Posts Tagged ‘shooting

14
Aug
17

Grouse shooting industry silent on marsh harrier persecution

Last Thursday (10th August 2017) North Yorkshire Police issued an appeal for information about several armed men, dressed as gamekeepers, who had been filmed trying to shoot a nesting Marsh harrier on a Yorkshire grouse moor in May. Some more armed men, still dressed as gamekeepers, were also filmed removing eggs from the Marsh harrier’s nest.

The Police appeal for information about the crimes, and an RSPB blog about the crimes, can be found here. The RSPB’s video footage of the crimes can be viewed here:

Four days on, we were interested to find out what the leading representatives of the grouse shooting industry have had to say about these crimes so we checked the following website news sections:

Moorland Association – nothing

National Gamekeepers Organisation – nothing

Countryside Alliance – nothing

British Association for Shooting & Conservation – nothing

Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – nothing

No condemnation of these crimes. No appeals for information about these crimes from within their industry. Just a complete wall of silence. We even asked the Moorland Association whether this grouse moor was a member, and we asked the National Gamekeepers Organisation whether they had any members employed on this grouse moor. The responses? Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

It’s the same deafening silence that followed the discovery of a poisons cache buried on another North Yorkshire grouse moor (see here).

Isn’t it great to see these ‘partners’ in the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) speaking out and doing their utmost to fight against illegal raptor persecution? It’s yet more evidence that the whole ethos of ‘partnership working’ against raptor persecution is nothing more than a sham.

Actually, how does this collective silence meet with the requirements of being a PAW member?

Let’s look at the PAW mission statement first:

Working in partnership to reduce wildlife crime through prevention and awareness-raising, better regulation, and effective and targeted enforcement‘.

Now let’s look at the PAW objectives:

  • PAW will raise awareness of wildlife legislation and the impacts of wildlife crime
  • PAW will help and advise on wildlife crime and regulatory issues
  • PAW will ensure all wildlife crime is tackled effectively.
  • All PAW members of PAW UK should take action in support of these overarching objectives

How does refusing to comment about raptor persecution crimes meet with any of the PAW objectives?

Some of these PAW members (all of them except the GWCT) are also members of the England & Wales PAW subgroup, the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG). This is the group that DEFRA has identified as being integral to their highly controversial Hen Harrier Recovery Plan. Part of the RPPDG’s role is to provide publicity about raptor persecution, in order ‘to build trust and transparency’. Strange then, that we haven’t found any statement from the RPPDG about the persecution of Marsh harriers on this North Yorkshire grouse moor.

We were interested to read about a few hundred Hunt Saboteurs ‘sabbing’ (disrupting) a couple of grouse shoots this last weekend. As the shooting industry members of the PAW Partnership continue to deliver nothing at all, don’t be surprised to see more of this direct action approach in the months and years ahead.

11
Aug
17

More illegal raptor persecution hotspots revealed in new map

Ian Thomson, Head of RSPB Investigations Scotland has written an interesting blog examining the ‘disappearance’ and/or illegal killing of satellite tagged red kites and hen harriers – see here.

It’s well worth a read. And take a close look at this map, illustrating the locations of suspicious disappearances as well as where the corpses have been found:

Here’s a direct quote from Ian:

It is clear from this map that, like golden eagles, the distribution of illegally killed or suspiciously disappeared satellite-tagged red kites and hen harriers is far from random, and shows clear clusters in some upland areas. As with the “hotspots” for eagles, these clusters are almost entirely coincident with land dominated by driven grouse shooting management, again including areas like the northern Monadhliaths and the Angus Glens. But, harriers and kites have clearly being targeted in other regions – notably, but not exclusively, upper Strathspey, Strathnairn and the Lowther Hills of S Lanarkshire‘.

Following the recent news that the RSPB, in partnership with LUSH, has satellite-tagged a record number of hen harriers this year, we can expect many more dots to appear on this map, most of them will be added before Xmas.

We’ll be undertaking some finer analyses of this map, probably next week, and we’ll be asking blog readers to get involved. More on that soon.

There’s one other point in Ian’s blog that is worth highlighting here, in response to the unsubstantiated yet repeated claims by some that raptors do better on driven grouse moors than they do on RSPB reserves:

More pairs of hen harriers bred successfully on one RSPB reserve on Islay in 2017, than on the grouse moors of Aberdeenshire, Kincardineshire, Angus and the Scottish Borders put together. In fact, RSPB nature reserves hold 10% of Scotland’s breeding population of hen harriers, with 46 pairs in 2016‘.

How many hen harriers do you think bred successfully on Scottish grouse moors in 2016 (where driven shooting took place – not on moors which are currently not being shot)?

Photo of hen harrier Annie, who was found shot on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire in 2015. (Image: RSPB Scotland).

10
Aug
17

Video of marsh harrier persecution on North Yorkshire grouse moor

If anybody has been foolish enough to believe any of the grouse shooting industry’s recent propaganda onslaught in the run up to the Inglorious 12th, here’s a shocking reminder of what really goes on.

Press release published today by North Yorkshire Police:

POLICE INVESTIGATE PERSECUTION OF BREEDING MARSH HARRIERS

North Yorkshire Police are investigating an incident in which men disturbed a pair of marsh harriers nesting on moorland north of Denton, near Ilkley, in Wharfedale.

In May 2017 a pair of marsh harriers was discovered nesting on moorland forming part of Middleton and Denton moors near the village of Denton in North Yorkshire.

The site was monitored by RSPB investigators who photographed the nest containing five eggs. The adult birds were observed at the nest.

A camera was set up to record activity at the nest site. Video images recorded by the camera show that on 17 May at least two individuals, who appeared to be men, wearing dull, brownish green coloured jackets, traditional country caps, and carrying what looked like shotguns and a brown game bag approached the nest site on six occasions between 12.40pm and 9.30pm. The sound of several shots fired in the vicinity of the nest  were recorded, as was the noise of an engine, believed to be a quad bike. One of the men stood over the nest, bent down, and appeared to pick up something from the nest before walking away.

The following day, 18 May, a further visit by a man, similarly attired, along with a green rucksack, was recorded at around 9.40am. This individual stood over the nest, bent down, and appeared to remove something from the nest.

An RSPB investigator checked the site on 19 May and discovered the nest had no eggs in it, with no sign of any debris from damaged eggs.

The people shown on the video at the nest site have not been identified. A number of men have been spoken to by police as part of the investigation.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) makes it an offence to take, damage, or destroy the nest of any wild bird. Marsh harriers are a scarce species, listed on schedule 1 of the WCA, and have additional protection. It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb birds listed on schedule 1 while they are at, or near, a nest with eggs or young. Marsh harriers are birds of prey and they normally breed in marshes and reed beds. It is unusual to find them breeding in heather on a moor.

PC Bill Hickson, who is investigating the incident, said: “The video evidence provided by the RSPB shows illegal activity around a marsh harrier nest, and the activity shown speaks for itself. The pictures on the video are, unfortunately, too small to produce an image from which any of the individuals shown could be identified.”

Anyone who has any information about the incident or can help identify who was responsible is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police. Telephone 101, choose option 2 and ask for PC 820 Bill Hickson or email bill.hickson@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk.

ENDS

The RSPB has released a copy of the video footage: (make sure the volume is turned up)

The RSPB’s investigations unit has also published a blog about this case, here.

Gosh, who do you think those armed gunmen were? It’s a tricky one.

Here’s a map we’ve created to show the approximate location in Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (which also just happens to be a notorious raptor persecution hotspot):

Well done to the RSPB Investigations Team for securing this footage (note: NOT inadmissible evidence) and very well done to North Yorkshire Police for a timely public appeal for information.

