Posts Tagged ‘poisoned

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).

21
Aug
21

Golden eagles have been illegally killed on Scottish grouse moors for 40+ years but apparently we shouldn’t talk about it

In response to the news that Police Scotland are investigating the circumstances of five eagles found dead in the Western Isles earlier this month (see here), Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the grouse moor owners’ lobby group has issued what I’d call a staggeringly disingenuous statement, where the blame for ongoing raptor persecution appears to be being projected on to those of us who dare to call out the shooting industry for its ongoing war against birds of prey.

Here’s SLE’s statement in full, dated 20 August 2021:

Response to raptor fatalities should not depend on location or landuse

Reports of five eagles being found dead on the Western Isles are very serious. 

Police Scotland has said that officers are investigating and it is to be hoped that the facts of these potentially shocking incidents are established as quickly as possible.

The birds – four golden eagles and a white-tailed sea eagle – were found at separate locations on Lewis and Harris and it is said that, at this stage, they are not linked.

No grouse shooting takes place on the Western Isles and we wholeheartedly support the police’s appeal for information and anyone who can help should call Police Scotland on 101, or make a call anonymously to the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

It has been suggested that intraguild predation – where one species predates on another – may be one possible explanation in these cases but equally we accept there is the prospect that a terrible wildlife crime has been committed to protect livestock.

If that is the case, outright condemnation is the only rightful response.

That applies wherever raptor persecution takes place.

The response from some quarters thus far to the incidents on the Western Isles is in sharp contrast to what happens over alleged incidents that occur in areas where land is managed for grouse shooting. In these cases organisations and campaign groups are very quick off the mark to point fingers. If a wildlife crime takes place on land managed for shooting, livestock farming or any other land use (and such incidents are thankfully rare, becoming more so all the time) then it must be investigated and the culprits should face the full force of the law. It can be difficult to prosecute but Scotland now benefits from some of the most stringent laws against raptor persecution in Europe. A lot more could be achieved with less finger pointing and more constructive collaboration on the ground. Scotland is fortunate to have historically high numbers of golden eagles and we want to see even more of them.

ENDS

So SLE is unhappy that campaigners keep ‘pointing fingers’ at the grouse-shooting industry whenever an illegally shot / poisoned / trapped bird of prey is discovered dead or critically injured on, er, a driven grouse moor?!!!!!!!!!

Or when satellite-tagged hen harriers and golden eagles keep ‘disappearing’ in suspicious circumstances, on or close to driven grouse moors.

If these crimes were just a one-off, once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence then yes, perhaps SLE would have a point. However, the connection between the driven grouse shooting industry and the illegal persecution of birds of prey has been clear for decades, and backed up with endless scientific papers and Government-commissioned reviews (here are the latest for golden eagle and for hen harrier).

Here’s an example of how long this has been going on – a scientific paper published in 2002, using data from 1981-2000 – demonstrating an indisputable link between grouse moors and illegal poisoning:

1981 – that was 40 years ago!!

And yet here we are in 2021 and still illegally poisoned golden eagles are being found dead on grouse moors and still nobody has ever been successfully prosecuted in Scotland for killing a golden eagle. The most recently confirmed poisoned eagle was this one inside the Cairngorms National Park, right next door to the royal estate of Balmoral. In fact this eagle is believed to have fledged on Balmoral a few months before it flew to neighbouring Invercauld Estate (an SLE member, no less) where it consumed a hare that had been smothered in a banned pesticide and laid out as a poisoned bait. The person(s) responsible for laying this poisoned bait have not been identified.

[Poisoned golden eagle laying next to poisoned mountain hare bait, Invercauld Estate, Cairngorms National Park. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

Such is the extent of illegal persecution on some driven grouse moors, it is having (and continues to have) a population-level effect on some species, including golden eagles, hen harriers, red kites and peregrines.

And such is the extent and quality of this scientific evidence, the Scottish Government has committed to implementing a licensing scheme for grouse shooting in an attempt to try and rein in the criminal activity that underpins this so-called ‘sport’ because Ministers recognise the grouse-shooting industry is incapable of self-regulation.

I don’t know what SLE means when it says it wants ‘more constructive collaboration on the ground‘. Perhaps it means that gamekeepers will step forward and provide more than ‘no comment’ interviews when the police are investigating the latest crime on a grouse-shooting estate, instead of offering the usual wall of silence?

