Posts Tagged ‘buzzard

04
Oct
21

Buzzard caught in primitive illegal trap set inside pheasant pen in Shropshire

Video footage has emerged, filmed in mid-September, of two primitive and illegal traps that had been set inside a pheasant pen in woodland near the village of Chelmarsh, just south of Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

One of the traps had been triggered and had caught a buzzard. The other trap had been baited with a dead pheasant but had not been triggered.

[Screen grab from the video, showing the trapped buzzard inside the illegal trap]

[A photo of the second illegal trap, baited with the dead pheasant. The map shows the location:

The trapped buzzard was released by a member of the public and subsequent covert video evidence shows a man entering the pheasant pen, attending the trap and removing all evidence of it.

I understand that a report has been made to the police.

There is a write-up about this criminal activity on the Hunt Saboteurs Association website (here), where it is claimed the man attending the trap is a gamekeeper. I don’t have any information that can support or refute that claim.

The video can be watched here:

23
Sep
21

Derbyshire Police refuse to publicise report of two shot buzzards on pheasant estate

The blog I wrote a couple of days ago (here) about Police Scotland’s refusal to publicise the discovery of a shot peregrine found on a grouse moor in the notorious raptor persecution area of Strathbraan drew a lot of criticism of wildlife crime policing.

Some of that criticism was fair, in my opinion, but some of it wasn’t. The main point to be made, as has been discussed many times on this blog, is that not all police forces are the same. There are some brilliant, pro-active and creative police forces in the UK, spearheaded by diligent, hard-working officers who feel the same frustration as we all do when cases cannot proceed to court, and not for lack of trying. We’ve seen evidence of these officers’ work in recent months, including at least eight search warrants executed across the country in relation to suspected raptor persecution offences:

On 18th January 2021 there was a raid in Suffolk (here), on 15th March 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), on 21st April a raid in Teesdale (here), on 2nd August a raid in Shropshire (here), on 12th August a raid in Herefordshire (here) and on 14th September a raid in Norfolk (here).

Yesterday evening we saw another example (here), this time from Police Scotland, resulting in an individual being charged for an alleged offence that took place last week! Whatever the outcome of this case, Police Scotland’s response cannot be faulted and those officers involved should be commended.

It’s my view that slagging off the police in general, accusing them all of being inept, corrupt, members of the Masons etc, is a lazy and inaccurate response to wider failures within the criminal justice system. I get why people do it – the criminal justice system is hopelessly underfunded and some of the legislation is in dire need of updating to close some gaping loopholes – and the public rightly feels frustrated every time another raptor persecution crime goes unpunished, again and again and again, but that still doesn’t justify some of the criticism aimed at the police in general.

However, I think it’s also fair to criticise police forces and officers when it is obvious that investigative procedures are not up to standard. That was the point of the blog post about Police Scotland’s response to the shot peregrine in Strathbraan and it’s also the focus of today’s blog, which looks at Derbyshire Constabulary’s appalling response to a report of the shooting of two buzzards, witnessed by a member of the public on a pheasant-shooting estate in Derbyshire during last year’s first lockdown (April 2020).

To set the scene, this is a large, private estate in the lowlands, heavily wooded and with some lakes and open parkland. Approximately 20,000 pheasants are released for commercial shooting each year. Some of the estate is closed off to the public but other parts are criss-crossed by public footpaths and bridleways, making this a popular location for visitors.

On 1st April 2020, a visiting member of the public was watching two buzzards circling above a wood when he heard a shot and witnessed the buzzards falling. The incident was reported to Derbyshire Police as a suspected raptor persecution crime. The police quickly attended the scene but, I’m told, did not conduct a search of the wood but did speak to the gamekeeper and a number of other estate residents.

With no corpses found and no other witnesses, the next most obvious move would be for the police to issue an appeal for information. But Derbyshire Constabulary had other ideas.

The following is an email sent by a member of the police wildlife crime team to somebody who was asking whether an appeal for information might be forthcoming, given that raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority. The police response is astonishing:

This is such a jaw-dropping response I don’t really know where to begin!

The police officer seems to think that if the estate residents didn’t see anything then there was ‘zero chance‘ of further evidence coming to light. Er….what about other visitors? The country was in lock-down at the time but the estate is located in a village where local residents may well have been taking their daily allowance of exercise and who may have witnessed something of relevance.

