will you be accepting any further funding/donations from East Arkengarthdale Estate in light of today’s news?

Questions for BASC. Email: click here

  1. Why did your senior staff member, Dr Colin Shedden, tell a Scottish parliamentary committee that “any hint of illegal activity can lead to the right to hold a [shotgun] certificate, and the ability to shoot, being withdrawn“, when on the very same day, the BASC Chairman was defending the right of a gamekeeper to keep his shotgun certificate despite him admitting to placing poisons in a secret cache?

Shot buzzard rehabilitated & returned to the wild in North Yorkshire

At the end of October we blogged about a buzzard that had been found with shotgun injuries in Thirsk, North Yorkshire (see here).

The bird’s broken femur was expertly pinned by Mark Naguib of Battle Flatts Veterinary Clinic and the buzzard then underwent a period of care and rehabilitation with the wonderful Jean Thorpe of Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Yesterday this buzzard was released back to the wild (pictured here with vet Mark Maguib – photo by Jean Thorpe)

We’ve said this before but we’ll say it again – Jean’s work is entirely voluntary. If you want to support her efforts, please consider making a donation here.


Satellite-tagged hen harrier Tarras ‘disappears’ in Peak District National Park

‘Tarras’, a young hen harrier from this year’s Langholm cohort, has ‘disappeared’ in the Peak District National Park.


The following statement has been issued on the Langholm blog:

We have concerns for ‘Tarras’ a young female Hen Harrier tagged by Stephen Murphy (Natural England) at Langholm this summer.

The transmitter on the juvenile Hen Harrier Tarras has not transmitted since the 23rd October. The area has been searched and nothing was found and no hen harriers were seen in the area.

The last known fix area is on land owned by United Utilities in the north Peak District.

Tarras flew south from Scotland in the last weeks of September, arriving in the Nottingham area on the 11th October. She then headed north through Staffordshire and was roosting in the Peak District, near to the last known fix area on 13th October.

Tarras’ transmission period (duty cycle) was regular until 23rd October; on 23rd October it ran a complete transmission period (e.g. no sudden cessation of data within the 10hr transmission period). The local weather in the days immediately after 23rd were damp and overcast so this can delay the recharge time. However, by 26th concerns were raised. We have some evidence that suggest this may be a tag failure and we are currently trying to gather more information to help us resolve this.


That final sentence is a bit strange, and is at odds with what has been reported about the tag’s last smooth-running duty cycle. It’s worth revisiting a comment about tag reliability made recently by experienced researcher Dr Raymond Klaassen, who has been using satellite tags to track the movements of Montagu’s Harriers:

Technical failures generally are rare. We have recorded a few throughout the years (6% of all cases), however 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“.

So, given Tarras’ tag was not transmitting irregularly prior to her disappearance, what ‘evidence’ does Natural England have to ‘suggest this may have been a tag failure’?

It’s all a bit vague, isn’t it? A bit like the information put out about hen harrier Rowan who, according to Cumbria Police, was “likely to have been shot” in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

We look forward to a timely update from Natural England about Tarras’ disappearance in the Peak District National Park.


Hen Harrier Rowan ‘likely to have been shot’ in Yorkshire Dales National Park

On 28 October 2016 we learned that one of this year’s young hen harriers had been found dead in Cumbria in suspicious circumstances (see blog here).

This was a hen harrier called Rowan, who had hatched at Langholm this summer and was one of two hen harriers being satellite-tracked by the Hawk & Owl Trust.


The press release from the Hawk & Owl Trust and Natural England had just said Rowan’s body had been found in Cumbria on 22 October 2016, and following a post mortem, details had been passed to the police.

Today, Cumbria Police have issued a press statement as follows:

Cumbria Police have opened an investigation into the death of a hen harrier.

The body of a male Hen Harrier was found in the Ravenstonedale area of the county on 22nd October 2016. A post-mortem examination funded by Natural England and carried out by the Zoological Society of London has established that the bird was likely to have been shot.

The hen harrier, called Rowan, was satellite tagged at the Langholm Project as part of a joint venture between Natural England and the Hawk and Owl Trust. The bird had recently flown in the Cumbria and North Yorkshire Dales area before being found at Ravenstonedale.

Hen Harriers are specially protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and the Government has set raptor persecution as one of their wildlife crime action priorities.

There is huge pressure on the survival of the hen harrier in England particularly and projects such as this are working hard to assist with the bird’s survival. Cumbria Police are working alongside such organisations to progress this investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 and ask to speak to PC 2059 Helen Branthwaite.


Ravenstonedale lies within the Yorkshire Dales National Park (the bit that was recently added in August 2016).


The statement that Rowan “was likely to have been shot” is a bit odd. It would have been useful for Cumbria Police to release a copy of the x-ray, as other police forces often do when appealing for information about shot birds. Perhaps there is justification for the vague statement about the cause of death, but then again, perhaps there isn’t. Did the post mortem report use the words ‘likely shot’? That would be an unusual phrase. Usually they say something like ‘injuries consistent with’ (being shot). There’s a big difference in interpretation. There’s a faint whiff of a cover up here. Not an overpowering stench, but definitely an aroma of something….

The reputation of the Yorkshire Dales National Park as a hell hole for hen harriers (and most other raptors) continues to grow. Hen harriers haven’t bred in this National Park since 2007 and young birds that visit don’t last very long either. Here are some YDNP hen harrier data (2007-2014) from Natural England we’ve blogged about before:

Female, tagged N England 26/6/07: last known location YDNP 5/10/07. Status: missing.

Female, tagged N England 16/7/09: last known location YDNP 27/9/09. Status: missing.

Male, tagged Bowland 29/6/09: last known location YDNP 17/8/09. Status: missing.

Female, tagged N England 29/6/10: last known location YDNP 25/11/10. Status: missing.

Female (Bowland Betty), tagged Bowland 22/6/11: last known location YDNP 5/7/12. Status: shot dead.

Female (Kristina), tagged N England 25/6/12: last known location YDNP 9/10/12. Status: missing.

Male (Thomas), tagged N England 4/9/12: last known location YDNP 4/9/12. Status: missing.

Male (Sid), tagged Langholm 21/9/14: last known location YDNP 21/9/14. Status: missing.

Female (Imogen), tagged N England 26/6/14: last known location YDNP 1/9/14. Status: missing.


Marsh harrier found shot on East Yorkshire sporting estate

On 7th September 2016 an adult female Marsh harrier was found with shotgun injuries next to a partridge release pen on an East Yorkshire sporting estate.

The bird was rescued and underwent surgery at Battle Flatts vets in North Yorkshire.



After surgery the bird was sent to Jean Thorpe in Ryedale for a period of rehabilitation.

On 31 October 2016, Jean was able to release this bird back to the wild.




A couple of things to mention here. This wildlife crime was uncovered nearly two months ago. We don’t know the circumstances of the bird’s discovery (e.g. Who found it? Who reported it?). We don’t know where or when it was shot, although looking at that x-ray it would be fair to assume the bird wouldn’t have been able to fly far from the location it was shot. We haven’t seen a Police press statement about this crime. Have they charged a suspect? If not, where’s the Police appeal for information? Are they still investigating? Isn’t wildlife crime supposed to be a police national priority? Pathetic.

On a more positive note, the work of Jean Thorpe at Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation continues to amaze us (and not forgetting the skill of vet Mark Naguib at Battle Flatts Veterinary Clinic). Jean’s efforts are the perfect antidote to watching those disgraceful braying Tory MPs on Monday evening. They’d do well to visit her for an hour and learn about decency and compassion. Of course, Jean is not the only raptor rehabber in the UK but, living in North Yorkshire, she sees more than her fair share of raptor persecution victims. We’ve said this before but we’ll say it again – Jean’s work is entirely voluntary. If you want to support her work, please consider making a donation here.

UPDATE 4 Nov 2016: North Yorkshire Police have finally issued an appeal for information here. They’ve carefully avoided naming the estate where this bird was found.


Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Rowan’ found dead in suspicious circumstances

rowanhhAnother of this year’s young satellite-tagged hen harriers has been found dead.

This time it’s Rowan, a bird that hatched at Langholm and was being satellite-tracked by the Hawk & Owl Trust.

Here’s a joint statement put out by the Hawk & Owl Trust and Natural England:

The body of a juvenile, male hen harrier – named Rowan – was recovered in Cumbria on 22nd October. He was satellite tagged at the Langholm project in the Scottish borders, as part of a joint venture between Natural England and the Hawk and Owl Trust. Following an autopsy, Natural England has passed details to the police for investigation.

We are unable to make further comments or enter into discussion at this time as this may be prejudicial to ongoing investigations.


This press statement is clearly suggestive that criminal activity was responsible for the death of this hen harrier.

We look forward to further details about the cause of death and appeals for information from the Police in the very near future.

We especially look forward to the Hawk & Owl Trust announcing its withdrawal from the DEFRA Hen Harrier Action Plan on the grounds that one of its ‘immoveable provisos‘ for taking part has been broken (again).

UPDATE 7 November 2016: Hen Harrier Rowan ‘likely to have been shot’ in Yorkshire Dales National Park (see here)


Buzzard with shotgun injuries found in Thirsk, North Yorkshire

A buzzard with shotgun injuries has been found in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, this week. It had a broken femur. The bird has undergone surgery and is currently in rehabilitation with the wonderful Jean Thorpe of Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation.



A quote from Jean: “Amazing work once again by Mark Naguib of Battleflatts vets. The shot buzzard is stood square once again with shiny pins correcting the break. He looks so much better already. Long way to go yet but looking good so far“.

North Yorkshire Police have been informed.

North Yorkshire maintains its status as one of the worst places in the UK for the illegal killing of birds of prey. It’s a county where much of the landscape is dominated by grouse moors, particularly in the two National Parks: the North York Moors NP and the Yorkshire Dales NP, as well as a large number of pheasant and partridge shoots.

This year, other raptor persecution crimes uncovered in North Yorkshire have included several illegally spring-trapped buzzards, several shot buzzards, at least ten shot red kites, and a gamekeeper filmed setting three illegal pole traps on a grouse moor.

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

Blog Stats

  • 3,281,186 hits


Our recent blog visitors