Red kite shot & blinded in North Pennines raptor persecution blackspot

Press release from RSPB, 21 May 2018:


The RSPB is appealing for information after a protected red kite was found shot in Country Durham.

The bird was found alive on 23 April in Derwent Gorge, in the North Pennines AONB, by a member of the public who alerted the group Friends of Red Kites (FoRK). An x-ray by a local vet showed the bird had three shotgun pellets lodged in its head, neck and wing. The bird was cared for but went blind from its injuries and had to be euthanized.

[Photos by Robson & Prescott Vets, Morpeth]

Durham Police visited the area where the bird was found but so far have no leads as to who shot the kite. The RSPB is now appealing to the public for information.

Like all birds of prey, red kites are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which makes it an offence to deliberately kill or injure a wild bird. Those found to have done so could be given an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in jail.

Since 2010, six kites have been poisoned or shot near Derwent Gorge, including a red kite found poisoned in nearby Muggleswick in 2014.

And in February this year, a rare hen harrier disappeared in suspicious circumstances less than an hours’ drive away from this latest incident. The hen harrier, which was wearing a special satellite tag, suddenly and inexplicably stopped transmitting after it flew over a grouse moor near Middleton-in-Teesdale. [See here]

Jenny Shelton from the RSPB’s Investigations Unit said: “Spring is a crucial time of year when adult kites will be feeding their young, so the death of this bird could have also affected any family it might have been raising. Red kites were almost completely wiped out of the UK until they were reintroduced in the 1980s. This has been a wonderful success, and most of us enjoy watching these impressive birds. But threats like persecution are preventing them from naturally expanding their range and we clearly have a problem area on our hands here. As mainly scavengers, these birds are no risk to anyone. Blasting this bird from the sky was a thoughtless act.”

Jenny added: “We would like to thank Friends of Red Kites and Robson and Prescott Veterinary Hospital in Morpeth who have been a huge help.”

Allan Withrington of Friends of Red Kites said: That anyone could even think about shooting one of these beautiful, graceful birds is beyond my comprehension. We are saddened by yet another wildlife crime and look forward to hearing the results of any investigation.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Durham Police on 101 quoting reference number: DHM230420180371.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form HERE


Well done to the RSPB for putting out this appeal for information. It’s a shame there’s no similar appeal on Durham Constabulary’s website (at least not at the time of writing this blog). Why not?

UPDATE 16.15hrs: We’ve updated the two maps (above) to show the location of Derwent Gorge (as opposed to the nearest town of Shotley Bridge). Derwent Gorge is bang next door to the grouse moor at Muggleswick, and lies within the North Pennines AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

UPDATE 17.00hrs: Well done to the North Pennines AONB for publishing the following statement on their website:


The report of the killing of a protected red kite in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) has come as very distressing news.

Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director of the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: “We are appalled that someone has committed this despicable crime. Someone must know who is involved and we would urge anyone with any information to come forward. There are so few raptors across the Northern uplands because of this illegal persecution – no one should pretend otherwise.

We met with the police recently to raise awareness of raptor crime and we plan to follow this up. It needs more people to speak out against raptor crime, more resources put into investigation, a commitment to bring prosecutions and stiffer sentences for those found guilty.”

If you have any further information on this incident, please call Durham Police on 101 quoting reference number DHM230420180371 or the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101. All calls are anonymous.



15 thoughts on “Red kite shot & blinded in North Pennines raptor persecution blackspot”

  1. Sky Dancer by Gill Lewis is one of the books on offer to schools who sign up to Bookbuzz. Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in Year 7 and 8 students.Sky Dancer is an excellent choice to inform and make readers think hard about persecuted birds of prey in grouse moors.

    1. I suspect that ‘Skydancer’ will be a considerably better and more honest read than ‘Stagg Munro’s Golden Encounter’ produced by the Game Conservancy. Bookbuzz sounds like a fantastic initiative, reminds me of the Scholastic Book Service we had way back in the seventies that helped develop my love of reading and nature.

  2. Another day and another report of an illegally persecuted bird of prey. This will only end when people either have enough bottle to report those who commit these crimes, or our elected officials have the bottle to act and the current shower show no signs of trying to bring about change.

    We’ve got ravens being legally killed in Scotland, eagles being legally chased away from their breeding grounds around Oban, buzzards being legally killed around pheasant shoots and gulls being killed either legally or illegally (we don’t know which because Natural England appear as if they are trying to hide something) in Bowland.

    No wonder the criminals think that they can do anything they want, they think that way because they can get away with it and it has to stop. Even when evidence proves what the criminals are getting up to, it’s of no use because it’s thrown out of court as inadmissible.

    This is very frustrating.

  3. [Ed: sorry, we can’t publish that – it’s bordeline libellous. In addition, we don’t have time to fact check all your claims. Thanks]

  4. Hard not to conclude that there is a systematic campaign by elements of the grouse bothering fraternity to drive Kites etc.back into extinction

    1. Badgers, buzzards, crows etc all seem, over many years, to find it impossible to populate this area!

  5. The scale of wildlife persecution is massive in this general area from huge runs of Fenn traps along all the streams etc, dozens of runs of snares in the woods, quite a lot of stink pits, badger setts which have been abandoned and bird traps mostly in the wooded areas on the boundary to shooting estates and shooting of ‘pests’. I’m not surprised by this act of cruelty. I won’t be expecting to see any press release by Durham Police.

  6. Simon Barnes, in his “How to be wild” article in the British Wildlife Magazine, February 2018, bemoans the massive INACTION by the massive pro-conservation British public, of which 17 million viewed the Blue Planet 2 series in 2017. Simon went to ask why this potential lobby has not used its muscle to effect change. He went on to ask why conservation is so low on the political agenda; why do we not hear politicians talking seriously about wildlife conservation; why, if so many people care, is that topic marginalised, depoliticised and generally considered not anyone’s business? He also cites the excellent and determined work of COAST (COMMUNITY OF ARRAN SEABED TRUST) to create a no-take zone off the island, to conserve marine life. This was opposed by big business and government, obviously due to local democracy asserting itself against vested interest, and government being complicit in trying to maintain the repressive status quo.

    Simon mentioned that Britain has 40 million fewer wild birds since 1970. One only has to read through the various wildlife magazines; good journalistic sites such as the FERRET, which deals with Scottish matters; the Guardian; the fabulous, but heart-breaking TV programmes on saving this and that animal or plant species, to see the whole panorama of persecution of wildlife, and indeed of those parts of humanity that stand up against such dreadful eradication of species and their habitats.

    To keep within the parameters of the UK, we are still “oppressed” by an outdated system of land management, punctuated by the conservation efforts of various excellent specialist groups to protect insect, mammal, bird and plant species. However, the ancient regime still thrives with it having sections of the Scottish Government in its thrall, believing that the Scottish economy depends on the bad practices of fish farms, the shooting estates, fishing industry, golf course and other developments on important conservation sites, live transport of animals and any other activity that involves the welfare of wildlife, and the impact of development on fragile environments. We are also facing the dangers now being highlighted about the loss of faith in our Police forces, due to cuts in finance and consequent Police numbers, leaving criminals to have free reign. This has created a priority list for Police attention, and wildlife crime has received poor attention. We also face the influence of those in positions that give them leverage over the processes of law and order, and the crippling politically correct attitudes of deluded politicians who will not accept the impact of the free movement of EU citizens, who have entered the UK bringing with them a contempt for wildlife protection laws. Several weeks ago, two Eastern European males were arrested in a large Glasgow park. They had killed upwards of 20 wild ducks using long poles with wire nooses, and to the horror of the public had decapitated the birds. Fortunately, a football march was on nearby that day, and Police presence was in the park. As far as is known, no prosecution has been brought, as has been the case with similar incidents over the years in that same park.

    We have to face the total impact on our wildlife and the natural environment, and that will take us into sensitive and embarrassing areas where our politicians are squaring up to reality. Police recorded crime is rising due to better recording and more people coming forward to report serious crime. That has meant diversion of resources to rape, serious assault, domestic incident, and murder cases. Even when the Police make arrests, the judiciary can impose laughable sentences with dangerous people being given their freedom to repeat their crimes. Wildlife crime will consequently suffer from this malaise that the British public is enduring, and the poor quality reaction by the authorities and the limp sentencing of the judiciary. Those who use the British countryside as their playground for blood sports, are rich enough to employ the best lawyers, and to use the old boy network to ensure nothing really punitive happens. So, let us stop crying into our beer, and face the facts, that we must become political and to change the emphasis from within those parties we support, and marginalise the blimps who impede progress to a more conservation action and compassionate society. Better still, a completely new party that is free of bad influence and political correctness. We have to take aboard the sickness that is facing British society from dangerous criminality, and to channel resources to those areas where all aspects of society and the environment are suffering. The sleeping giant of rational public opinion will have to awake, and for immediate reaction to take place to make this a more law-abiding place to be, with a larger and better trained Police force, along with a new criminal prosecution service. Meanwhile Rome burns and decent people, by definition, will not react forcibly enough to cleanse the foul stables of our society. I see a worsening future for the human race and wildlife, along with the natural environment.

    1. “Those who use the British countryside as their playground for blood sports, are rich enough to employ the best lawyers, and to use the old boy network to ensure nothing really punitive happens.”

      That is what my not allowed comment above was about, regarding xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

  7. There is a systematic campaign and it’s becoming more coordinated. I have recently spoken to a farmer who told me that pressure is not just mounting against Ravens in Perthshire, but farmers and gamekeepers elsewhere are excited about that development. It has encouraged them to “have a go” (presumably illegally) at the species in my part of central/southwest Scotland, and quite possibly elsewhere in the country. I don’t hold out much hope of the petitions calling for a halt to the Perthshire cull being paid any attention by SNH, in their new-found role as enemies of nature conservation. We are sliding down a very slippery slope, backwards. Influencing the Scottish Government and significantly enhancing public awareness would appear to be our only hope of reversing the current trend.

    1. Well said Iain – the conservation orgs really need to get their finger out generally, but especially so with the anti predator propaganda that’s definitely mounting. Otters are increasingly getting the buzzard treatment – being blamed for the decline on any and everything they might eat (and what they don’t including the kingfisher!) as an excuse to try and get rid of them for this who like to catch unnaturally large fish including stocked, bloated, domesticated varieties of carp. This is just going to get worse and worse unless something is done.

  8. I agree with much of what Greer says and it is all rather depressing. I know many people are trying to do their bit,although it does seem we are fighting on unfair terms. It also seems that our law-abiding policy is being outflanked by the fragrant breaches of the law by others.I would never suggest breaking the law but it should be obvious by now if we do not organise all on our side to be a more determined and effective force, we are going to lose this battle. It is time for courage from many of our NGOs and although recent signs suggest there is more being done, we still have along way to go to reverse the current decline in our wildlife.There are individuals nationally that are doing their bit-they need more support from those that have large memberships to influence.

  9. This is yet another sad depressing incident ending in the loss to wildlife crime of a once splendid bird. Some may see it as another battle lost to the sad, ignorant, self justifying criminals within the countryside and there are plenty of them. They reinforce each other in attitude and deed to the point where they “know” they are right. I have news for them, you are not right not vindicated at all you are sad ignorant criminals whose very acts of killing our protected wildlife shorten the prospective life of the sport and way of life you claim to be protecting. The law may be difficult to enforce in what you think of as a victimless crime but nonetheless the law is with US and can only in the future be more so. As long as you think your “sport”, industry, way of life whatever you call it is dependent on such crime it has no real future because the law will not be changing to support your view of the world. It may not be today, tomorrow or next year but we will win and each crime such as this discovered, even if no culprit is found ensures our victory. No pastime or industry has survived that depended on crime and you are no different, the anger you cause in us ensures that, one day the politicians, law enforcement and general public will all catch up and you will be doomed then gone following bear baiting, cock and dog fighting in to oblivion, in the end your friends in high places will not and cannot save you.

  10. They have just as much right to life as the pathetic idiots that persecute them .. and I know who I would choose

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