Perhaps it means the estate owners will refuse to employ the sporting agents and head gamekeepers whose methods are well known to include routine raptor persecution? (These individuals are well known – it’s no secret within the industry who they are).

Or perhaps it means that the shooting industry itself, including the game-shooting organisations, the shooting press etc will blacklist those estates known to still be killing birds of prey, instead of accepting funding donations from them and pretending that they don’t know what’s going on there?

That’d be useful, constructive collaboration, wouldn’t it?

Until all of that happens, SLE and the rest of the grouse shooting cabal can expect people like me and my colleagues in the conservation field to continue shining a bloody great big megawatt spotlight on this filthy industry.

04
Aug
21

New golden eagle satellite tags being tested in Cairngorms National Park, an eagle-killing hotspot

Press release from Cairngorms National Park Authority (3rd August 2021). My commentary is below that.

High tech tags to give insight into lives of golden eagles in Cairngorms National Park

Three golden eagle chicks in the Cairngorms National Park have been successfully tagged using the latest innovative technology. Three estates in the Cairngorms National Park – including two in Strathspey – are part of this latest raptor tagging initiative, a partnership project that has been developed and funded by the Cairngorms National Park Authority and NatureScot.

The ‘Celltrack’ tags being used have come from the USA and are among the leading technology in raptor tagging. They will provide a better understanding of the species’ movements, habitat preferences and mortality.

The birds’ movements are tracked in real-time by CNPA staff and partners with transmissions coming in daily, providing a multitude of data that can help better understand the life of juvenile golden eagles, with an inbuilt alert system should mortality occur, whether through natural causes, persecution or other anthropogenic influences. The tags have the ability to detect unusual behaviour and send alerts with accurate locations.

‘Celltrack’ tags make use of an innovative dual communication system with data being sent over the mobile phone network as well as through a network of (ARGOS) satellites. By using this hybrid communication system, the large quantity of location fixes acquired each day can be transmitted over the mobile phone network, with the additional security of satellite communications when birds are out of signal.

Dr Ewan Weston, an independent research ecologist, has been in charge of tagging the golden eagle chicks under licence. He commented: “Having been involved in fitting tags to eagles for 14 years, the technological advances in the tags we use now bring data that was previously unimaginable. The data we receive, feeds into wider research on the species and covers aspects of golden eagle biology and environment, providing an insight into aspects of their lives in incredible detail. This work has included aspects of their dispersal behaviour, interaction with the landscape and developments such as wind farms.”

Dr Pete Mayhew, Director of Nature and Climate Change at the CNPA said: “The more we know about golden eagles in the Cairngorms National Park – from fledging through to acquiring their own territories – the better we can conserve and enhance their populations for the future. This is another excellent conservation partnership project involving government bodies and private estates who all wish to see a healthy future for our raptor species.”

The CNPA set out plans for a golden eagle tagging project in 2019, which included the use of British Trust for Ornithology-provided tags; however, delays in production, technical issues and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen the project switch to using ‘Celltrack’ tags. However, partners will continue to work closely with BTO over the coming months, including sharing data from the three recently tagged golden eagle chicks.

Seafield & Strathspey Estates are a partner in the project – their Chief Executive Will Anderson said: “We are very proud of our raptor populations here and as a result we are involved in several tagging projects. We are particularly pleased to be partnering with the Park Authority in this initiative as the type and volume of data collected is likely to be incredibly beneficial to be able to plan for the future with the birds needs in mind.”

The RSPB Scotland has also had one of their young golden eagles tagged as part of this project. Fraser Cormack, RSPB Scotland Abernethy Warden said “With raptors still being persecuted in Scotland the data that these tags provide could be crucial in helping to stop such crimes. Also with this potentially being a new territory it will be great to see the chicks movements after fledgling and where it disperses to in the future.”

Andy Turner, NatureScot Wildlife Crime officer, added: “NatureScot are providing strong support to the CNPA on this project. This innovative technological development will strengthen our understanding of golden eagle movements, aiding both research and hopefully acting as a deterrent to illegal persecution. The ability for instant alerts and complex motion data will provide welcome new insights into the movements of these special birds.  If this is successful, I hope we can deploy this technology more widely.”

