New initiative to target the raptor killers in North Yorkshire

How about this for proper, proactive, genuine partnership working to tackle illegal raptor killing in North Yorkshire, one of the UK’s most prolific raptor persecution hotspots.

This is really encouraging. There’s no obsfuscation here, just a clear acknowledgement that raptors are still being illegally killed in North Yorkshire and an equally clear intention from all the project partners that this will no longer will be tolerated.

Well done North Yorkshire Police, RSPB, RSPCA, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and North York Moors National Park Authority.

Press release from North Yorkshire Police, 17 February 2018:

It’s “talons out” for raptor persecutors as North Yorkshire Police launches Operation Owl

Police are urging visitors to North Yorkshire’s countryside to get involved with Operation Owl – a new initiative to reduce the number of illegal attacks on birds of prey in the county.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds. Nevertheless birds of prey (raptors) are still shot, poisoned and trapped – especially in areas where the land is managed for driven grouse shooting.

North Yorkshire has more confirmed incidents of raptor persecution than any other county in England – a situation that North Yorkshire Police is determined to tackle.

Launching on 17 February, Operation Owl is a joint initiative by North Yorkshire Police, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the RSPCA, together with the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

As part of the Operation, police will carry out surveillance checks on known raptor persecution hot-spots at random times to disrupt offender activity, and work with local landowners to make them aware of the legal position on raptor persecution. National Park volunteers will be trained to spot poisoned bait and illegal traps across the parks and the police are also calling on the public to be the eyes and ears of the police when out in the countryside.

North Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable, Dave Jones, is the national lead on wildlife and rural crime, and the Force has what is believed to be the largest dedicated rural taskforce in the country.

Sergeant Kevin Kelly is part of that rural taskforce.  He said:

Our wonderful countryside is host to many specially-protected birds of prey such as peregrine falcons, red kites, buzzards and owls.  It is absolutely unacceptable that people think they can ignore the law and subject these birds to poisonings, shootings, nest destruction and the illegal use of spring traps without consequence. We will be doing everything in our power to catch these offenders, supported by our colleagues in the RSPB and the volunteers in the national parks. But the area is huge, so the more eyes and ears we have on the ground the better. That’s why we’re asking the public to help.”

In particular, the police are asking the public to spot pole traps.  Sergeant Kelly explained:

Trappers are using spring-loaded traps on top of posts to capture birds of prey that land on top of the post. The bird can struggle for many hours before the trapper returns to kill them. These pole traps, as they are called, are illegal. We want the public to help us find these traps. We’re advising that anyone who sees a pole trap should “spring” it if they can do so safely, note the location, take a photo, and call the police on 101 to report it. Our wildlife officers will take it from there.”

Operation Owl will run for the next year, and North Yorkshire Police is hoping that the initiative will become a blueprint for other Forces where there is a high incidence of raptor persecution.

Said Sergeant Kelly:

Like other forms of rural crime, raptor persecution is not a problem that the police can tackle alone. We need everyone involved. The weather will soon start to improve and more people will head out to the countryside.  If everyone keeps their eyes open for illegal traps and poisoned bait, it will be a massive boost to our surveillance operation. This is a real opportunity to reduce the number of wild birds that suffer and die unnecessarily, and send a clear message to offenders that we will not tolerate this crime in our countryside.”

Commenting on Operation Owl, Guy Shorrock, RSPB Senior Investigations Officer, said:

The landscape of North Yorkshire attracts huge numbers of visitors every year. Unfortunately, it also has a terrible history for the illegal shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds of prey. We are proud to support North Yorkshire Police with this initiative and would ask people to report any concerns to them. If people want to speak in confidence about raptor persecution they can contact us on 0300 9990101“.

Andy Wilson, Chief Executive of the North York Moors National Park Authority, said:

Raptors are beautiful. They are an essential part of our National Parks, but their numbers have been diminished over many years by persecution from shooting interests. We urge everyone to help prevent illegal persecution and welcome Operation Owl, which the National Park Authority is actively supporting.”

David Butterworth, CEO of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said:

The monitoring data, the number of confirmed persecution incidents and the absence of some species from large areas of potentially suitable habitat provide compelling evidence for an uncomfortable conclusion:  illegal persecution is limiting the populations of some species of birds of prey in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  I’d like to appeal to the public to join in Operation Owl to help bring about the changes in attitudes that are so urgently needed.  Only through collective action can the persecution be stopped.


The partners have released a short video to help members of the public to recognise some common signs that raptor persecution is taking place:

32 thoughts on “New initiative to target the raptor killers in North Yorkshire”

  1. No punches being pulled and no reluctance in pointing the finger in the obvious direction. Wonder what the mealy mouthed response to this will be? Great stuff.

      1. I agree, but there’s no whiney ‘we must work with all stakeholders’ pish here or ‘these grouse moors are an integral part of the rural economy and culture’..blah, blah, blah. Up front references to shooters and grouse shooting as being implicated in the persecution and subsequent absence of raptors.That’s not just a bit of a change of tone it’s a sea change compared to the insipid committee speak we had from PAWS etc. They are saying we have had f****** enough in a publicly acceptable way. I suspect a tipping point has been reached with so many staff members of so many organisations being pissed off with the incessant incidents of poisoning, nest robbing and pole trapping, must be a terrible morale depressant for anyone not enamored of shooting. Such a big effort to recruit the public in spotting wildlife crime will really infuriate the dodgy estates. They’ve not only tried to blame raptor workers and paid field staff for driving away raptors, increasingly they’ve tried to blame ramblers too…kill two birds with one stone put the loss of raptors down to those pesky hoi polloi you never wanted on ‘your’ land. Loathsome and pathetic.

  2. Brilliant news, let’s see how effective it is in practice. Can’t wait to see the Moorland Ass, CA, GWCT et al responses. Bet they don’t celebrate it as an opportunity to rid themselves of bad apples…

  3. This initiative really sends out a very clear message to people with guns who currently break the law. Encouraging, honest and unequivocal. The 5 agencies involved are to be congratulated.

    I am interested to see if the authorities in the Peak District will follow suit as they seem out on a bit of a limb at the moment.

  4. Meanwhile, in the shooting industry – “The British Game Alliance (BGA) is being set up as the official marketing board for game meat, whilst ensuring its participating shoots operate to a high standard of practice.’

    More self regulation…and we know where that leads us, don’t we?!

  5. Almost sounds too good to be true, but this is a significant sea change in the right direction, for which I’m sure RPUK and the RSPB Investigations Officers are due a very large thank you. One can only imagine the fury and resentment surging like a tidal wave through the grouse shooting community, especially the gamekeepers, and rightly so. I just hope that the surveillance is successful and sustained into the future until raptors thrive again in North Yorkshire. This could provide hope for the entire country. At last a clear sign of positive thinking and action by the authorities. We anticipate with interest the reaction from the grouse moor mafia.

  6. It is a pity that the BBC Look North news item about this referred to the criminals as “Poachers” and not Gamekeepers

  7. Good to hear a police force in the UK cutting through the BS on this issue and naming the wanton criminal fraternity responsible for this unacceptable state of affairs

  8. This is great but the public need more help in identifying where to look and what to look for in terms of other wildlife crimes. At last a partnership not involving the likely suspects!

    BTW is Mark Avery’s blog down? I haven’t been able to access it for 2 days. :(

    1. A partnership that doesn’t involve the criminals – might just work! Yes I’ve been struggling to get Mark’s blog too. Maybe it’s my imagination but sites that are anti persecution seem to experience more ‘technical difficulties’, still wonder what happened to the excellent Upland Exposure page on facebook.

      1. They’re a superb organisation, aren’t they. There’s some good info there. Thanks.

        The National Anti Snare Campaign – another wonderful group – also have some excellent advice.

        However, the websites of the North Yorkshire Police, RSPB, RSPCA, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and North York Moors National Park Authority will have bigger audiences so a coordinated, more detailed, wider ranging set of guidance on the most common wildlife crimes across all their websites would, in my opinion, be useful to newcomers to this sort of information.

  9. This is a fantastic initiative and one we should all support. Finally those that matter are getting out and cutting through the bullshit and they should be applauded. I spent over 5 hours on a grouse moor today monitoring birds of prey and didn’t see one, not even a kestrel or buzzard. The only birds I was able to see were red grouse, and even then the numbers were quite low. I did see a good few lapwings (25 plus) before reaching the grouse moors and a few corvids and gulls in the distance, not a single raptor and that is a disgrace.

  10. Excellent stuff.Look forward to similar levels of police enthusiasm where fox hunting is concerned ( please dont laugh)

  11. This is a great initiative,and no doubt as more and more People are out and about in the Countryside,more illegalities will come to light .But our Judicial System must be brought up to scratch ,as this is where it all falls apart, as shown by the very very few convictions the Perpetrators of Our Raptors and Wildlife Crimes recieve.A great step in the right direction.

  12. Brilliant. The best news for a very long time. What we need to happen fast is the first arrest , conviction, and a maximum punishment for both the perpetrator and his employer moor owner, brought about by this very welcome development. THEN we can really pop the corks! Peak District and Bowland next please, not to forget Scotland. Fully agree with the congratulations to RPUK and the RSPB Investigation Team. Good timing too – i.e. the start of the breeding season! Have just been watching two cock pheasants having a ding-dong in my garden so their testosterone must be kicking in despite the cold and never-ending wet!

  13. Hopefully this initiative will be more successful than the neighbouring Peak district bird of prey initiative, years ago we had high expectations about that. What is encouraging is that the Moorland Ass seems to have been excluded from this and has not managed to barge it’s way in. It is about time that the hierarchy of the BASC and the Countryside Areliars finally grew a pair of balls and distanced themselves from the organised criminals involved in driven Grouse shooting and stood up for the honest sporting members of their respective organisations who pay their wages.
    Well done though all involved it is another step in the right direction

  14. IIRC this blog posted something from the moorland association in which they where in effect telling their members to deliberately waste police time if they got “investigated” I guess that, assuming I have remembered correctly, that it’s for this reason that pro shooting organisations have NOT been invited to participate in this partnership.

  15. Excellent news. In an ideal world you’d hope that the initiative itself was enough to immediately stop the persecution but sadly I doubt very much that will be the case. Lets hope that North Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable, Dave Jones is secure in his post.
    Your turn now Police Scotland to step up to the oche.

  16. but no mention at all of the Nidderdale AONB being involved, this area is one of the worst of all for Red Kites, Hen Harriers and breeding Peregrines on grouse moors .

  17. Very encouraging intention to enforce law. But Red Grouse are wild birds. How is it legal to kill or maim them for fun?

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