The police officer also seems to think that issuing an appeal for information would mean accusing the gamekeeper of shooting the buzzards. That’s not the case at all! Just a statement of the facts was all that was needed – without accusing anybody. Police forces do this all the time. And surely, the gamekeeper and the estate owner would welcome an appeal for information if it was possible that someone without authority was wandering around the estate discharging a firearm?! Fear of upsetting the gamekeeper/estate owner ‘when we may need the cooperation of the estate for future things‘ is not a valid reason for not progressing this investigation.

I think the most worrying aspect of the police response is this:

I think we all know that it would inevitably lead to repeated discussions which we’d have to become part of if it was our publication about gamekeeping practices in general. We’ve found that, for our team’s purposes, propaganda is of no value to us and is something we try to avoid‘.

Again, an appeal for information would not need to include any mention of gamekeeping practices. It would just be a statement of facts – that a member of the public reported what he believed to be the shooting of two buzzards at this location, at xx:xx hours on 1st April 2020, if anyone has any information that might help please contact the police on Tel 101 and quote incident ref number xxxxxxx.

How does Derbyshire Constabulary expect to maintain the public’s confidence to report suspected wildlife crime when reports are likely to be viewed as ‘propaganda’ by the police?

This isn’t the first time that Derbyshire Constabulary has faced criticism for the way it deals with reported raptor persecution crimes.

In January 2020, the RSPB issued a press statement about an illegally poisoned buzzard, found next to a poisoned bait, in the Peak District National Park. This crime had been uncovered the year before, in April 2019, but Derbyshire Constabulary had chosen not to say anything about it, nor to warn the public about the danger of poisoned baits being laid out in the countryside, let alone in a National Park (see here).

In response to that press release and the subsequent criticism of the police, Derbyshire Constabulary issued a remarkable statement on Facebook claiming that the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the poisoned buzzard, lying next to the poisoned bait, were ‘inconclusive’ as to whether the buzzard had been deliberately poisoned (yes, really – see here).

More criticism followed, quite rightly in my opinion, and shortly afterwards Derbyshire Constabulary posted another statement on Facebook, where they discussed the size of the geographic area they had to cover, their high workload, the lack of resources available to them and the small size of the team. They did though, commit to doing better (see here).

Just six weeks later this reported shooting of two buzzards landed on their desks.

As I said at the top of this blog, I have no interest in a general slagging off of the police. And particularly of Derbyshire Constabulary – a few years ago an elderly member of my family, suffering from advanced dementia, was prone to wandering off in a confused and distressed state, often for hours on end. Time and again, officers from Derbyshire Constabulary went looking for him and brought him home safely. I will always be grateful for the care and diligence shown by those officers, who went above and beyond my family’s expectations. Their efforts were exemplary and hugely appreciated.

My point is, again, that bringing the perpetrators of wildlife crime to justice, and particularly those guilty of raptor persecution, is difficult enough without some police officers seemingly doing their best to obstruct investigations. Blogs like this one make for uncomfortable reading but it’s clear that there needs to be a root and branch overhaul of procedures, with examples of best practice being highlighted and encouraged, at a national level. This is a role the so-far useless Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) can play in England & Wales, and by the so-far useless PAW Raptor Group can play in Scotland, supported by the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

There are some seriously good officers dealing with wildlife crime but they need to be seen as the rule, not the exception.

10
Sep
21

No prosecution for 5 shot buzzards found hidden on Bransdale Estate, North York Moors National Park

In April 2020, during the first lockdown, North Yorkshire Police conducted a search of Bransdale Estate in the North York Moors National Park where they discovered five dead buzzards that had been shoved in a hole under a large rock, presumably to conceal them.

X-rays confirmed that at least four of those buzzards had been shot. A later post-mortem suggested the 5th buzzard had also been shot.

Eight individuals were interviewed under caution.

North Yorkshire Police issued a press statement in May 2020, including an appeal for information (see here).

The following day, Channel 4 News featured the crime in a six minute film (here) which included shocking footage from the police officer’s body camera of when the dead buzzards were being pulled from the hole.

In early June 2020 I blogged about the game-shooting industry’s response to these abhorrent crimes – see here. Remember, this is the industry that has professed to supposedly having a ‘zero tolerance’ policy when it comes to raptor persecution. I’m not quite sure how a wall of silence from the main shooting organisations reflects this policy.

