Climber witnesses shooting of red kite in Peak District National Park

Press release from RSPB (20/9/18):


A red kite seen falling from the sky accompanied by the sound of gunshots is the latest in a series of concerning incidents involving birds of prey in the Peak District National Park.

Climber Adam Long heard gunshots and saw the bird fall from the sky on 7 June near Saddleworth Moor, within the Peak District National Park. The shooter, however, remained out of sight. The police were called and spoke to the landowner, on whose land the incident is alleged to have occurred, but no leads were forthcoming.

[Red kite photo by Gareth Scanlon]

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “Though red kites have enjoyed a remarkable comeback in many parts of the country, they are not commonly seen in this area, on the outskirts of Greater Manchester and are struggling to expand into the Peak District National Park despite plenty of suitable breeding habitat. Like all birds of prey, red kites are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. If someone is found to have shot this bird they face an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in jail.

The public play such an important role in reporting incidents like this. If you think you’ve witnessed a crime against a bird of prey while our walking, climbing, cycling or walking your dog, let the police know on 101 or contact the RSPB on 01767 680551.”

Adam, the climber who witnessed the event, said: “I saw the kite slowly soaring up the valley, then again when we’d started our climb. I heard two shots, and the kite fell out of the sky – it was like a balloon bursting, crumpling so suddenly then falling. I was completely shocked by the brazenness of it. You hear about this sort of thing happening, and that the chances of seeing or recording something are so slim, so to see this in broad daylight when anyone could have witnessed it was incredible. This is a popular valley for climbing and walking, plus there’s a busy A-road close by. I was literally tied to the crag when it happened so I couldn’t move to get a better view, but I rang the police as soon as I was able.”

The persecution of birds of prey in upland areas like the Peak District is a continuing issue with serious implications on raptor populations. Figures from the latest Birdcrime report showed that over 80 confirmed incidents of shooting, trapping, poisoning and destruction of birds of prey took place in 2016, but in the same year there were no convictions for crimes relating to raptor persecution.

In May this year a scientific paper in the journal British Birds identified significant associations between land managed for driven grouse shooting and the persecution of peregrines and goshawks in the northern Peak District. Populations of the birds were seen to have declined in the northern ‘Dark Peak’, but increased in the southern ‘White Peak’, which is virtually free from grouse shoots.

Chief Inspector Dave Henthorne of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), who is also the force’s lead for wildlife crime, said: “GMP officers spoke to a number of people regarding this incident. If there is evidence to link an individual with raptor persecution we will work with the RSPB to prosecute those responsible. In addition to prosecution, GMP would review any firearms license that the offenders possess.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Greater Manchester Police on 101.

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


This shooting took place three and a half months ago. Why didn’t Greater Manchester Police issue an appeal for information at the time it happened?

22 thoughts on “Climber witnesses shooting of red kite in Peak District National Park”

  1. 7th June?????
    Either the police didn’t believe the climber at the time or it’s another cover up. No other explanation for leaving this so long. If it jogs anyone’s else’s memory, it’s to late for it to be of use.

    Please turn up at Hyde Park tomorrow to show the rich that they are on borrowed time.

    1. I don get this anti rich thing , shooters come from a complete cross section of society, some are well off and some can hardly afford their syndicate subscription, some rely on free shooting, . Theres always rich people, there always will be, borrowed time I dont think so,

    2. I know, they always delay the requests for info when it comes to wildlife crime, but if someone damages a cop car then they get it out within a couple of hours. The cops have always lived in the pockets of the gentry.

  2. Red Kites from the well-established Midlands reintroduced population have been spreading northwards for a number of years. They are being seen increasingly in North Derbyshire, North Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire. It is anticipated that, quite soon, they will spread further into Yorkshire and link up with the established released population there. The shot bird was, no doubt, one of those in the vanguard of the expanding Midlands population and it is sickening that it should meet such a tragic death in this notorious area.

    Two kites are known to have been shot in Yorkshire this year, both having been discovered in areas well frequented by the public. Those responsible for the deaths of these birds are clearly brazen, irresponsible, lacking in respect for the birds and the law and apparently totally out of control.

    All three birds referred to above were reported by members of the public. It is very encouraging that people are coming forward in this way and it cannot be emphasised too strongly how valuable this public spiritedness is in the process of detecting wildlife crime. In launching ‘Operation Owl’ earlier this year, North Yorkshire Police asked the public to ‘Be Our Eyes and Ears’. It is hoped that Police in other areas will be similarly proactive in spreading this message.

  3. The vast majority of illegal raptor persecution goes completely unrecorded. There are no witnesses in what are remote locations, it’s now wearing a satellite tag, and the dead raptor is quickly buried. For so many satellite tagged raptors to be killed, and they are a tiny minority of the whole raptor population, indicates a very high level of persecution. In other words this is taking place across a huge proportion of managed shoots, quite possibly the majority, or even the vast majority.