Licenses to tag Golden Eagles are granted on behalf of NatureScot by the British Trust for Ornithology who look at various criteria, especially animal welfare. Tag data will be managed by a small, dedicated team at the CNPA and Dr Ewan Weston, NatureScot, and Police Scotland’s Wildlife Crime Unit.

ENDS

Hmmm. In principle, I am fully supportive of the continued satellite-tagging of golden eagles in Scotland because of the incredible insight they have provided in to the lives of this often elusive species.

Researchers have been able to provide tag data to influence conservation policy, based on new information about these birds that would previously have been almost impossible to find out (e.g. see here for a fantastic piece of modelling, based on satellite tag data, to predict how young dispersing golden eagles in Scotland will use specific landscape features, and here for the most recent scientific paper, again based on satellite tag data showing how young golden eagles in Scotland are actively avoiding wind turbines).

This sort of research is fundamental to our ability to conserve golden eagles and the quality of the research undertaken in Scotland is held in high regard by fellow scientists in Europe and North America.

I’m also very pleased to see the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) and NatureScot continue to recognise the importance and significance of golden eagle satellite-tagging, and be willing to put their money where their mouths are by funding this tagging sub-project, despite the best attempts of the grouse-shooting industry to derail this type of research. The shooters object because as well as ecological and biological insights, these tags are also providing illuminating information about the locations where golden eagles are still being illegally killed, almost 70 years after they became a protected species.

Significantly, the satellite tag data have allowed researchers to identify several geographical clusters where golden eagle persecution still takes place and more often than not, these are on or very close to moors being managed for driven grouse shooting. Unfortunately for the CNPA, some of those clusters are actually inside the Cairngorms National Park:

[This map shows the last known locations of satellite-tagged golden eagles that have either been found illegally killed or have disappeared in suspicious circumstances between 2004-2016. Data from the SNH report Analyses of the fates of satellite-tracked golden eagles in Scotland (2017) authored by Dr Alan Fielding & Dr Phil Whitfield]

It’s clear then, that the CNPA (and NatureScot) are in an embarrassing position and want/need to be seen to be doing something about the ongoing persecution. And ongoing it is, as we’ve seen with an illegally poisoned white-tailed eagle being found on a grouse moor inside the National Park last year (here) and yet another illegally poisoned golden eagle being discovered on another grouse moor inside the National Park earlier this year (see here). The subsequent bad press from these crimes is difficult for the CNPA to deal with (e.g. here).

And that leads me to be cynical about the timing of this latest press release. If you remember, back in 2019 the CNPA issued a similar press release (see here), stating that a new type of tag had been developed and would be fitted to golden eagles in the National Park over the forthcoming 18 months. The CNPA claimed this new tag would ‘provide an instant fix on any birds which die’.

The reality was somewhat different. The ‘new tag’ wasn’t developed to a sufficient standard that it could be trialled and thus was not fitted. That 2019 press release was considerably premature and I’m going to stick my neck out again and say this latest press release is similarly premature. Although this time a ‘new tag’ has actually been fitted and deployed on three young birds, it is far too soon to know whether the tag actually works as is being claimed, not least whether it will provide an ‘instant alert’ when an eagle dies. The ‘new tag’ being deployed this time is collecting the same type of data as the tags we currently deploy on golden eagles, and it has been used to track raptors in North America, but it is not the tag that we were told was being developed, with public funding, to specifically help detect illegal persecution of golden eagles in Scotland.

So why might the CNPA be keen to put out this press release prematurely? Well, if you’re a cynic like me, you might think that the CNPA has recently received a barrage of criticism for its inability to prevent the illegal killing of golden eagles (and other raptors) inside the National Park, sparked by the discovery of the poisoned golden eagle on Invercauld Estate earlier this spring, and so they’re keen to try and turn that around:

[The deliberately poisoned golden eagle, next to a poisoned mountain hare bait. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

The timing of the press release might also have a lot to do with the CNPA’s forthcoming five-year management plan, where it will have to report on its failures to meet the previous plan’s raptor conservation-based objectives. If the CNPA can chuck in a few ‘positives’ in to the new plan, such as the deployment of these new tags, it might act as a sweetener to those who will, quite rightly, be criticising the Park’s lack of progress on this issue.

Having said all that, I wouldn’t be alone in being delighted if this tag does function as is being claimed, and provides an ‘instant alert’ when an eagle dies, whether that be from natural causes or from illegal persecution. Any technological advance that would help the police to identify the criminals would be warmly welcomed by all (except for the criminals, obviously).

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with this new tag once the young eagles disperse during the autumn and travel into grouse moor areas where eagles are still not tolerated.

Incidentally, there will be short film about golden eagle persecution in Scotland being shown during this weekend’s live broadcast for Hen Harrier Day (Saturday 7th August 2021). If you want to hear more about this and what else is coming up, please sign up for Wild Justice’s event notification here.

03
Aug
21

Police lead multi-agency search after suspected peregrine poisoning in Shropshire

A multi-agency search took place in Shropshire yesterday as part of the ongoing investigation in to the suspected poisoning of a peregrine earlier this year.

You may recall the very prompt appeal for information made by West Mercia Police in May (see here) after the corpse of a female peregrine had been found, along with a suspected pigeon bait, at the notorious raptor persecution blackspot of Clee Hill.

[This is a photograph of another peregrine found poisoned at this site in 2017 (see here). Photo by RSPB]

Toxicology results are apparently still pending on this latest case but given the long history of poisoned peregrines at this site, and the discovery of yet another baited pigeon, it’s more than likely that this latest peregrine victim had also been illegally poisoned.

No doubt this is what prompted the police-led search at a premises yesterday, assisted by experts from Natural England, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the RSPB Investigations team. The investigation continues.

[Photo via West Mercia Police]

This is at least the 5th multi-agency search in England this year, all 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 on 21st April a raid in Teesdale (here). And now this raid in Shropshire.

Worryingly, all of these cases have involved the confirmed / suspected use of banned poisons to kill birds of prey.

Well done to all the agencies involved in these follow-up investigations. It’s good to see genuine partnership-working in the fight to catch the raptor killers.

28
Jul
21

Police searches as peregrine confirmed illegally poisoned with Carbofuran

Back in March this year there were reports that two dead peregrines had been found underneath the iconic Samson & Goliath cranes in Belfast. Experts from the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group suspected the birds had been poisoned but there was also a potential issue with Avian Flu in the area which hadn’t been ruled out.

[One of the poisoned peregrines. Photo by the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group]

Fast forward four months and an article has appeared today on the Farming Life website as follows:

Police confirm peregrine falcon poisoned

Police have confirmed that a bird of prey found dead in the Queens Island area of Belfast earlier this year was poisoned.

It was reported in March that a Peregrine Falcon was found dead. The bird was retrieved and underwent testing to ascertain the exact circumstances. Enquiries have been ongoing. Today (July 28th), officers, accompanied by colleagues from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), carried out searches at two premises.

Con. Phelan said: “We can now confirm the Peregrine Falcon was poisoned with Aldicarb and Carbofuran. This is very concerning. These are dangerous substances. We would remind the public if there is a suspicion of poisoning on any bird of prey to leave the bird/s and/or bait in situ and call the PSNI as soon as possible.”

PSNI Wildlife Liaison Officer, Emma Meredith, said: “We have been working with our partner, NIEA, and our enquiries are ongoing. If anyone has information then we would be really keen to hear from you.”

Anyone with information can contact police on the non-emergency number 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

ENDS

There seems to be some confusion here about whether it was one or two peregrines poisoned, but nevertheless, the detection of Aldicarb and Carbofuran in at least one peregrine is a clear indication of criminal activity.

Presumably the police didn’t release the toxicology results until today as they’d have wanted to undertake their searches without alerting any potential suspects, just in case those poisons were still on the premises.

Peregrines have long been persecuted in Northern Ireland, mostly linked to pigeon racing rather than gamekeeping, and the species has suffered population decline as a result (see here). Undertaking searches is a big step forward there so today’s searches are a very welcome move by the police and their partners at the NIEA.

Hopefully there’ll be some progress that’ll lead to a prosecution in this case. The illegal poisoning of any raptor in this day and age is an outrage, but to do this so close to Belfast city centre, with such dangerous poisons, is reckless beyond belief.