One group did comment (the North York Moors Moorland Association), some of whose members may well have been among those interviewed under caution by the police in the course of this investigation, but I’m not sure that the group’s decision to slag off the police was all that bright or did them any favours (see here).

Fast forward one year and four months to August 2021, and Inspector Matt Hagen of North Yorkshire Police revealed during an online interview about the difficulty of investigating raptor persecution incidents, that this particular criminal investigation is not going any further:

There was one estate on the North York Moors National Park, there were five dead buzzards that were found. Four of them had definitely been shot and from the post mortem it suggested that the 5th one had been shot as well.

We’ve analysed mobile phones and all this takes such a long time and costs a lot of money and ultimately at the end of it all we are not going to be able to progress this case because we have to be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt, to a court, who is responsible, and on this case we’re not able to do that, unfortunately“.

It’s been suggested to me from several locals that a number of gamekeepers have since ‘moved on’ from this estate (to work on game-shooting estates in other parts of the UK) and also that the shooting rights have changed hands since these crimes were uncovered. If true, all coincidental, I’m sure.

I don’t know whether the estate is still lauded as an accredited member of the British Game Alliance, the industry’s so-called official marketing board, which now appears to have changed its name to British Game Assurance. Ironic really because the BGA doesn’t seem to do transparency (e.g. here and here).

So there we have it. Yet another disgraceful raptor persecution crime uncovered on a UK driven grouse shooting estate, inside a National Park no less, where armed culprits have got away with committing wildlife crimes without suffering any consequence whatsoever. And in this case, not through lack of effort by North Yorkshire Police.

[X-ray of one of the five shot buzzards found concealed in a hole on the grouse shooting estate]

06
Sep
21

Investigation opens into suspected buzzard poisoning

Various media fora in the Irish Republic have reported on the suspected poisoning of two buzzards in Kerry.

A member of the public found the birds in August in the Currow/Scartaglen area, south of Castleisland, Co. Kerry. One buzzard was dead and the other one was taken for treatment and possible rehabilitation.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is investigating and toxicology results are awaited.

[Common buzzard. Photographer unknown]

A Government report published in October 2020 demonstrated that illegal raptor persecution continues to be a problem in Ireland, especially for the common buzzard. In 2020, 23 buzzards were poisoned in one single incident by the banned pesticide Carbofuran (see here) and in the same area in 2018, three buzzards were poisoned with Carbofuran, two were then decapitated and one had its leg pulled off (here).

05
Sep
21

Freedom of information documents highlight gamekeepers, fox hunting and raptor persecution in 3 public forests

The Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind has today revealed that Forestry Land Scotland (FLS) is still permitting the use of fox-hunting foot packs in several public forests, partly for the benefit of privately-owned grouse shooting estates. These public forests also happen to be in well-known raptor persecution hotspots.

In a freedom of information response, FLS admitted allowing the fox-hunt foot packs to operate in three public woodlands near Inverness: Loch Farr Wood, Farr Wood and Meall Mor near Moy.

[Moy has long been of interest to this blog, mostly for the frequency of illegal raptor persecution incidents recorded there for over a decade. And then there’s this: a photo to illustrate the stupidity of setting fire to the moor for grouse management, a few hundred yards from some publicly-subsidised wind turbines!]

The FoI documents also reveal that FLS staff suspected that gamekeepers were visiting the forests to look for fox dens to block up, which also happened to be beside Schedule 1 raptor nests, some of which have been repeatedly attacked in previous years.

For example, in 2016 Police Scotland issued an appeal for information after one goshawk and four buzzard nests were abandoned in suspicious circumstances in Moy Forest (see here).

In 2017, also in Moy Forest, masked gunmen were caught on camera underneath a goshawk nest. The nest, containing a clutch of eggs, was mysteriously abandoned shortly afterwards (see here and here).

In July this year, Police Scotland appealed for information after a dead goshawk was found in Loch Farr Wood – this bird had been shot (see here).

The issue of fox-hunting is beyond the remit of this blog although I’d question whether a Scottish Government agency should be complicit in supporting the eradication of native predators for the benefit of driven grouse shooting, which is what appears to be happening here.

If you’d like to read more about OneKind’s freedom of information request and FLS’s response about fox-hunting, gamekeepers and raptor persecution in these public forests, please see the OneKind blog (here) and an article in today’s National (here).

