Marsh harrier nest attacked on Yorkshire grouse moor: an update

In August 2017 we blogged about how a marsh harrier nest on Denton Moor in Nidderdale, Yorkshire had been repeatedly attacked by armed men dressed as gamekeepers (see here).

The adult harriers had been shot at and the eggs had been removed from the nest during a series of visits in May 2017, all caught on camera by the RSPB.

North Yorkshire Police launched an investigation, including a public appeal for information, and the RSPB released its video footage in the hope that somebody might be able to identify any of the armed men.

Unsurprisingly, there was a deafening silence from the leading representatives of the grouse-shooting industry (Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, Countryside Alliance, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust), which can’t have helped the efforts being made by the police.

As is so often the case we didn’t hear any more about this investigation and we assumed that in the absence of any witnesses or new evidence, and the wall of silence from the shooting industry, the case had been quietly parked along with all the others that never make it to court. However, it seems we’d underestimated North Yorkshire Police’s new Rural Taskforce.

Earlier this week, the RSPB Investigations Team provided an update on this criminal investigation and it’s quite clear that North Yorkshire Police has deployed a certain level of creative determination in its efforts to bring these criminals to justice.

According to the RSPB blog, North Yorkshire Police had tried to use forensic voice analysis to compare the voices caught on the camera footage with the voices of several suspects who had been brought in for interview. Unfortunately, the sound captured on the video footage was of insufficient quality to allow a comparison. That’s a shame, but full marks to the police for trying.

Think how much easier it would be, not to mention the savings to the public purse, if those within the grouse shooting industry stepped forward to help the police identify these criminal gunmen dressed as gamekeepers on this Yorkshire grouse moor.

17 thoughts on “Marsh harrier nest attacked on Yorkshire grouse moor: an update”

  1. Anyone else breaking the law, using a gun is generally shot on sight, it seems. Perhaps they should give these cases to armed response units.

  2. No Gerard you cannot be serious, yes these people are committing crime with fire arms but we need to take a step back and remember we must stick to the moral high ground. I believed I could identify one of the men but because the video is a little poor that has not gone forward. Yes I am disappointed, frustrated and angry but the law is the same for all of us and should remain so, we are not cowboy vigilantes and I for one, much as I wanted to see these bastards in court have no wish to be one.

    1. Why not? They are armed people involved in illegal activity. Whilst I totally and utterly disagree with anyone being shot by the police, if it can possibly and safely be avoided, they are armed criminals and therefore police armed response units should be involved. That’s my argument anyway.

    2. Actually, I take back what I have said here. Bearing in mind your personal involvement in this, my joking about it IS insensitive. I am sorry.

  3. I forgot to mention we lost another Marsh Harrier nest in the AONB under somewhat suspicious circumstances too . Food pass watched over angry keepers shoulder. Went back a couple of days later and an all day watch came up with nothing. We think he was angry because he was following the male in and found us the bloody birders and local ringers. at the top of the map above location.

  4. Full marks to NY Police for doing their utmost to further this case. Although it’s a disappointing outcome, the video has provided graphic confirmation of the widespread belief that harriers attempting to nest on heather moorland, where DGS occurs, are summarily dealt with. These men have done neither their immediate employers nor the various organisations representing the dark side any favours. Although those organisations have still not commented, I imagine that they will have been seething with rage at the manner in which these men have scored such a phenomenal and timely own goal on their behalf. These men will also know that they are now being watched more closely than ever. Last but not least, full marks also to the RSPB for its speedy response in putting that camera in place.

    1. I would say ‘full marks to the RSPB Investigations Team’, but ‘could try harder’ to RSPB senior management. This RSPB video has now had 9022 views on YouTube, representing only about 0.75% of the RSPB membership.
      Why are they so reluctant to bring this evidence to the attention of their (huge) wider membership?

      1. Fair point, though that my comment referred to RSPB Investigations was clear from the context. There was a reference to the case in the most recent edition of Nature’s Home. It is my impression that apathy rules amongst the wider RSPB membership – take the ‘Ban DGS’ petition for example.

        1. Apologies, Dylanben – my comment wasn’t meant to be in any way critical of what you said, merely to express my bafflement and frustration that the excellent work of the Investigations Team is not made better use of.
          I agree that many RSPB members are apathetic about shooting issues in general – but I think it is mainly due to ignorance about what goes on. Many members look to the RSPB and Nature’s Home for information and guidance on conservation issues. If the RSPB presents news of persecution in such a low-key way, many members will get the impression that it is not a serious issue. My guess is that many would be outraged if they had dramatic video and photographic evidence shown to them in a vivid and prominent way.
          I think if I were a member of the Investigations Team and had taken risks and worked my socks off to obtain this sort of evidence, I might feel really let down that so little ever comes of it.

          1. AlanTwo. Not a problem.. I share your frustration regarding the absence of any apparent means of getting the word out to the wider public. I am looking forward to seeing details of the RSPB’s forthcoming project ‘Upland Skies’, briefly mentioned in the link below. It appears that this is being set up to address this very issue.
            In the meantime, the Marsh Harrier video remains available as evidence of the problems faced by upland raptors. In this respect the time and effort invested by the RSPB Investigations team has certainly not been wasted.

  5. Something needs to be done when there is a continual slap in the face of the law, these birds bring so much pleasure to people such as myself, so unfair.

    1. If shooting on RSPB reserves by external bodies still occurs (where?), it is possible that they retained the shooting rights when the RSPB obtained the land. This used to be the case at Leighton Moss in Lancashire. If you have concerns that this is happening currently, it is suggested that you should contact the Reserve Manager to clarify the situation.

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