30
Jun
21

Spanish farmer fined & jailed for poisoning vultures

Once again, a Spanish court has imposed a significant penalty on an individual found guilty of deliberately poisoning birds of prey, according to an article on the Vulture Conservation Foundation website.

The article (here) says that in spring 2019 three dead griffon vultures were found on a sheep farm in the province of Cáceres. An investigation led to the discovery of dead sheep that had been sprayed with poisonous insecticide which the judge decided had been deliberately placed to poison the vultures.

 [One of the poisoned griffon vultures. Photo by Jovan Andevski]

Reporting this week, the Vulture Conservation Foundation states that the court sentenced the sheep farmer to 18 months in prison and ordered him to pay a daily fine of €3 for 21 months (totalling approximately €1,900) and a further fine of €18,000 to be paid to the General Directorate of Rural Environment of the Junta de Extremadura to compensate for each poisoned vulture (€6,000 per vulture).

An almost €20,000 fine and an 18-month custodial sentence is a significant penalty for raptor poisoning, and far, far more significant than anything we’ve ever seen in the UK, although with increased penalties now available in Scotland for this type of offence there is at least some potential for a strong response from the Scottish courts, as we’ve seen time and time again from the Spanish courts (e.g. see herehereherehere, here and here) including massive fines, custodial sentences and extended hunting disqualifications.

Although the availability of strong penalties will be no deterrent if the chance of catching an offender is still marginal, which I’m afraid it is in the UK, and the raptor killers know this only too well. Spain has worked to overcome these difficulties by the use of specialist wildlife crime officers with the freedom to undertake unannounced spot checks on private land, with specialist search dogs, at any given time.

Can you imagine this happening on a grouse moor, with strong links to the royal family, inside the Cairngorms National Park? No, me neither, and this is what happens as a result.

04
May
21

Golden eagle found poisoned – police raid Invercauld Estate in Cairngorms National Park

Today Police Scotland raided, under warrant, the Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park following the discovery of a poisoned golden eagle in March 2021.

[Invercauld Estate boundary. Map produced from data on Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website]

There are very few verifiable details around at the moment so I’ll probably wait for the police press release before saying much more.

But rest assured, there will be an awful lot more to say about this latest wildlife crime on an estate that has been at the centre of a number of investigations over many, many years.

UPDATE 5th May 2021: Police statement on poisoned golden eagle found on Invercauld Estate, Cairngorms National Park (here)

UPDATE 6th May 2021: Poisoned golden eagle: statement from Cairngorms National Park Authority (here)

UPDATE 6th May 2021: Poisoned golden eagle: examining the statement from Invercauld Estate (here)

UPDATE 6th May 2021: Poisoned golden eagle: confirmation it was found dead on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate (here)

UPDATE 10th May 2021: Why the Invercauld golden eagle killer will evade prosecution (here)

UPDATE 12th May 2021: Poisoned golden eagle: statement from NatureScot (here)

UPDATE 13th May 2021: Invercauld Estate leaves ‘partnership’ following discovery of deliberately poisoned golden eagle (here)

UPDATE 13th May 2021: “Another poisoned golden eagle? If the SNP are serious about protecting wildlife we need an Environment Secretary who will act” – Jim Crumley (here)

UPDATE 18th May 2021: Poisoned golden eagle: will a General Licence restriction now be imposed on Invercauld Estate? (here)

UPDATE 30th May 2021: Game-shooting industry called out on raptor persecution by one of its own (here)

UPDATE 1st July 2021: Poisoned golden eagle: Cairngorms National Park Authority refuses to publish correspondence with Invercauld Estate (here)

17
Dec
20

Poisoned red kite found dead on Scottish grouse moor – an interesting police investigation

Further to yesterday’s news from Police Scotland that a poisoned red kite had been found dead on a Scottish grouse moor at Moy (see here), news has emerged that this bird was also being satellite-tracked, which has implications for the police investigation and any potential sanction imposed on the estate as a result.

An article in today’s Strathspey and Badenoch Herald (here) published a photograph of the young kite with two of its siblings when they were fitted with satellite tags in 2019. The article also notes that this kite was from the first brood to fledge in the Cairngorms National Park, and the first successful brood in the Badenoch & Strathspey area since 1880 (thanks to blog reader Dave Pierce for posting this as a blog comment yesterday).

