Posts Tagged ‘shooting

11
Jul
19

Shot hen harrier’s corpse found on Swinton Estate, a grouse moor in North Yorkshire

In January this year, the RSPB reported that a satellite-tagged hen harrier called ‘River’ had disappeared in suspicious circumstances in November 2018 on an unnamed grouse moor in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) (see here).

This was an area where the day before River ‘disappeared’, the RSPB had filmed an unidentified gunman with two dogs at a known hen harrier roost (see here).

Nothing more was heard from River’s tag until the end of March 2019. What happened next is recounted in an RSPB blog published this afternoon:

SHOT HEN HARRIER FOUND ON NORTH YORKSHIRE GROUSE MOOR

By Mark Thomas, Head of Investigations, RSPB

Another satellite-tagged hen harrier, found dead on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire, has been confirmed as shot.

You may remember River, the young female hen harrier who suddenly disappeared in November 2018 in suspicious circumstances. We wrote about it here. Now, further information has emerged – and it’s not good news.

River was satellite tagged in Lancashire in 2018 as part of the RSPB EU Hen Harrier LIFE project. In November 2018 she sent out her last transmission from a roost location on a driven grouse moor in North Yorkshire, within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. My staff and North Yorkshire Police searched the area but found no trace of the bird or the tag.

Then surprisingly at the end of March 2019, River’s tag gave off another signal confirming that she was dead and giving a precise location. These satellite tags are solar powered, and it’s possible that the bird’s body was disturbed, allowing the tag to ‘wake up’ and get back in touch with us. The longer, brighter days might have had their effect too.

This latest ‘ping’ gave us an exact location of River’s body, and again my staff and the police officers set out to recover her. They found her dead on Ilton Moor on the Swinton Estate on 5 April 2019. She was just 3.7km away from where her last transmission in November had come from, both on the same estate.

[Hen harrier River’s corpse being retrieved from a grouse moor on Swinton Estate. Photo by RSPB]

River’s decomposed body was recovered and taken to be X-rayed by the Police. Yesterday I received confirmation from North Yorkshire Police that her body contained two pieces of shot, one of which had later been retrieved and confirmed as such by the Police.

We don’t know precisely when or where River was shot, or who did it, but clearly she has been the subject of illegal persecution.

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. However, hen harriers like River continue to suffer at the hands of people clearly breaking these laws, and clearly undeterred by the consequences.

River is the latest hen harrier to be shot, adding to the evidence that these birds are being routinely illegally killed, often on land being used for driven grouse shooting.

The RSPB is calling for the licensing of driven grouse moors. With just a handful of breeding hen harrier pairs left in England, this is a species with everything to lose if the status quo continues.

If you have any information which might help identify who shot River, or if you know anything about birds of prey being killed in your area, you can contact my team in confidence on our hotline: 0300 999 0101.

ENDS

This news has a certain amount of inevitability about it. A hen harrier has been shot and her corpse has been found on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire.

According to Mark’s blog, River’s corpse was retrieved from the Swinton Estate. Mark quite rightly states that it’s not possible to identify when, exactly, she was shot, or where or by whom. However, River’s demise mirrors that of so many other young satellite-tracked hen harriers – in fact 72% of them according to this recent scientific research.

The Swinton Estate may be a familiar name to some blog readers – it’s where the shot corpse of hen harrier Bowland Betty was discovered in 2012 (see here). Again, it was not possible to identify who had shot her, or where (she may have been shot elsewhere and managed to fly some distance before collapsing and dying on Swinton) and so nobody was charged or prosecuted for killing her.

The Swinton Estate may be a familiar name to other blog readers because we’ve previously reported on an estate gamekeeper who was convicted in 2014 for illegally setting a pole trap, twice, in 2013 (see here). He told the court the pole trap was nothing to do with targeting protected raptor species, but had been set with the intention of catching squirrels. No matter, he was still convicted because, quite rightly, barbaric pole traps have been illegal for decades.

The Swinton Estate name has cropped up in recent weeks as it’s rumoured to be hosting at least two hen harrier breeding attempts, and we believe one of those nests has since been ‘brood meddled’ by Natural England with either the hen harrier eggs or chicks removed and taken in to captivity (see here).

Please note: the location of this brood meddled nest is as yet unconfirmed because Natural England is refusing to publish further details, laughably ‘in the interest of the welfare of the harriers’.

We expect to learn these details later in the year so we’ll certainly be returning to this story. If the brood meddling has taken place on Swinton, we’ll be wanting to know whether Natural England knew about the discovery of River’s shot corpse before the decision to brood meddle was taken.

There’s something else that stood out in Mark’s blog. This statement:

River’s decomposed body was recovered and taken to be X-rayed by the Police. Yesterday I received confirmation from North Yorkshire Police that her body contained two pieces of shot, one of which had later been retrieved and confirmed as such by the Police‘.

Question 1:

Why did it take North Yorkshire Police over three months to notify the RSPB of the x-ray results?

Question 2:

Under what circumstances did North Yorkshire Police ‘later retrieve’ one of the two pieces of shot found in River’s body? WTF?!

There’s something very, very odd going on here.

UPDATE 12 July 2019: How to discuss an illegally shot hen harrier, without mentioning that it’s been illegally shot (here)

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05
Jul
19

Young peregrine found with shotgun injuries in Cheshire

RSPB press release (4 July 2019):

Young peregrine falcon illegally shot

A young peregrine had to be euthanised after it was found with a broken wing and a shotgun pellet in its chest.

The bird was found in the road at Aldford, part of the Grosvenor Estate in Cheshire, on 17 April 2019 and taken to Lower Moss Wood Wildlife Hospital. An X-ray by Northwich Vets confirmed it had a broken wing and piece of shot in its chest.

Knowing it would not recover from its injuries, the vets took the sad decision to put the bird to sleep.

[Photo of the injured peregrine by Ian Daniels]

Peregrine falcons are the world’s fastest birds, able to reach speeds of 200mph when diving for prey. They nest on moorland, on cliffs and increasingly in towns and cities, usually producing two-four chicks each spring. There are thought to be around 1,500 pairs in the UK.

Like all birds of prey, peregrines are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

Cheshire police are now appealing to the public for information.

Only a month before, in March 2019, a raven was found shot dead near Delamere Forest, Cheshire. Police investigated the incident but no leads were identified.

Jenny Shelton from the RSPB’s Investigations Unit said: “Most major cities will have their own ‘peregrine pair’, probably nesting on a cathedral spire or another tall building. Our lives and theirs are becoming increasingly entwined, which is a wonderful and very special thing. However there are still some who want to kill these magnificent birds. This young bird, which would have hatched last year so was just shy of its first birthday, was found in considerable distress with a piece of shot in its chest. Naturally, we want to find out who did this.

There is an unseen culture of raptor persecution in the UK, whereby birds like peregrines, ravens and owls are being illegally killed due to a perceived threat to some people’s interests. If you have any information please contact the police on 101, or speak to us in confidence on our raptor crime hotline: 0300 999 0101.”

PC Ged Gigg, Wildlife officer for Cheshire Police said: “Wildlife crime is a priority for us – my colleagues and I are dedicated to investigating crimes that affect our rural communities. I have been making extensive enquiries in the area and would urge anyone who has any information that may help with this investigation to contact police so that we can find those responsible.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Cheshire Police on 101 or go to www.cheshire.police.uk/contact/general-enquiries making sure you quote IML 376696.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form.

ENDS

05
Jul
19

No strong evidence to support claim Norfolk Marsh harrier was ‘shot’

Two days ago the Hawk and Owl Trust announced the discovery of what was claimed to be a “shot” Marsh harrier close to the boundary of the Sculthorpe Moor nature reserve near Fakenham, Norfolk.

This story has since been reported in the local press and national media including the BBC website.

However, to be completely honest, the evidence to support this claim is not strong.

The bird was seen and photographed by a member of the public, but they were unable to reach the bird to rescue it. The photograph shows a clear injury to the harrier’s wing.

[Photo of the injured Marsh harrier, from Hawk and Owl Trust]

The member of the public then reported the discovery to reserve staff who went to try and locate the bird but it had gone. The report on the Hawk & Owl Trust website says ‘the vegetation was all broken down with only a few feathers left’.

The incident was then reported to the police.

Sorry, but unless there’s part of this story that is being kept under wraps for investigative purposes, it’s not possible to tell from the photograph whether this Marsh harrier had been shot or whether it was injured from, say, a collision with a fence. An x-ray would have confirmed it, of course, but under the circumstances an x-ray wasn’t an option.

Of course, it’s perfectly feasible that this Marsh harrier had been shot – we know this species is routinely targeted whether it be in the lowlands (e.g. see here and here) or on upland grouse moors (e.g. here), hated so much that the Moorland Association has been asking questions about whether licences to kill Marsh harriers might be available (see here). But on this particular occasion, with this particular harrier, more evidence would be required before this should be recorded as a confirmed shooting.

It’s ironic really. Remember, this is the same Hawk & Owl Trust that refused to acknowledge that its satellite-tagged hen harrier Rowan had been shot, despite a conclusive x-ray showing the bird’s shattered leg and, er, fragments of shot:

12
Jun
19

Buzzard found shot dead in North York Moors National Park

Yet another buzzard has been found shot dead in the North York Moors National Park according to a tweet by the brilliant Jean Thorpe, wildlife rehabber extraordinaire, on 5 June 2019:

“Shotgun shot buzzard Bransdale Moor, North Yorkshire. National Trust land. Any info please to PC Jez Walmsley, Wildlife crime officer Malton. Yet ANOTHER”.

The x-ray is a bit hard to comprehend, although the spine is clear as is at least one shotgun pellet.

We haven’t been able to find out any further information about this crime.

It’s not the first time raptors have been found illegally killed here. In 2010 a shot goshawk was found at Bransdale (see here) and a post mortem reportedly revealed it had also been poisoned (see here).

In 2012 a walker crossing the moorland in Bransdale found a dead sparrowhawk, also reported to have been shot (see here).

The National Trust owns the land in the valley in Bransdale, ‘surrounded by dramatic open moorland’ which has been described elsewhere as ‘the premier grouse shooting estate in the North York Moors area‘ and ‘one of the country’s most prolific grouse moors‘. Obviously it’s not known whether the buzzard was shot on National Trust property, or on the surrounding grouse moors, or even further further afield and then collapsed at Bransdale.

What is known is that this is yet another raptor persecution crime in North Yorkshire, inside the North York Moors National Park.

Why hasn’t this crime been publicised?

29
May
19

Case against Scottish gamekeeper accused of 12 wildlife crimes proceeds to trial

The case against a south Scotland gamekeeper has continued this week with an intermediate diet (a type of court hearing) and he has pleaded not guilty to a number of alleged offences.

Alan Wilson, 60, is accused of shooting two goshawks, four buzzards, a peregrine falcon, three badgers and an otter at Henlaw Wood, Longformacus, between March 2016 and May 2017.

He also faces charges of using a snare likely to cause partial suspension of an animal or drowning, failing to produce snaring records within 21 days when requested to do so by police and no certificate for an air weapon.

We also believe he is accused of the alleged possession of the banned pesticide, Carbofuran.

Due to Mr Wilson’s not guilty plea, this case will now proceed to trial at Jedburgh Sheriff Court on 13 June 2019.

Previous blogs about this case: see herehere here  here here and here.

Please note: we will not be accepting comments on this news item until legal proceedings have concluded. Thanks.

25
May
19

Brilliant response from North Pennines AONB to illegal buzzard shootings

On Thursday we blogged about two separate wildlife crimes that had occurred recently in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) where two buzzards had been shot – one near Steel and one near Blanchland (see here), an area with a growing reputation for raptor persecution.

[Photo of one of the shot buzzards and an x-ray by Hadrian Vets]

This is an area where the landscape is dominated by grouse moors and we commented on the number of ‘official’ signs in the region offering public information on access rules and warning of ‘dangerous mine or quarry excavations’. We suggested that in addition to these signs, the North Pennines AONB Partnership team might consider putting up other signs, warning the public that they were entering a known raptor persecution hotspot, offering tips on what to look out and providing information about how to report any suspicious activity.

This led to a short discussion on Twitter with the Director of the AONB Partnership, Chris Woodley-Stewart , who told us there weren’t any plans to put up new signs because he “doubted we’d get permission“. Presumably that means permission from the land owners.

It’s difficult to understand why grouse moor owners in a raptor persecution hotspot might not want to encourage members of the public to keep an extra eye out for raptor killers, isn’t it? Aren’t they all supposed to find raptor persecution abhorrent? Aren’t they all supposed to be doing their utmost to fight it? Aren’t they represented by the Moorland Association on the police-led Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG)? Isn’t their Moorland Association rep, Amanda Anderson, chomping at the bit looking for ways her members can contribute to the objectives of the RPPDG (e.g. raising awareness about raptor persecution)? Isn’t one of the conditions of being an RPPDG member the need to provide evidence of either proactive or reactive responses to raptor crime? The Moorland Association hasn’t even published a statement on its own website to raise awareness about these latest crimes against two birds of prey. We fully expect RPPDG Chair Nick Lyall to hold the Moorland Association to account at the next RPPDG meeting.

In complete contrast to the Moorland Association’s apparent silence, the North Pennines AONB Partnership (also a member of the RPPDG) has responded brilliantly, and, refusing to be deterred by the constraints of potentially unhelpful private landowners, the Partnership has instead taken the initiative to distribute posters on public land, and deliver leaflets to shops and pubs, alerting the public to the buzzard shootings, appealing for information, and informing people what to do if they suspect raptor crime in their area.

[Photo of a North Pennines AONB Partnership team member posting an appeal for information on a public notice board. Image from @NorthPennAONB]

Not only that, but Chris Woodley-Stewart has written an angry statement that’s been posted on the front page of the North Pennines AONB website, as follows:

BUZZARDS SHOT IN THE NORTH PENNINES AONB

Comment from Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director, North Pennines AONB Partnership

Two buzzards – a protected species – have been shot in the north eastern part of the North Pennines (24th April at Steel, Hexhamshire and 13th May near Blanchland). One bird survived the shooting but its injuries meant it had to be euthanised. But that’s a euphemism – it had to be killed, which was the vile intention of the person who shot it.

We hear a lot (though actually not enough) about the potentially catastrophic long-term declines in our wildlife populations, but buzzards have bucked the trend. There’s been a tremendous eastward recolonisation by buzzards over the past 20 or so years and they are now a daily sight here in the North Pennines, when once they were very scarce. There are around 65,000 pairs of buzzard in the UK now and it’s our most common raptor; I find that a cause for great joy – these are magical birds, for me symbols of freedom and wild places.

We have no idea who killed these birds, though logically it is someone with access to a shotgun. Regardless of who is responsible, or why they did it, this is not merely objectionable, it is a crime and whoever did this is a criminal.

This corner of the North Pennines is gaining a reputation as a raptor crime hotspot, these two buzzard deaths adding to the eight red kites that have been illegally killed in the Muggleswick area (5 miles from Blanchland) since 2010. The killers are breaking the law, tarnishing the reputation of the place they live in and, most importantly, needlessly killing our precious native wildlife.

AONB Partnership staff have been out leafleting the area this morning, putting up posters and giving flyers to shops and pubs, calling for information on the recent crimes. We have written to the relevant Parish Councils today to draw their attention to these incidents. If you have relevant information, you can come forward confidentially and use the RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101 or contact the police on 101, quoting log 722 14/05/19. You can also provide information through www.northumbria.police.uk

Whoever is doing this, for whatever reason, it simply has to stop.

ENDS

The speed with which the AONB Partnership has reacted, and the unequivocal condemnation of these wildlife crimes, including a public acknowledgement of the area’s growing reputation as a raptor persecution hotspot, is to be applauded. This is a first class response, entirely what should be expected of a genuine RPPDG member, determined to play their part in the fight against raptor persecution. Well done to all at the North Pennines AONB.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen clear public condemnation of raptor crime by an AONB being despoiled by ongoing raptor persecution. In recent years we’ve also heard from the Chair of the Nidderdale AONB (here), the Chair of the Bowland AONB (here) as well as the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (here) and the Peak District National Park Authority (here).

Public awareness is growing, the pressure is mounting all the time.

UPDATE 25 May 2019: The second buzzard shooting incident was originally reported as being on 14 May 2019. We’ve now been advised (by North Pennines AONB Director Chris Woodley-Stewart), that the bird was found on 13 May 2019. Text now amended above.

23
May
19

Two buzzards found shot next to grouse moors in North Pennines AONB

Northumbria Police have launched an investigation following the discovery of shot buzzards, in two separate crimes, both close to grouse moors in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Northumbria Police press release (22/5/19):

POLICE INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED AFTER BIRDS OF PREY SHOT IN NORTHUMBERLAND

Officers are investigating after two separate reports of buzzards being shot and killed in the Hexham area.

One incident occurred on April 25, in Steel, Hexham where enquiries established the bird had been shot and injured. It was taken to a Wildlife Sanctuary and subsequently examined by a local vet where it had to be put to sleep.

The second occurred on May 13, in Blanchland, Hexham where the bird was found dead near the river Derwent.

[Photos and x-rays from Hadrian Vets]

[RPUK map showing the location of Steel and Blanchland in the North Pennines AONB]

PC Lee Davison, Northumbria Police’s Wildlife Crime Officer, said: “Northumberland is home to a variety of wildlife-including birds of prey. The persecution of birds of prey like buzzards is quite rightly an emotive issue and I want reassure the public that we take it very seriously. It is a criminal offence and, where possible, we will always look to identify offenders and put them before the courts.

Enquiries into these incidents are ongoing and we are working with partners to identify suspects. I would ask anyone who has any information to get in touch with us.”

Jenny Shelton from the RSPB’s Investigations team said: “Buzzards are beautiful birds which bring pleasure to many and are a crucial part of our natural landscapes and ecosystems. All birds of prey are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Yet buzzards, peregrines, red kites and other birds of prey are being illegally killed in Northumberland, and other upland areas in the UK.”

Anyone who has information that may assist police should contact officers on 101 quoting log 722 14/05/19 or report it online at www.northumbria.police.uk

Anyone wishing to convey information in confidence can call the Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101, which has been set up for those within the shooting community who wish to speak out about raptor persecution.

ENDS

What the police statement doesn’t include is detail about the local land use and the history of illegal raptor persecution in the area (shootings, poisonings, pole traps). That information has been provided by the RSPB in their own blog here.

Some of us were in this part of the AONB just a few months ago having a look at this extensive area of grouse moors (although not believed to be the grouse moors mentioned in relation to these current cases), and we noticed a lot of signs like these:

[Photos by Ruth Tingay]

These public information/warning signs had been endorsed by various authorities such as Natural England and the North Pennines AONB (see logos) and undoubtedly provide a useful public service:

Isn’t it time we also saw other public signs, endorsed by the authorities, highlighting areas that have been identified as raptor persecution hotspots and warning people to be alert to the evidence of such crimes and what to do if they stumble across such suspected evidence, i.e. who to report it to?

Presumably the grouse shooting estates wouldn’t object to this sort of signage being attached to posts next to their land given that they all denounce illegal raptor persecution and claim to want it stamped out (the crimes, not the raptors).

Perhaps this could be a consideration for Supt Nick Lyall and his reinvigorated Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG)? Given that the North Pennines AONB is in the process of joining the RPPDG, they could trail blaze this initiative as an indication of just how seriously they’re taking illegal raptor persecution on their patch.

Wouldn’t it be great to see other RPPDG ‘partners’ such as the Moorland Association, Countryside Alliance and BASC helping the North Pennines AONB to raise funds to support such a scheme and/or providing the labour to install the signs.

UPDATE 25 May 2019: Brilliant response from North Pennines AONB to illegal buzzard shootings (here)

UPDATE 25 May 2019: The second buzzard shooting incident was originally reported as being on 14 May 2019. We’ve now been advised (by North Pennines AONB Director Chris Woodley-Stewart), that the bird was found on 13 May 2019. Text now amended above.




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