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

Police blame rogue gamekeepers for poisoning or shooting protected predators


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
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower