Named and shamed: UK's worst place for killing birds of prey

Police blame rogue gamekeepers for poisoning or shooting protected predators

A A A

Birds of prey including the peregrine falcon, red kite, goshawk and hen harrier are being poisoned or shot in the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales at a rate unknown in any other region, according to the RSPB.

North Yorkshire has been named the UK's "black spot", with more crimes against birds of prey and owls reported in the last year than in north Scotland and Wales and all the counties of the south of England combined, found the charity's Bird Crime 2010 report, to be published on Thursday.

Almost 10 per cent of the 117 incidents against 11 species last year took place in the county, which has consistently recorded high rates of such crime, according to the RSPB.

Conservationists claim the majority of these crimes can be blamed on those working on shooting estates, especially gamekeepers wanting to illegally rid grouse moors of all potential predators.

The number of reported incidents in North Yorkshire doubled between 2009 and 2010, from 27 to 54, with 10 confirmed cases of bird of prey persecutions. These include the poisoning of four red kites and three buzzards and the shooting of a goshawk. Two-week old chicks were also found laced with a banned pesticide and left as bait in the Yorkshire Dales.

Confirmed incidents of birds of prey crime across the UK remained constant between 2009 and 2010, but the RSPB said the recorded numbers were just the "tip of the iceberg".

Species policy officer Jeff Knott told The IoS that persecution was still a "major problem" for several UK birds, including government-listed "priority" birds such the golden eagle and the hen harrier, which has seen a 20 per cent reduction in its population since 2004.

He said: "Over the past 50 years, we have seen progress in lowland areas, where there now isn't much persecution. This has allowed species like buzzards and red kites to recover.

"Unfortunately, on very intensive upland grouse moors, there has been no change in attitudes since Victorian times. It is thought anything with hooked beaks should be got rid of."

According to the RSPB figures, almost 75 per cent of those convicted for bird of prey crime over the past 20 years have had ties to game hunting, but only around 4 per cent of confirmed cases make it to court each year. A spokesman for the British Association of Shooting and Conservation said the group "absolutely condemn" illegal persecution of raptors, but denied the problem was as widespread as claimed. "The gamekeeper is a convenient scapegoat but not all the blame can be laid at his door," he added.

PC Gareth Jones, who has worked for the North Yorkshire police wildlife crime unit for six years, said it is "worrying" that birds of prey are not present in the numbers they should be in his county. "Most gamekeepers out there are honest, but there will always be the rogues who will do anything in their power to kill birds of prey," he said.

He added that Scotland was "enlightened" when it came to protecting birds of prey and suggested that the Westminster government should adopt the new "vicarious liability" offence for those who turn a blind eye to bird persecution, adopted in Scotland earlier this year.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "We will look closely at how the new legislation in Scotland works and will consider this when shaping wildlife crime policy in England."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor