North Yorkshire remains worst county in UK for raptor persecution, says Birdcrime report

Hen harrier Arthur.
Hen harrier Arthur.

Birds of prey are being relentlessly and illegally shot, trapped and poisoned - and North Yorkshire has emerged once again as the worst county for these crimes.

Birdcrime 2018 – a report summarising offences against birds of prey in the UK – reveals 87 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution in 2018. Fifteen of these took pace in North Yorkshire.

Shot-eared owl shot.

Shot-eared owl shot.

All birds of prey are legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, yet these laws are being widely ignored.

Victims in 2018 included buzzards, red kites, peregrines and owls. Intelligence and scientific studies suggest that many more birds will have been killed and not found, and that these figures only offer a glimpse into a far larger problem.

The report highlights persecution blackspots using data, intelligence and scientific studies. These are primarily in areas where the land is managed for driven grouse shooting.

However, The Moorland Association, which represents grouse moor owners and managers in England, said grouse moors are a proven friend of the environment and not an enemy.

Following publication of the 2018 Birdcrime Report, Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “RSPB’s Birdcrime report has morphed into a blunt and unfounded attack on all grouse moor management with no supporting facts.

“RSPB’s view that it is ‘criminal, unsustainable and environmentally damaging’ is not shared by government and other agencies.

“Grouse moors can take great pride in their conservation work. If our moors were not managed for grouse shooting we simply would not have the same abundance of wildlife and protected priority habitats.”

During the years 2012-2018, there were 86 confirmed incidents of raptor persecution in North Yorkshire.

One red kite, found dead near Wath within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in October 2018, was found to contain two pieces of shot. Further examination revealed that it had survived these injuries only to be later deliberately poisoned by a cocktail of toxic pesticides, two of which are banned.

Detecting crimes and catching the culprits remains a big problem.

Only one person was convicted nationally in 2018.

The RSPB is demanding an independent review of driven grouse shooting and strengthening its calls for driven grouse moors to be licensed.

Mark Thomas, Head of Investigations UK at the RSPB, said: “Raptor persecution is a stain on our countryside and once again North Yorkshire emerges as the country with the highest number of raptor crimes to its name.

“Current legislation and sentences are proving woefully inadequate and offering absolutely no deterrent to those who want to see birds of prey eradicated from our hills. This culture of criminality in our uplands cannot be allowed to continue.”

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact the police on 101, then RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form.