If, like us, you’re sick to the back teeth of the illegal persecution of raptors on grouse moors, and you want 10 million people to hear about it, please consider using your social media accounts (twitter & facebook) to sign up to Findlay Wilde’s thunderclap, due to go out at 9.30am on the morning of the Inglorious 12th. At the moment, the social reach of this thunderclap is over 9.5 million people. Let’s get it to ten million. Please sign here.

09
Aug
17

Record number of hen harriers fitted with satellite tags

 

RSPB press release:

The RSPB has fitted a record number of hen harrier chicks with satellite tags in the UK this year, more than doubling the number from any other year.

More than 24 birds have been fitted with transmitters so far, the majority of them in Scotland, as part of the conservation organisation’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE Project. Harriers were also tagged in Wales and the Isle of Man.

By tracking the movements of these threatened birds of prey, the RSPB will be able to build up an even clearer picture of where hen harriers go and where they are most at risk, for example from illegal persecution.

This is the third consecutive year that hen harriers have been tagged as part of the project [6 tagged in 2015; 12 tagged in 2016]. The increase in the number of tags deployed in 2017 was made possible by cosmetic company LUSH, which raised funds through the sales of a specially created “Skydancer” bath bomb.

Conservationists hope the ‘Hen Harrier Class of 2017’ will fare better than last year’s cohort. Out of the 12 young harriers fitted with tags by the RSPB in 2016, only five are still alive. [See here for fates of RSPB and Natural England tagged 2016 hen harriers].

One of the birds, Carroll, was found dead having suffered from an infectious disease. Disturbingly, a post mortem later revealed lead pellets, indicating she had survived being shot at some earlier point in her life. Two of the other birds disappeared in suspicious circumstances when their tags suddenly stopped transmitting, while a further three were lost to unknown causes. All are presumed to have died, as it is very rare for tags to fail for technical reasons.

It is not only RSPB-tagged hen harriers that have met with untimely demises over the past 12 months. In May this year a police investigation was launched after a hen harrier was allegedly shot on Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire, while in October Rowan, a bird tagged by Natural England, was discovered shot dead in Cumbria.

The RSPB sincerely hopes that Natural England will publish the publicly funded satellite tracking data which the statutory agency has collected over the past decade, as this will add significantly to the weight of evidence being gathered through the RSPB’s work. [We have an FoI back from NE about this and will blog shortly].

The need for this sort of data has never been greater. Hen harriers are in serious trouble across the UK. The results of the recently published National Hen Harrier Survey revealed that in the last 12 years, the number of breeding pairs has declined by more than a quarter (27%) in Scotland and by over a third (39%) in the UK as a whole.

While the final numbers are still being collated, anecdotal reports suggest the situation in Scotland does not appear to have improved this breeding season with hen harriers notably absent or in very low numbers in areas of suitable habitat, particularly in the south and east. In England, the final figures for 2017 show only three successful nests across habitat suitable for over 300.

The main reason hen harriers are continuing to decline is illegal killing and disturbance associated with the increasingly intensive management of driven grouse moors. The Scottish Government recently set up an independent enquiry into gamebird shoot licensing after an independent scientific review of golden eagle satellite tracking data revealed that approximately a third of them are being illegally killed.

Blánaid Denman, Project Manager for the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project, said: By satellite tracking more hen harriers than ever before, we’ll gain a clearer picture of where these birds are spending their time and what exactly is happening to them. We’ve already discovered previously unknown nesting and winter roosting sites, as well as been able to pinpoint where natural deaths and illegal killings have occurred.

“It’s both infuriating and utterly heartbreaking to see these beautiful birds, year after year, disappear off the radar. Something needs to change. A system of grouse moor licensing would not only protect hen harriers but also tackle wider damaging grouse moor management practices, such as heather burning on deep peat and inappropriate drainage. For now though, I’ll be watching our newly fledged hen harriers, praying for their safety, and waiting to see what incredible journeys are about to unfold.”

Paul Morton from LUSH said: “We’re thrilled to hear that the money raised by our customers has allowed the RSPB to sat tag more hen harrier chicks than ever before. Monitoring as many youngsters as possible as they take their first flights across the length and breadth of the country is vital for their long-term protection. The message is loud and clear; a nation is watching and will have the welfare of each of these birds close to our hearts. The illegal persecution of hen harriers or any bird of prey will not be tolerated“.

From September, it will be possible to follow the travels of a selection of this year’s tagged hen harriers, together with last year’s surviving birds at: www.rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife.

ENDS

A fantastic partnership effort (real, actual partnership-working rather than the charade of pretence we’re so used to seeing from the PAW Raptor Group). Well done to all involved at RSPB and LUSH, and well done to everyone who purchased a Skydancer bathbomb because you helped this project happen.

02
Aug
17

Police interview man re: shot red kite in Nidderdale

North Yorkshire Police have issued a further appeal for information about the shooting of a red kite in Nidderdale.

The kite was found near Greenhow in Nidderdale on Saturday 11th March 2017 (see here). Since then, a number of rewards have been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved. One of these rewards has been offered by local businesses in nearby Pateley Bridge (see here).

Last month North Yorkshire Police interviewed a local man in connection with the incident and now they are appealing again for more information.

PC David Mackay, a Wildlife Crime Officer from the North Yorkshire Police Rural Task Force said: “We have had a good response so far from the public to our appeal for information, and I am urging anyone who has not yet come forward to do so now. This lengthy investigation shows that we take bird of prey persecution extremely seriously“.

North Yorkshire Police is being supported in the investigation by the Yorkshire Red Kites group. Doug Simpson, the Yorkshire Red Kite Co-ordinator, said: “I am pleased to hear of the progress made in this case. I would encourage anyone with any information not yet reported to contact the police as soon as possible.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Wildlife Crime Officer David Mackay:  david.mackay@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk and quote reference number 12170047155. Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

The grouse moor areas of Nidderdale and the neighbouring Yorkshire Dales National Park are well known raptor persecution hotspots. In the last ten years (2007-2017), twenty six red kites have been confirmed as victims of illegal persecution in North Yorkshire (18 poisoned, 8 shot). Twenty two of those red kites were killed in Nidderdale or the National Park. Earlier this year the RSPB wrote a blog about red kite persecution in this region and produced this shocking map:

Well done North Yorkshire Police for persistence with this latest investigation (see press release here).

Red kite photo by Richard Stonier

02
Aug
17

Peregrine shot in Ipswich – police investigation launched

Suffolk Police are investigating the shooting of a young male peregrine in Ipswich.

The bird, one of four to have fledged this year from the Mill Tower at Ipswich Waterfront, was found alive but in an emaciated condition at the weekend. He was taken to Riversbrook Veterinary Practice where an x-ray revealed he had been shot in the leg. Unfortunately he didn’t survive.

Further details in the Ipswich Star here

Photos by Riversbrook Veterinary Practice

17
Jul
17

There’s nothing ‘draconian’ about licensing game shooting estates

There were a couple of articles published in the Scottish Mail on Sunday yesterday about the possibility (probability) of the introduction of game shoot licensing in Scotland.

The first article didn’t bring anything new to the story; it was just a re-hashed version of who’s said what since Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced a package of new measures to address the on-going problem of raptor persecution and unsustainable grouse moor management. Lord David Johnstone of Scottish Land & Estates talked about maintaining the status quo (i.e. no licensing scheme required), James Reynolds of RSPB Scotland talked about the necessity of introducing a licensing scheme because self-regulation by the grouse-shooting industry has failed, and an unnamed spokesman from the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association talked about how licensing could have serious consequences for gamekeepers and their families. The two journalists who wrote the article described the Government’s proposed review as ‘the latest blow to landowners following draconian land reforms and the abolition of tax breaks’.

What ‘draconian land reforms’ are those, then? And why should multi-millionaire landowners, whose grouse moors are already subsidised by the public purse, be entitled to tax breaks?

