Posts Tagged ‘buzzard

21
Apr
21

Police conduct another multi-agency raid after two buzzards confirmed poisoned in Teesdale

Press statement from Durham Constabulary (21 April 2021)

Operation targets raptor persecution

Officers have teamed up with partner agencies on a special operation to target raptor persecution.

Operation Sunbeam included members of the Barnard Castle Neighbourhood Policing Team, RSPB, Natural England and the National Wildlife Crime Unit who carried out searches at two properties in Teesdale this morning (April 21).

It follows an incident last year when two common buzzards were found dead in Teesdale woodland. Forensic tests indicate they were illegally poisoned with a banned pesticide.

[Two poisoned buzzards. Photo by RSPB]

After gathering all the information, the team searched the properties for any harmful substances and two men are now helping officers with their enquiries.

PC David Williamson, who led the operation, said: “We will always do everything we can to support our rural communities and work with partners to act on information received about alleged criminal activity.

The positive action taken this morning will continue and I would encourage anyone with information about this type of crime to get in touch.”  

[Genuine & credible partnership working. Photo from Durham Constabulary]

The action was part of the Health and Safety Executive’s Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme which was makes enquiries into the death or illness of wildlife, pets and beneficial invertebrates that may have resulted from pesticide poisoning. 

Guy Shorrock, senior investigating officer for the RSPB, provided specialist advice on the subject.

He said: “The illegal killing of birds of prey is a serious national problem so we are delighted with the really well-prepared response from Durham Police, working with partner agencies.

We hope this sends a clear message that the illegal killing of birds of prey won’t be tolerated and action will be taken.”

Ian Guildford, investigative support officer for the National Wildlife Crime Unit added: “It was a very well organised response and great to see agencies coming together to tackle this type of issue.”

If you have any information call 101 or email PC Williamson at david.williamson@durham.police.uk

ENDS

This is brilliant and follows in the footsteps of three other recent multi-agency raids in response to raptor persecution crimes.

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

It’s alarming that all four raids were triggered by the use of banned poisons to kill birds of prey and it’s also quite telling that these offences took place in counties spread across England. This is not a small, localised issue as the shooting industry would have us believe – this is widespread criminality and involves the use of banned poisons that have the capacity to kill anything that touches it, including humans.

Well done to all the partners involved – this is genuine and credible partnership working. Let’s hope their efforts are rewarded with successful prosecutions and convictions.

19
Apr
21

Keith Tordoff, candidate for North Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner is raptor champion

Last week I blogged about how a coalition of organisations under the umbrella group Wildlife & Countryside LINK was asking Police and Crime Commissioner candidates to prioritise wildlife crime should they be elected on 6th May 2021 (see here).

The role of a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has the potential to be hugely influential as to how local policing operates. The PCC has a number of statutory responsibilities including:

  • to secure an efficient and effective police for their area;
  • to appoint the Chief Constable, hold them to account for running the force, and if necessary dismiss them;
  • to set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan;
  • to set the force budget and determine the precept;
  • to contribute to the national and international policing capabilities set out by the Home Secretary; and
  • to bring together community safety and criminal justice partners, to make sure local priorities are joined up.

In North Yorkshire, the UK’s undisputed raptor persecution capital, there’s a candidate that should appeal to blog readers in that county – Keith Tordoff (visit Keith’s website here).

Keith has a varied background, including serving for 20 years with West Yorkshire Police, and now runs the sweet shop in Pateley Bridge.

Blog readers may recognise him from the Channel 4 piece last year (6 min video here) about the rampant crimes against birds of prey that continue to be reported across North Yorkshire, including in Pateley Bridge in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with its proximity to several notorious driven grouse moors.

Keith was interviewed as one of a number of local businessmen who had put up a reward to find the criminals responsible for laying poisoned baits that killed a buzzard and a local family’s pet dog (see here). It wasn’t the first time he’d stepped up with a reward, either.

As a long-standing and outspoken critic of the raptor killers, Keith has suffered abuse such as eggs being thrown at his shop windows and death threat letters being pushed through his letterbox, but he continues to defy the local grouse moor criminals and has considerable support from other Pateley Bridge residents who are tired of having the town’s reputation tarnished as a raptor persecution hotspot. I have no doubt that if elected, he’d continue that effort right across North Yorkshire.

If you’re a North Yorkshire resident and you want to see police resources continue to be prioritised to help fight wildlife crime, and especially raptor persecution, Keith may be just the candidate you’re looking for on 6th May.

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)




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