Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority reacts to public concern on illegal raptor killing

Last year the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority opened a consultation to find out what issues the general public would like to see addressed by the Park’s latest five-year management plan (2018-2023).

The results were clear – visitors and residents of the National Park raised serious concerns about illegal raptor persecution and land management, with a particular focus on grouse moor management (see here).

When these findings were published in September 2017, we blogged about whether the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority would be up for the challenge of taking a lead role in tackling raptor persecution within the Park. It seemed unlikely, given the scale of illegal raptor killing and the many years of in-action by the Park Authority.

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

But it seems like public opinion has finally forced change and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has recently been taking steps to highlight illegal raptor persecution and is getting involved with various initiatives to apply pressure on the raptor killers.

In February the Park Authority was closely involved with Operation Owl, a multi-agency initiative led by North Yorkshire Police designed to target those who continue to persecute birds of prey in the region.

And last week the Park Authority published an ‘evidence report’ detailing the illegal persecution of birds of prey in the Yorkshire Dales National Park over the last ten years. This report, which is very well written and referenced, is a significant move. There’s no attempt to deny or hide or obfuscate the facts, as we’ve seen so often before. It is a clear description of what’s been happening in this National Park and places grouse moor management at the centre of it all. It’s well worth a read:


The publication of the report was accompanied by a press release (take note, Peak District National Park Authority!). The press release also provided details of a wildlife crime seminar organised by the Park Authority in February, where Park staff and police officers received expert training from RSPB investigators on how to identify raptor persecution crimes. The staff will now be passing on that knowledge to Dales Volunteers. That’s excellent, pro-active work by the Park Authority.

Photo: Howard Jones (RSPB) providing training to police officers and Yorkshire Dales National Park staff (photo by YDNPA)

David Butterworth, CEO of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, has also been busy writing. In February he wrote an article for the Yorkshire Post on illegal raptor persecution and it was reproduced on the Park’s website here.

He hasn’t minced his words and deserves much credit for speaking out. However, his last paragraph is less impressive:

I believe that the Moorland Association, which represents some of the estates, is making genuine attempts to tackle bird of prey persecution. The Park Authority wants to see grouse shooting remain and thrive. It is part of the cultural heritage of the Dales and a part of the local economy. But the Association must know that change cannot come quickly enough.  We want birds of prey back in this iconic National Park“.

If he’s banking on actions by the Moorland Association to help bring an end to raptor persecution in the Park he’ll have a very long wait. Others have been down this road, many times over, and have recently called out this organisation for what we consider to be continued disruptive behaviour in tackling these crimes (e.g. see here and here).

Meanwhile, legal proceedings against a gamekeeper accused of the alleged shooting of two short-eared owls on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park continues in court this week. More to follow soon.

21 thoughts on “Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority reacts to public concern on illegal raptor killing”

  1. ‘It is part of the cultural heritage of the Dales and a part of the local economy.’ On both counts a big fat zero – not been going that long compared to a lot of other things (not that it really makes much difference), and how many people participate in DGS, do local people and visitors love to come along and sit and watch DGS as a community activity, did the moor ‘owners’ welcome public access to OUR uplands, how many far more lucrative and less damaging businesses and recreations have been pushed out by DGS? At least no mention of their ‘importance’ to biodiversity, but grouse shooting has hardly been a benign influence for society or wildlife, really need to move on, it’s over stayed its welcome.

    1. My first reaction to the “last paragraph” mentioned in the blog. WHAT CULTURAL HERITAGE???? Guns for game shooting have not been around long enough for this type of game shooting to be cultural. I doubt that the shooters took advantage of muzzle loading guns for driven game shoots (unless they had an army of loaders and many guns. Oh, and a breezy day, to clear the thick smoke from each shot).

      Even early breech loading shotgun (about 1860’s) cartridges used black powder explosive with its thick smoke upon discharge. It was only in the mid 1880’s that smokeless gunpowder came into being and guns strong enough to cope.

      Black powder for British military rifles were still in use at the start of the 20th century

      I have used muzzle loading guns for clay pigeon but I had to ask if I had hit the clay. Also paper target shooting. I know very well how long it takes to reload a muzzle loader.

      That puts the possible start of driven game shooting at about 150 years ago but probably more recent. Add to this that the game shooting massacre was only for the royal and rich. The lower orders only came into it to ensure plentiful breeding of the gun fodder and then in larger numbers for a few days to chase the game towards the idle royal and rich with guns.

      It is good news to see the YDNP baring the facts but shame to give MA the benefit of “phantom” work towards stopping persecution.

      1. Falconry has been part of our cultural heritage far, far longer than driven grouse shooting, I just googled history of falconry in Britain and it seems the first record is about 860 AD so on the go for nearly a thousand years before DGS and it never stopped. I know on this site I’m teaching my granny to suck eggs, but mantelpiece came from the habit of BoPs mantling their food, there are a couple of other derivations I’ve forgotten and there’s an actual surname Falconer – plus the film Kes which I think made some of the best social commentary ever. WTF can DGS say it’s added to our culture, the Kinder Trespass? I was speaking to a falconer a couple of years ago who told me falconry has never been more popular and his group couldn’t meet all the demand for their shows. For the three years in a row we held a wildlife festival in a wood adjoining the local council estate we managed to have a falconer with birds of prey in each, and latterly some boards on raptor persecution (thanks to Peter Cairns), the kids loved it. Of course as part of our natural heritage birds of prey were always here. Kids don’t have to be indoctrinated ‘into’ raptors, they must be for DGS which is why no doubt it’s obsessive for so many of its unfortunate participants.

  2. Well said, Les. You have supplied the required detailed balance in regards to the last and most negative paragraph of the Yorkshire dales National Park Authority press release. No doubt the powerful pro-grouse place men fought hard to minimse the crimes against raptors which have taken place and demanded that this last paragraph be included .. but public pressure has built enough for forward traction to have begun. Lets hope that this situation is strictly monitored and any doubtful moves or behaviours are reported in the online media. Well done all who have supported these initiatives.

    1. As often reported on this site, the powerful pro-grouse place men fought hard to minimise (THE REPERCUSSIONS ON THEMSELVES) the crimes against raptors.

      Crimes committed by their servants, are defended so strongly and expensively in court, if they ever get that far.

      George, I take your comment as some form of irony or tongue in cheek statement?????

      1. Sorry, Doug, it was poorly worded. Those who are the pro-grouse placemen on the YDNPA, by ensuring the presence of the last paragraph with it’s inbuilt and fraudulant duplicity, are trying to minimise the reprecussions for the crimes and behaviour that they have always been aware of and silently supported.

  3. The answer is simple.

    Walked up grouse shooting only.

    No driven grouse shooting.

    The CEO should put his money where his mouth is.

      1. Not sure banning all grouse shooting is required.
        The intensive regimes that are necessary to produce huge surpluses are the problem and everything that goes with it.
        Killing ALL predators legal and illegal
        Killing all species that carry tick
        Heather burning
        Medicated grit
        Creating hill roads to access butt’s
        Killing all raptors that prevent grouse from flying during shoots
        Removal of mature trees that provide potential for raptor nesting sites.
        No prey no predators mentality
        The list goes on and on

        None of the above is necessary for less intensive walked up shooting.

          1. Surely gamekeepers are motivated to produce big bags at all costs because that is where their end of season bonus comes from. With a less intensive system that encompasses protection of iconic species then rewards could be redirected for conservation work. It is the intensification and the need to produce shootable surplus at all costs that leads to all other creatures being exterminated. Reward conservation (independently monitored and verified) and there may be a more balanced solution. With the current system keepers will only see raptors as a potential financial loss and deal with them accordingly. In my opinion the stick works a lot better alongside the carrot, rather than just on its own.

  4. Cultural heritage has no clear definition. Both the actual centuries of coal mining and the 1980s pit closures constitute cultural heritage. It doesn’t have to be old. It’s just things that have affected a human influenced landscape (especially in the case of landscape-visual issues which is really all a UK national park is there for) or peoples use of/associations with it. Therefore grouse shooting on the barren heather moors (and 2 weeks of purple flowers) are part our cultural heritage now.
    Well done YDNP, I won’t hold my breath for the Peak District to catch up, in fact, not even for them to admit there’s a problem. Having said that, so far it’s all just words, but at least another tiny step along the way.

    1. That kind of philosophy is scary. It has a finality about it which allows no change or turning back.
      Rewilding must scare them as much as ‘cultural heritage’ scares me.

      1. No philosophy there, just a simple definition because people seem confused about what the phrase means and have conflated it with history/archaeology (old stuff), It is dynamic.
        Crofting was the cultural heritage across the Highlands and that all changed, many of the huge sheep prairies which followed are changing and there’s no reason why re-wilding cannot become part of our cultural heritage.
        Indeed, the fight against DGS itself is already becoming part of our cultural heritage. Many no longer see the ‘beautiful haze of purple’ as being a tourist attraction in its own right, and as more and more people learn what it symbolises, our association with that land use changes. For now the final paragraph stands up (except the wishful MA comments), but thanks to the efforts of RPUK et al, this is slowly changing.

        1. I agree.
          I meant the philosophy of people who believe that ‘cultural heritage’ is an excuse for wrong doing.
          Other comments here have pointed out before the obvious parallel with child labour and much worse.
          It is obvious that ‘cultural heritage’ doesn’t have priority over human rights and neither should it over environmental protection. In statements by the grouse lobby and their government apologists, Cultural Heritage is given the highest priority and always at the expense of Natural Heritage and all the other negative impacts of DGMs. I suspect that the jobs and money arguments are not really believed and that is why they don’t support further research but i’m pretty sure they really do believe that guff about culture and ‘The Glorious 12th’
          With the conservative religion or philosophy, keeping the status quo or cultural heritage is like a god.

          Yes, rewilding can happen elsewhere but not on grouse moors as long as this philosophy continues.

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