Posts Tagged ‘buzzard

10
Apr
21

Police investigate as dead buzzard is found tied & hanging from a tree in Fife

This is a bit bizarre – there’s an article in today’s National about a police investigation, triggered by the discovery of a dead buzzard that had been tied to a tree and found hanging.

Police Scotland say that their enquiries show the buzzard had died of natural causes before being tied to the tree.

Here’s the article, written by Laura Webster:

POLICE have launched an investigation after a dead buzzard was discovered hanging from a tree.

According to investigating officers, the bird, found in Fife, died from natural causes before being strung up.

A member of the public spotted the buzzard close to the cycle path from Tayport to Newport on Monday.

Fife’s wildlife crimes liaison officer, Constable Ben Pacholek, said:

Our enquiries show that the buzzard died from natural causes before being tied to the tree. But this was a reckless and needless act, leaving a dead bird hanging in a public place that has caused distress within the local community.

I would urge members of the public to be respectful and considerate towards wildlife at all times. All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

If anyone knows anything about what happened or saw anything suspicious, then please contact us on 101.”

ENDS

01
Apr
21

Gun, banned poisons & dead birds of prey seized in third multi-agency raid in England

Press release from Dorset Police (1st April 2021)

Officers and partners who executed a warrant at a rural property in East Dorset have seized pesticides, dead birds of prey and a firearm.

Dorset Police Wildlife Crime Officers have been working with the Police National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), Natural England and the RSPB to investigate the alleged poisoning of a Red Kite, which was found dead in a field in north east Dorset in November 2020.

The bird of prey was recovered by police following the discovery by a member of the public and sent for forensic analysis at a specialist laboratory. The results of a post mortem examination subsequently indicated that it had been poisoned. 

On Thursday 18 March 2021 officers, accompanied by NWCU, Natural England and RSPB, attended an address in rural north east Dorset, having obtained a warrant and also exercised further powers under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. 

A number of dead birds of prey and several pesticides, including banned substances, were located at the premises. A firearm was also recovered. 

[Photo by Guy Shorrock]

Police Constable Claire Dinsdale, Lead Wildlife Crime Officer for Dorset Police said: “This investigation is ongoing and no further information or comment can be made at this time regards this specific case

The national picture is that the persecution of birds of prey sadly continues in the UK. This is one of our six national priorities for wildlife crime, highlighted on the National Wildlife Crime Unit’s website https://www.nwcu.police.uk/. 

A great deal of work has already been done by police and partner organisations but still there are those who think they are above the law.  The deliberate killing of birds of prey will not be tolerated. We have had previous cases in Dorset of illegal shooting and trapping as well as poisoning. 

I would urge the public to be vigilant and report dead birds of prey to police. Clear evidence of a wildlife crime, such as an illegal trap, shooting or suspected poison bait should be reported immediately to police without delay. A ‘What Three Words’ location or grid reference is really useful.

If a dead bird of prey is located and you are not sure whether it is suspicious or not, still report it to police immediately. We can access assistance from vets to examine and x-ray birds and submit them for forensic testing, therefore ruling out natural causes. Police can access forensic funding for such wildlife crime cases. 

A wildlife crime in progress is a 999 call, an urgent suspicious finding needs to be called in on 101 immediately and for all other non-urgent reports you can email 101@dorset.pnn.police.uk or visit Dorset Police online https://www.dorset.police.uk/do-it-online/. 

If you have any information on the illegal killing of birds of prey or other types of wildlife crime, you can speak to police in confidence by emailing 101@dorset.pnn.police.uk. We do not act in a way that would identify the source of the information to the police.” 

ENDS

This is the third multi-agency raid that’s taken place in England in the space of a couple of weeks, in relation to the suspected persecution of birds of prey.

On 15th March 2021 there was a raid in Lincolnshire (see here), on 18th March this raid in Dorset, and on 26th March a raid in Devon (see here).

It’s alarming that all three raids were triggered by the use of poisons to kill birds of prey.

Well done to all the partners involved – let’s hope their efforts are rewarded with successful prosecutions and convictions.

01
Apr
21

Podcast discussion on how shooting industry could deal with its raptor-killing criminals

There’s an interesting and amusing podcast out this week, featuring Cardiff University senior lecturer Dr Rob Thomas talking to two blokes about how the shooting industry could deal with its raptor-killing criminals if it really wanted to, instead of shielding and supporting them.

The podcast was published by an outfit called The Yorkshire Gent, and you’ll need to get through some pretty tedious justification from the two presenters about why they’ve invited a ‘non-shooter’ as a podcast guest and how they expect to receive abuse (from their own supporters) for doing so, before getting to the actual interview itself.

Rob will be familiar to those who use Twitter (@RobThomas14) for his often thoughtful, sometimes teasing, commentary on ecology and gamebird management and its impact on biodiversity, especially birds of prey.

During the podcast discussion, Rob outlined some ideas about how the shooting community could tackle the issue of raptor persecution, for example by blacklisting estates and having a shooter-led boycott where it is obvious that criminal activity continues.

The two presenters seemed surprised that persecution hotspots could be identified (!!!) but after Rob gently pointed out that to deny the bleeding obvious was just laughable, they both agreed that yes, in principle, a blacklist approach could work.

[Five dead buzzards pulled from a hiding spot on a grouse-shooting estate at Bransdale in the North York Moors National Park during lockdown last year. Tests confirmed that four had been illegally shot. Photo from police bodycam – see here]

There was also discussion about raptor satellite-tagging and one of the presenters announced with great conviction that ‘tags can be tampered with’ (by the tag owners) and that he’d been ‘assured’ that this was possible – unfortunately he didn’t go on to explain who had ‘assured’ him or how this could be done. It’s absolute nonsense, of course, because if there was ever any suspicion that the tag owners had ‘faked’ the tag data (as a Director of the Scottish Gamekeepers Assoc has libellously claimed) the police can simply ask the tag manufacturer for a copy of the original tag data.

There was further discussion about why the shooting industry isn’t contributing resources to support the policing of raptor persecution crimes such as monitoring, satellite tagging and surveillance.

The podcast is available here. If you want to skip the tedious stuff, start at around 58 minutes.

27
Mar
21

Another multi-agency raid following illegal poisoning of a buzzard

News of another multi-agency raid yesterday, involving Devon & Cornwall Police, Natural England, National Wildlife Crime Unit and RSPB Investigations, as a follow on from the discovery of a poisoned buzzard in 2020.

Brilliant partnership working again, after news of a similar raid in Lincolnshire a couple of weeks ago following the illegal poisoning of a red kite (here).

[Photo by RSPB Investigations]

12
Mar
21

‘Zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution? They’re fooling no-one.

In January 2020, five pro-shooting organisations issued a statement that professed ‘zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution. Coming 66 years after it became illegal to kill birds of prey in the UK, this was progress indeed.

I said at the time it was a sham (here). I haven’t seen anything since that has convinced me of their collective sincerity.

Take the most recent, high-profile raptor persecution crime reported earlier this week – a gamekeeper on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park filmed using a tethered live eagle owl decoy to draw in two buzzards which he shot on sight (see here). North Yorkshire Police Inspector Matt Hagen said of these offences:

We conducted a search warrant and interviewed an individual in relation to this incident. Ultimately, however, the identity of the suspect on the film could not be proved, and it was not possible to bring about a prosecution. However this does not mean the event didn’t happen. We know that a gamekeeper on a grouse moor has been shooting buzzards, using a live eagle owl decoy to bring those buzzards into a position where they could be shot”.

Details of this offence emerged on the morning of Tuesday 9th March 2021.

There was silence from the major shooting organisations. And for most of them, at the time of writing this at six pm on Friday evening, that deafening silence has continued.

The three main ones that should have been at the forefront of vocal condemnations and a commitment to boot out the estate and the gamekeeper from any memberships they may hold within the industry, have said absolutely nothing on their respective websites:

The Moorland Association (the grouse moor owners’ lobby group in England) – silence

The National Gamekeepers Organisation – silence

British Association for Shooting and Conservation – silence

The Country Landowners Association (CLA) was also one of the original five signatories to ‘zero tolerance’ but they’ve said nothing either.

The only one of the five groups who in January 2020 professed a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for raptor persecution and said anything about this latest disgraceful display of criminality was the Countryside Alliance. They published this statement two days after the story hit the headlines:

Whether you believe the sincerity of this statement or not is another matter but at least the CA published something.

Of course, the three main groups that have remained silent are all members of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), whose objectives include prevention of, and awareness-raising of, illegal raptor persecution. Anyone seen them doing any of that? No. Once again it looks like they’re just using their membership of the RPPDG as a convenient cover to pretend they care. When are they going to be expelled?

Other members of the RPPDG, notably those who don’t have a vested interest in closing ranks and saying nothing, have issued statements on the crimes.

The Northern England Raptor Forum has published a characteristically damning statement (here) and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has done pretty well with this:

So, the illegal killing continues, the majority of the shooting industry organisations say nothing, and public anger grows.

Thanks, Moorland Assoc, National Gamekeepers and BASC – this is only heading in one direction and you’re all helping it reach the end game so much more quickly than we could get it there on our own. Cheers.

09
Mar
21

Gamekeeper filmed shooting 2 buzzards on grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park

The RSPB Investigations Team has published a blog this morning, detailing their undercover work filming a gamekeeper on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, who used a tethered eagle owl to draw in two buzzards close enough for them to be shot.

The blog, authored by RSPB Investigations Officer Howard Jones, describes the circumstances of the crimes, which include the obvious ones of shooting two protected buzzards but also the use of a tethered decoy (in this case, the eagle owl). Howard and his colleague Jack were filming through a telescope from approx 5km away and witnessed a gamekeeper drive across the grouse moor with the eagle owl, tether the owl to a post close to a grouse butt while he lay in wait close by with his gun.

[Screen grabs from the RSPB’s video]

Unfortunately, once again, despite a police investigation this case will not result in a prosecution because the identity of the gamekeeper committing the crimes could not be verified. However, importantly, Inspector Matt Hagen of North Yorkshire Police is quoted as follows:

We conducted a search warrant and interviewed an individual in relation to this incident. Ultimately, however, the identity of the suspect on the film could not be proved, and it was not possible to bring about a prosecution. However this does not mean the event didn’t happen. We know that a gamekeeper on a grouse moor has been shooting buzzards, using a live eagle owl decoy to bring those buzzards into a position where they could be shot. We urge the public to report incidents like this to the police, and to come forward if they have information about this or any other incident involving the illegal killing of birds of prey“.

You can read the blog here

You can watch the RSPB’s video here:

The Yorkshire Dales National Park has been a known raptor persecution hotspot for many, many years, with wildlife crimes disproportionately taking place on the Park’s driven grouse moors. These crimes have been raised as a concern by both residents and visitors alike (see here).

The National Park Authority has its hands tied behind its back to some extent because these crimes are taking place on privately-owned grouse moors, but the Authority can’t be accused of ignoring the issue, e.g. see here for some of the work it’s been doing.

So how about the grouse shooting industry? What are they doing, exactly, to tackle these ongoing crimes?

The name of the estate in this latest case hasn’t been published, presumably to protect the identity of any other gamekeeper not directly involved, but the estate manager and owner will be well aware of this police investigation. Will they sack this gamekeeper?

What about the Moorland Association? As members of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), I’d expect the MA to be informed and for them to take action against the estate if it turns out to be one of their members.

Other RPPDG members include BASC and the National Gamekeepers Organisation – what action will they take if this gamekeeper is one of their members?

And the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group, representing estates and gamekeepers in the region – what action will they take?

Where’s the evidence of the so-called ‘zero tolerance’ to raptor persecution, so loudly paraded in January 2020?

There is no evidence of there being zero tolerance because it’s a total sham. Some gamekeepers continue to break the law, in broad daylight, because they know the chances of getting caught are minimal and even when they are caught the industry in which they work will close ranks, call ‘foul’ on the RSPB and carry on as normal.

I haven’t seen any evidence, since the industry’s purported ‘zero tolerance’ announcement, that serious efforts are being made to oust the criminals within. Which is why these crimes continue, week after week after week.

Well done to the RSPB and North Yorkshire Police for their work on this case.

UPDATE 12th March 2021: ‘Zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution? They’re fooling no-one (here)

02
Mar
21

Mass poisoning of raptors in south Scotland – this case is still live

On Saturday I blogged about a press announcement from Police Scotland that had indicated there had been a successful conviction in a case involving the illegal mass poisoning of birds of prey in Dumfries & Galloway (see here).

This police statement didn’t ring true because surely, if there had been a successful prosecution in such a high profile case, the police and all the partner agencies who had also been involved in the investigation would have been shouting it from the rooftops.

The claim had been made in relation to the police officers winning Team of the Year at the Chief Constable’s Bravery and Excellence Awards on 19th February 2021 and the accompanying statement said, ‘This investigation led to an individual being convicted of wildlife crime offences‘ (see here).

I contacted Police Scotland to ask them for clarification about this case and they got in touch this morning to explain that the case is still live (i.e. there hasn’t been a conviction), the next court hearing is this month, and the inaccurate police statement was a result of a misunderstanding in the police comms team.

As this case is still live comments won’t be accepted until legal proceedings have finished, thanks.

27
Feb
21

Mass poisoning of raptors in south Scotland – has there been a conviction?

From 2018 to 2020 there was a large, multi-agency investigation in south Scotland relating to the deaths of ‘upwards of 20 birds of prey’, including red kites and buzzards, around the Castle Douglas area – see here and here for previous blogs.

In April 2020 Police Scotland announced that a 64-year-old man had been charged in relation to the illegal poisoning of birds in the Stewartry area (which is close to Castle Douglas) and that a report had been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal (see here).

As far as I was aware, this case was ongoing, no pleas had been entered and the case was due back in court in March.

However, on Thursday the Daily Record ran a story about how some Police Scotland officers had been recognised for their efforts in ‘solving’ the poisoning crimes (see here).

Prior to the Daily Record’s article, Police Scotland had issued a press release about the officers winning Team of the Year at the Chief Constable’s Bravery and Excellence Awards on 19th February 2021 and the statement said, ‘This investigation led to an individual being convicted of wildlife crime offences‘ (see here).

First of all, many congratulations to the award-winning officers – as regular blog readers will know, raptor persecution crimes are rarely easy to get to the prosecution stage, let alone secure a conviction. The police officers deserve recognition, as do all the partner agencies who worked on this investigation.

But what about the conviction? Where was the publicity about it? This was a high profile case where a large number of protected birds of prey had been poisoned with a banned substance over a number of years. NB: It was not thought to be linked to the game-shooting industry, for a change.

What, exactly, was he convicted of and what was the sentence?

It seems slightly bizarre that the apparent successful prosecution of a raptor poisoner has not made the headlines, doesn’t it? What’s going on?

Come on, Police Scotland, it’s rare to get a win, let’s hear about it when it happens!

I’ll be chasing this up with the police next week.

UPDATE 2nd March 2021: Mass poisoning of raptors in south Scotland: this case is still live (here)

12
Feb
21

Informant receives 5,000 euro payout for clue on mass poisoning of buzzards

In December 2019, a total of 23 buzzards were reported to have been illegally poisoned with the banned pesticide Carbofuran in a single incident in Co. Cork, Ireland.

This news wasn’t made public until May 2020 when the Irish Raptor Study Group partnered with Birdwatch Ireland to issue a joint statement criticising the lack of enforcement measures to deal with the continued illegal persecution of birds of prey (see here).

This shocking mass poisoning crime prompted calls in the Irish parliament for an investigation (see here) and calls for the establishment of a special police unit to focus on tackling wildlife crime (here).

Later in the year a local animal welfare charity ‘The Amica Projects’ put up a reward of 5,000 Euros for information about who was responsible for poisoning the buzzards and it placed a full page advert in the Southern Star newspaper appealing for whistle blowers to get in touch (see here).

Now six months on, an article by journalist Kieran O’Mahony published in the Southern Star yesterday says that The Amica Projects has now confirmed it has paid the 5K Euros reward for a tip-off that it had received.

From the article:

We are delighted to report that a number of people came forward with information about this and actually some other cases too,’ said a spokesperson.

Some of these reports were highly specific and highly credible and we’ve passed the most useful and relevant to the gardaí [the police] and to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, who are responsible for prosecutions of this type“.

According to The Amica Projects – which was founded in 2019 and addresses animal welfare problems in Ireland – both entities shared the view that the information was credible and actionable.

This was a senseless attack on the buzzards, which are fully protected in Ireland under the EU Birds Directive, and under the National Wildlife Act of 1976. What’s more, the poison carbofuran has been banned in Ireland for over a decade and even the possession of the poison is an offence.”

The charity also said that it is entirely prepared to repeat the reward initiative should the need arise.

This should serve as notice to bird-poisoners that they are being observed, and that most of the general public finds their actions abhorrent. No poisoner is safe and the penalties are significant“.

ENDS

08
Feb
21

Buzzard shot & critically injured in Bedfordshire

Here is yet another grisly account of a buzzard being illegally shot in the UK, just four days after the last one was reported.

That one was in Cambridgeshire, this one was in neighbouring Bedfordshire.

According to social media reports by South Essex Wildlife Hospital, an injured buzzard was brought to them by an RSPCA inspector after being picked up at an undisclosed location in Bedford on Friday 5th February 2021.

The vet diagnosed a fractured humerus and looking at the x-ray it looks like an air gun pellet has caused a catastrophic injury (photos by South Essex Wildlife Hospital, injury site on x-ray highlighted by RPUK).

I’m no vet but looking at its appalling injury it’s hard to see how this bird could have flown any distance from the location where it was shot.

According to the reports, the vet consulted with a specialist raptor vet in the US and it was concluded the damage was irreparable so a decision was made to euthanise the buzzard to prevent further suffering.

Apparently the RSPCA are making enquiries.

If you have any information about this crime please contact the RSPCA (0300-1234-999) or Bedfordshire Police (101) or the RSPB Investigations Team (01767-689551).

Alternatively, please call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 – 555111.




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