Red kite found poisoned in North Yorkshire (yes, another one)

Press release from North Yorkshire Police (2 May 2018):


Police are appealing for information after receiving confirmation that a red kite, found dead near Knaresborough in December 2017, had been poisoned with a pesticide.

The discovery has prompted a warning from North Yorkshire Police – as part of the force’s Operation Owl campaign – about the cruel, illegal and dangerous practice of lacing animal carcasses with poison to kill other wildlife.

The dead kite was found by a member of the public just outside the village of Ferrensby between Knaresborough and Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire. The bird was in good physical condition and there was no evidence to indicate the cause of death. The finder was concerned that the bird may have been killed illegally, and reported it to the police.

Specialist wildlife crime officers at North Yorkshire Police had the bird x-rayed and this ruled out any cause of death due to physical injury. The police then arranged with Natural England for the bird to be sent away for a post mortem and toxicology tests.

The results showed the bird had significant amounts of chloralose, a pesticide, in its kidney – and it was concluded that this was the cause of death. The post mortem could not identify the nature of the kite’s last meal. The bird would have succumbed within a few minutes of consuming the poison. The location where the kite picked up the poison is not known.

[Photo by N. Perver]

Officers need to hear from anyone who has any information about the illegal use of pesticides to poison birds of prey in North Yorkshire. The practice of lacing animal carcasses with poison to kill other wildlife is both cruel and illegal. It is also poses a serious risk to members of the public and their children or pets if they come into contact with them.

Operation Owl is an ongoing initiative by North Yorkshire Police, the RSPB and the RSPCA, together with the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, the Nidderdale Moorland Group, and others, to reduce the number of illegal attacks on birds of prey. As part of the operation, police carry out surveillance checks on known raptor persecution hot-spots at random times to disrupt offender activity. Officers are also calling on the public to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the police when out in the countryside.

Sergeant Kevin Kelly, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said:North Yorkshire’s wonderful countryside is host to many specially-protected birds of prey, including red kites. It is completely unacceptable that people think they can ignore the law and subject these birds to poisonings and other forms of persecution without consequence.

Like other forms of rural crime, raptor persecution is not a problem that the police can tackle alone. If everyone keeps their eyes open for illegal traps and poisoned bait, it will be a massive boost to our surveillance operation. Operation Owl 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.”

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said:We are deeply saddened to hear of another illegally poisoned red kite in North Yorkshire. Although the re-introduction of this species into the region has been a conservation success, there continues to be an unacceptable level of persecution towards these majestic birds. Kites are struggling to expand their range into upland areas such as the Yorkshire Dales and, in this case, it is clear that they are not safe in other areas of the county either. We will continue to work closely with North Yorkshire Police and Yorkshire Red Kites to tackle the issue of illegal killing.”

Doug Simpson, Yorkshire Red Kites Co-ordinator, said:I am particularly concerned about this case, it being the first recorded kite death from illegal poisoning in this particular area. It is yet another instance of a red kite persecution victim having been found by someone out walking in the countryside, 22 of our 42 confirmed illegally killed or injured kites having been found in this way.”

Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to call North Yorkshire Police on 101, choose option 1 and be ready to quote reference 12170217776.

Alternatively email If you wish to remain anonymous, call the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline for free on 0300 999 0101.


17 thoughts on “Red kite found poisoned in North Yorkshire (yes, another one)”

    1. Your question should be addressed to those authorities which fund and oversee the analytical processes involved in establishing the cause of death in such cases. If the powers that be were seriously interested in getting to grips with this form of illegal activity, they would invest in a system which provided much quicker results than this. Another matter for Mr Gove to look into.

      1. Although wildlife crime is (apparently) a National Priority, it takes a while to get the lab tests conducted and then analysed before results are released [This isn’t just a wildlife crime problem, since the Conservatives closed the national forensic service, it’s been in the hands of private companies who make basic mistakes and take longer to process results on murder, rape and burglary cases]
        I’d imagine they got an apparently healthy looking dead animal, with no evidence of shooting and put it to the bottom of the list for testing. If it had ben found adjacent to a carcass this would have suggested poisoned bait and (probably) have bumped it up the queue.

  1. They might take it more serious when someone’s child dies and it will happen eventually. Whoever is doing this type of thing are irresponsible bastards and they need jailing

  2. Technical question here: Alphachloralose is used as a rodenticide, is it feasible that a barn-load of dead mice was swept out and then scavenged by the Kite, therby providing a lethal dose? I can’t find anything about Chloralose bioaccumulation anywhere so would be interested in a genuine answer.

    Now, that’s the Devil’s Advocate bit out of the way – there is a big pheasant shoot a mile up the road………

    1. Interesting comments Chris. How do you know there is a ‘pheasant shoot a mile up the road’ when the RPS post specifically states the location where the kite was found ‘is not known’?

        1. Sorry Anand this is nowhere near Nidd, which is west of Knaresborough and Ferrensby is north east of said town. Nidd has a large estate pheasant shoot rented by a timber merchant, not sure about Ferrensby but it is more likely to be small scale shooting I think. Having said that Kites can and do fly all over both areas. As until recently a long term resident of this area I am sick to the back teeth of persecution and general anti raptor sentiments throughout the so called country folk of North Yorkshire.

          1. Ferrensby is about 7 miles from Nidd.
            I too hate it, particularly as i look forward to driving through this area twice a year and watching their progress. There was a Knaresborough detour 2 winters back and it took me near Ferrensby so i was hoping to find a new site but no luck.

        2. I wasn’t going to name names, but seeing as it’s started, there’s also xxxxxx xxxxxxxx. A pheasant shoot where a syndicate member took a pot shot at a goose (on a pheasant shoot), which was actually a Swan a few years back. A rare example of a successful prosecution too.

    2. Chris, when I worked as a Keeper, Alpha-Chloralose was a favourite weapon of choice amongst ~ Gamekeepers! … just saying. As well as that, as a young fella I was also encouraged to carry around a small bottle of strychnine with which to lace Sparrowhawk kills. I would hope that this practice has been outlawed, but if a keeper can lay his hands on something as deadly & dangerous as Strychnine, then keeping their ‘medicine cabinet’ stocked with Alpha-Chloralose wouldn’t be a difficult task.

  3. Does anyone know how much a private forensic test, assuming one is available, would cost?

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