[The three red kite siblings, fitted with satellite tags, in the Cairngorms National Park. Photo Scottish Raptor Study Group]

It’s not often, these days, that a poisoned satellite-tagged raptor is found (although there are some notable exceptions, including this satellite-tagged white tailed eagle, found poisoned on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park earlier this year).

Since satellite-tagging became more routine, poisoning offences have dropped considerably, presumably because the presence of a satellite tag increases the probability of crime detection. Instead, the shooting and trapping of raptors have become much more prevalent killing methods because the perpetrator has more control over the crime scene (and can thus remove evidence quickly). What we usually get with satellite-tagged raptors these days is a sudden and inexplicable ‘stop’ in the tracking data, and both the tag and the bird ‘disappear’, never to be seen again (well, only if the criminal has hidden the evidence of the crime properly, unlike in this recent case where a golden eagle’s satellite tag was discovered cut off and wrapped in lead [to block the signal] and dumped in a river).

So the discovery of this poisoned satellite-tagged red kite at Moy is unusual, but also very helpful. Depending on the type of tag and it’s ‘duty cycle’ (i.e. the frequency with which the tag had been programmed to collect and transmit data), information should be available to Police Scotland to inform them of the kite’s recent movements. For example, had it been on this grouse moor for several days (in which case the likelihood of it being poisoned there would seem high) or had it travelled in from a distance elsewhere shortly before dying, which might indicate it was poisoned elsewhere?

Much will also depend on the type of poison used (which hasn’t been disclosed) and the dose and the toxicity. We know from the Police press release yesterday that it was a banned poison (one of eight listed on the Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005, which are Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium phosphide,  Bendiocarb, Carbofuran, Mevinphos, Sodium cyanide and Strychnine) but some of these poisons are incredibly fast-acting and others are less so, which might also give clues to where the poison had been placed.

Information also hasn’t been released about whether a poisoned bait was found close to the poisoned red kite. Sometimes they are (especially if the poison used is fast-acting) but other times the bait is not present, which might suggest the bird was poisoned elsewhere and managed to fly some distance before succumbing to death.

In other cases bait has been found placed out on estate boundary fences – this has been a common ploy by some estates that aims to obfuscate a police investigation and point blame to an innocent, neighbouring estate where the poisoned bird may have been found dead.

For obvious reasons, the Police haven’t released much of the details because the criminal investigation is ongoing. However, it is these details that will inform the decision-making process at NatureScot (SNH rebranded) as to whether a General Licence restriction order should be imposed on Moy Estate after the discovery of this poisoned red kite.

As regular blog readers will know, General Licence restriction orders are pretty impotent because estates can simply circumnavigate them with applications for individual licences instead, but nevertheless, that’s not a reason for not imposing them where merited.

This’ll be an interesting case to follow.

28
Nov
19

Yet another red kite found illegally poisoned in Nidderdale AONB

Press release from RSPB (28 November 2019)

Red Kite poisoned in Nidderdale

North Yorkshire Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after a protected red kite was found poisoned in an area of North Yorkshire with the worst record for the illegal killing of birds of prey in England.

A member of the public found the bird dead under a tree in Blazefield, just outside Pateley Bridge, Nidderdale in March 2019. North Yorkshire Police submitted the bird to be tested for poison, and results show the bird tested positive for the insecticide bendiocarb. This is one of the top five most commonly abused substances involved in raptor poisoning cases. It is also extremely toxic to people and pets.

Killing a bird of prey is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Anyone found responsible for this bird’s death faces an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in jail. The police are now appealing for information. 

[A dead red kite]

[Blazefield, sandwiched between some of the most notorious wildlife-killing grouse moors in the UK]

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “Poison baits deliberately placed out in the open, where anyone could find them, puts people, pets and wildlife in danger. Based on government toxicology data, from 2009 to 2018 the RSPB recorded an astonishing 369 incidents of the illegal use of pesticides to kill or target birds of prey. Bendiocarb, a very toxic insecticide, is something we come across again and again being used for this purpose.”

According to data collated by the RSPB, the Nidderdale area – which is dominated by extensive driven grouse shooting – is the worst black spot for raptor persecution crimes in England, clocking up more incidents in the last seven years than anywhere else.

In September 2019, the Nidderdale AONB published their ‘bird of prey evidence report’ which highlighted the impact of illegal persecution upon the protected landscape’s birds of prey. The report stated that ‘The spread of red kites into the AONB is being restricted by illegal persecution’.

In August 2019, North Yorkshire Police appealed for information after a red kite was found shot and also poisoned in Wath, near Harrogate, within the Nidderdale AONB. This bird contained two pieces of shot, one of which was from an older injury which it had survived, indicating it had been shot on two occasions. But it was also found to contain a cocktail of highly toxic pesticides, and this was deemed the ultimate cause of death.

And in April 2019, a satellite-tagged hen harrier named River was found dead on Nidderdale’s Swinton Estate, following a search by North Yorkshire Police and RSPB Investigations. She too had been illegally shot.

Howard Jones added: “Nidderdale has become a death zone for birds of prey. Our message to the community is this: If you enjoy spending time in the countryside, please be vigilant. Report anything suspicious. If you have information about someone killing birds of prey, please speak out. This is happening on your doorstep, to your wildlife. Let’s make it known that this barbaric, relentless destruction of wildlife is not something North Yorkshire will tolerate.

“Finally, if you are being instructed to kill birds of prey, please do not break the law on someone else’s behalf. Call our confidential hotline on 0300 999 0101.”

ENDS

Eight months for this appeal for information to emerge? That’s pathetic. Let’s hope there was at least a local appeal for information – a spokesperson from North Yorkshire Police is quoted in this article in today’s Yorkshire Post saying “Despite extensive investigations……” so perhaps this included warnings to the local community that some criminal psychopath had been laying out deadly poisons in the area. Also interesting to note that the Yorkshire Post article says the banned poison Isophenphos was also detected in the kite’s carcass.

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”. 

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Here’s a map we produced a while ago showing the boundary of the Nidderdale AONB (yellow line), illegally killed red kites (red dots), missing satellite-tagged hen harriers (orange stars), shot hen harrier Bowland Betty (red star), shot hen harrier River (red triangle, which we now know should be closer to the red star on the Swinton Estate).

UPDATE 3 December 2019: Poisoned red kite in Nidderdale – two local businesses put up a reward (here)

14
Mar
19

Poisoned raven found on Peak District grouse moor: Natural England & Police fail to investigate

A year ago in March 2018, a dead raven was found on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park.

The member of the public who found it, Bob Berzins, was savvy enough to call the RSPB Investigations Team, who collected the corpse.

[Dead raven, photo by Bob Berzins]

Given the location, and the area’s long history of the illegal persecution of birds of prey (e.g. see here), the RSPB asked Natural England to run toxicology tests on the corpse, as is routine when animals have been found dead in suspicious circumstances or risky locations. According to the RSPB, Natural England refused to test the bird.

Instead, the RSPB paid to have the corpse privately tested, first in a post-mortem at the SRUC lab in Scotland and then for toxicology tests at the Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) labs, who have an excellent track record for conducting these forensic examinations.

SASA confirmed that this raven had been poisoned by Aldicarb, a toxin so dangerous that in Scotland if you’re caught even being in possession of it, let alone using it, you’ve committed an offence.

The RSPB reported these lab results to South Yorkshire Police and, according to the RSPB, nothing else has happened since, not even a police search of the grouse moor to look for further poisoned baits or victims.

You can read the details of this pathetic response to a criminal act on the RSPB’s blog here.

The RSPB Investigations Team has also produced a video about this case, here:

What the hell is going on? Why did Natural England refuse to test this raven for banned pesticides when it had been found in an area notorious as a raptor persecution hotspot?

And why did South Yorkshire police fail to investigate further? They should have been all over this, not least with a publicity campaign alerting members of the public, who visit this National Park in their millions, to the dangers of touching any dead animal or suspected poisoned bait. A year has passed and South Yorkshire police appear to have done absolutely nothing.

Disgraceful.

Well done Bob Berzins and well done to the RSPB, not just for paying to have this bird privately tested but also for submitting a formal complaint to South Yorkshire police and for alerting the public to the very serious threat of toxic poisonous baits being laid out on the ground inside this so-called National Park.




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