Here’s a copy of the article, and for those who struggle to read it, here’s a PDF version so you can zoom in and increase the font size: MailonSunday1_July162017

The second article was a commentary column written by Carrieanne Conaghan, a gamekeeper’s wife who coordinates the ‘Speyside Moorland Group’ – one of several regional moorland groups closely affiliated with the Gift of Grouse propaganda campaign.

The headline begins: ‘As Draconian new land laws loom…’ These words probably weren’t Carrieanne’s but nevertheless, it’s clear from her commentary that estate licensing isn’t welcomed by gamekeepers because, she says, “For the vast majority of estates who have done nothing wrong and are resolute in their fight against wildlife crime, they would be penalised by strict new controls“.

Unfortunately she doesn’t explain why or how she things law-abiding estates would be “penalised by strict new controls“. The fact of the matter is, they wouldn’t be penalised at all, as the penalities would only be felt by those who continue to illegally kill protected raptors. And quite rightly so. Law-abiding gamekeepers, and their employers, have absolutely nothing to fear from the introduction of a licensing scheme, and you’d think they’d be welcoming it with open arms because if anything, it’ll protect them from being lumped in with the criminals.

Here’s the article and here it is as a PDF: MailOnSunday2_July162017

Carrieanne also claims that, “More worryingly, it [licensing] also brings the potential of gamekeepers losing their homes and livelihoods if a licence to operate was withdrawn“. This is just emotional scaremongering, probably encouraged by the same tosh spouted by SGA Chairman Alex Hogg earlier this year (see here). The only reason gamekeepers would potentially lose their homes and livelihoods would be if they’d broken the conditions of the licence and the subsequent withdrawal of that licence. That principle applies to everybody else in society whose activities are licensed. It’s the risk you run if, for example, you’re a professional driver and you commit road traffic offences leading to the loss of your driving licence. Why should gamekeepers be exempt from regulation when everyone else’s lives are governed by such rules?

Carrieanne claims that the licensing proposal has been brought about by “activists who object to the very existence of grouse moors, whether their opposition is based on a dislike of shooting or the ‘toffs’ who they believe are the only ones who participate“. Actually, the proposal was brought about by ordinary members of the public who are sick to the back teeth of criminal gamekeepers and their employers getting away with the illegal slaughter of protected wildlife, particularly on driven grouse moors.

Carrieanne claims that raptor persecution is “in decline” and that “tough new legislation has had a positive effect“. She also thinks, because her gamekeeper husband told her, that gamekeepers “desire to manage moorland for the interests of all species, whether it be grouse, ground-nesting birds, mountain hares or birds of prey“. Good grief.

She must have missed the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, the findings of which were the final straw for Roseanna Cunningham and which led directly to the current proposition of a licensing scheme. She must also have missed the news that the hen harrier population continues to spiral downwards, thanks in large part to illegal persecution, and the news that peregrine populations continue to decline in areas dominated by driven grouse moors, and the news that the northern red kite population continues to suffer from the impact of illegal persecution on driven grouse moors, and the news that five prosecutions for alleged wildlife crime (all involving gamekeepers or their employers) have all been dropped in recent months, and the news that raptors continue to be illegally shot, even in recent weeks (see here, here) or illegally trapped (see here) on grouse moors up and down the country.

Did anyone see any gamekeepers or any moorland groups condemning these incidents? Where was their uproar? Where was their outrage? How many gamekeepers or members of moorland groups have provided information/intelligence to the police about any of these recent crimes? We’ll take an educated guess – none of them.

Carrieanne is right to be concerned about her family’s livelihood, but it’s not at risk from a licensing scheme, which is neither draconian or unnecessary; it’s actually a long overdue and pretty measured response to decades of criminality and unsustainable practices. Carrieanne’s livelihood is only at risk from those criminal gamekeepers and their employers who refuse to reform and continue to stick up two fingers to the law.

UPDATE 25 July 2017: SRSG response letter here




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

Blog Stats

  • 3,202,884 hits

Archives

Our recent blog visitors