    Again, this is why I have accused the shooting industry of knowingly lying, when they have the cheek to pretend that it is just a few bad apples, and the levels of raptor crime should only be measured by successful prosecutions, and not even recorded raptor persecution. It is quite impossible that raptor persecution is that widespread, and keepers are devoting so much time to it, and the rest of the shooting industry are unaware of what is happening.

    Any experienced birder knows how hard it is to spot raptors, and to be in the same place they are. This is why to successfully persecute them on this scale must be incredibly time consuming. This isn’t like it is portrayed, a keeper doing their rounds and just taking a potshot at a raptor as it flies close. I spend a lot of time walking around with a camera trying to photograph raptors. The amount of times they come within about 50m of you, sort of the maximum range of a shotgun is very unusual. You have to be lying in wait, concealed, and you need to have done a lot of watching to determine where to be. There is simply no way that any shoot manager, landowner or land agent could be unaware that their employees are devoting so much time to this activity. Are we really expected to believe that they just pay estate workers and never actually monitor what they are doing during the time they’re paying them? The shooting industry must think we are stupid.

    1. Totally agree – I have pointed out to the them on shooting sites that continuelly insulting peoples intellegience is not going to end well for them

  4. The shooting industry knows that not enough of us care for our wildlife for it to make any impact on their activities. When I talk to ordinary people who have no specific interest in wildlife, they simply don’t believe it. They shrug it off as me merely being “anti rich”. They simply don’t believe that a whole section of a supposedly respectable part of society could be so brazenly above the law. They don’t believe it because it goes all the way to the top … to the xxxxx xxxxx

  5. Using recent rhetoric, can we ask the BASC. who is the extremist here, someone who wants to see all wildlife thriving, or someone using a firearm in daylight in a public place to satisfy their own bloodlust?

    1. I’d say it was about right if you want to pretend to be doing something to the casual observer, but not upset anyone ‘important’

    2. How can you form that conclusion. Did the police find a dead bird ? Shots were heard, but no one seen. Police ask the landowner, but come away with zilch.
      Without evidence I don’t see how such a case could go anywhere.
      Not exactly grounds to cancel police leave and do a fingertip search.
      I have been a frequent critic of police delay, but in all fairness that event has “File 13” written all over it.

  6. Please realise: the ‘rich’ are as likely to support nature conservation as the ‘poor’. Let’s welcome anyone from any income bracket to the walk tomorrow and make it positive step towards increasing public awareness, public support and ACTION.

  7. More needs to be done to prevent this starting with increasing the sentence from 6 months to 6 years. And I would start routinely checking local farmers and upper class homes known for hunting. Even if nothing is found giving them the information that this behaviour is illegal and brings significant punishment could help stop some of this barbaric treatment of protected species.

    1. What do you mean start routinely checking homes,? total none starter, dont even think about it, you need a big reason to get a search warrant.

  8. How does that Queen song Go– And another one bites the dust. The police response may have been timely their request for information is of course woefully late. Have we seen a statement from the PDNP authority condemning this. Sometimes I dream of these bloody awful wildlife criminals suffering some “Dog soldier justice” but then that might just be a little extreme, they’d not do it again though!

  9. Well done to Adam Long for reporting this. Adam spends a fair bit of time representing the British Mountaineering Council. I hope he can persuade his colleagues that the BMC needs to take a prominent and public stance in condemning driven grouse shooting and all that goes with it. The BMC is hugely involved in conservation work in the peak yet remains silent on this issue.

  10. Police have reasonable grounds to suspect that persons are committing wildlife crime on this area of land and should conduct a land search looking for evidence of that offence and any other wildlife. If persons are shooting raptors there is a good chance they will be using other illegal methods.

    Wonder if the police investigation was extended solely to “speaking to people!”.

  11. steb1, I think it’s what the law would class as a ‘group enterprise’ . Even if it is just a few bad apples all the Grouse Moors benefit and, with the almost complete lack of any condemnation every one of them shares the guilt. And, knowing deep rural communities well, I don’t believe for one moment that there are not quite a wide range of people who know exactly who is doing what.

  12. Why is it that when a wildlife crime incident occurs there is almost invariably a delay of months before some scant details are made public.
    What, if any, other types of crime are handled in this way.
    Perhaps it would be useful if some educational publicity could be arranged to encourage the public to not only report crime to the police, but to get the incidents onto one of the internet based social media vehicles.

  13. I was sickened by this incident, which occurred just down the road from me, so did some digging into it. I corresponded with both Adam Long, the climber who witnessed the shooting and CI Henthorne, GMP’s lead officer for wildlife crime. My findings are below:-

    Adam found that GMP were difficult to contact and slow to react. My instinct would have been to call 999, but Adam called 101, couldn’t get through and in the end, nothing was done, until it was much too late.

    CI Henthorne blamed the Saddleworth Moor fires, but these did not start until towards the end of June……

    If there’s anything to learn from this, it’s to dial 999 if you witness wildlife crime in action. I think that’s proportionate – somebody misusing a firearm has to constitute an emergency situation, right?

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