Meanwhile, as the authorities seem unable to tackle raptor persecution in public forests, we’re all still waiting to see whether NatureScot will impose a General Licence restriction on Moy Estate following the discovery of a poisoned satellite-tagged red kite found on the grouse moor almost a year ago, in October 2020 (see here).

26
Aug
21

Trial date set for Suffolk gamekeeper accused of poisoning buzzard

A couple of days ago I blogged about a gamekeeper who was due in court this week to face allegations that he was responsible for the alleged poisoning of a buzzard in Suffolk (see here).

This prosecution resulted from a multi-agency investigation and raid conducted at premises in January this year involving Suffolk Police, National Wildlife Crime Unit, Natural England and the RSPB’s Investigations team (see here).

[Police seized guns and pesticides during the multi-agency raid in January 2021. Photo via Suffolk Police]

News from the court today (via the RSPB) is that this gamekeeper has pleaded guilty to some charges but not guilty to others, so this case will now proceed to trial.

The gamekeeper pleaded guilty to six charges relating to firearms and pesticide storage.

He pleaded not guilty to two further charges relating to the illegal buzzard poisoning.

The trial is due to begin on 8th November 2021.

Please note, as this is a live case no further detail will be provided here until the case has concluded or there is official commentary from the court. Comments on this particular blog also won’t be accepted until the case concludes so as not to prejudice proceedings. Thanks for your understanding.

24
Aug
21

Another gamekeeper in court for alleged poisoning of buzzard

Earlier this month I blogged about a gamekeeper in Nottinghamshire who is facing trial after he pleaded not guilty to the alleged killing of several buzzards (see here).

Now there’s another case to report. This time it’s a gamekeeper in Suffolk who is due in court on Thursday in relation to the alleged poisoning of a buzzard.

This latest prosecution relates to the joint raid undertaken by Suffolk Police, Natural England and the RSPB’s Investigations Team in January this year (see here).

[Police seized guns and pesticides during the multi-agency raid in January 2021. Photo via Suffolk Police]

Tomorrow’s court hearing will provide an opportunity for the defendant to enter a plea.

If he pleads not guilty, the case is expected to continue to go to trial at a later date.

If he pleads guilty, he may be sentenced tomorrow or the magistrate may ask for background reports before sentencing at a later date.

Please note, as this is a live case no further detail will be provided here until the case has concluded or there is official commentary from the court reporter. Comments on this particular blog also won’t be accepted until the case concludes so as not to prejudice proceedings. Thanks for your understanding.

UPDATE 26th August 2021: Trial date set for Suffolk gamekeeper accused of poisoning buzzard (here)

15
Aug
21

Trial date set for gamekeeper accused of killing buzzards

A gamekeeper appeared in court on 12th August 2021 accused of the alleged killing of a number of buzzards in Nottinghamshire in January 2021.

He was charged after a joint investigation by Nottinghamshire Police and the RSPB’s Investigations Team (see here).

The gamekeeper pleaded not guilty so this case will now progress to trial.

Trial dates have been set for 6th-7th January 2022.

Please note, as this is a live case no further detail will be provided here until the case has concluded or there is official commentary from the court reporter. Comments on this particular blog also won’t be accepted until the case concludes so as not to prejudice proceedings. Thanks for your understanding.

11
Aug
21

Gamekeeper on trial for alleged killing of buzzards

A gamekeeper is due in court tomorrow (12th August 2021) accused of the alleged killing of a number of buzzards.

This prosecution relates to the joint investigation undertaken by Nottinghamshire Police and the RSPB’s Investigations Team in January this year (see here). It’s a good example of what genuine partnership-working can achieve.

Tomorrow’s court hearing will provide an opportunity for the defendant to enter a plea.

If he pleads not guilty, the case is expected to continue to go to trial at a later date.

If he pleads guilty, he may be sentenced tomorrow or the magistrate may ask for background reports before sentencing at a later date.

Please note, as this is a live case no further detail will be provided here until the case has concluded or there is official commentary from the court reporter. Comments on this particular blog also won’t be accepted until the case concludes so as not to prejudice proceedings. Thanks for your understanding.

UPDATE 15th August 2021: Trial date set for gamekeeper accused of killing buzzards (here)

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.




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