Heap of poisoned ravens found on Welsh/English border

Press release from RSPB (19 February 2019)

Ravens found poisoned on farmland

West Mercia Police undertook an investigation after ten dead ravens, a dead crow and parts of a dead lamb were found close together on farmland near Vron Woods, Beguildy on the Wales/Shropshire border.

The birds were reported to the RSPB and collected by Natural England in April 2018, who sent the birds to be tested. Government toxicology tests on five of the ravens, the crow and the lamb confirmed the presence of Diazinon. This is a veterinary product, used legally for sheep dip, but which is known to have been used illegally to poison wildlife. It is believed the lamb carcass was deliberately laced with Diazinon for this purpose.

[Poisoned raven, photo by Ed Blane, Natural England]

[Photo of the ten ravens and one crow bagged up for removal, by Ed Blane, Natural England]

Birds of prey and ravens are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. Police interviewed a local person under caution but, due to lack of evidence, the case could go no further.

Ravens are a recovering species which breed mainly in Wales, Scotland, and Western and Northern England.

Jenny Shelton from RSPB Investigations said: “Shropshire has a history of Diazinon abuse for the purpose of illegally targeting birds of prey and other protected species. We are grateful to Natural England and the police for investigating this matter, which poses a serious threat to wildlife and people. Ravens are incredibly intelligent creatures, able solve problems and form memories similar to our own. These once-scarce birds are gradually starting to recover after persistent persecution at the hands of humans, so it’s disturbing to hear of incidents like this still taking place.

This area is also a stronghold for red kites – another bird making a comeback after disappearing entirely from England due to persecution. Poison baits pose a danger to these birds too.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call West Mercia Police on 101.

The RSPB is urging people to be vigilant and report dead birds of prey or ravens this spring – a key time of year for illegal poisoning to take place. If you find a dead bird of prey or raven beside a carcass that could be a poison bait, contact the government hotline on 0800 321600. Alternatively contact the police on 101 or RSPB investigations on 01767 680551.

Note: These investigations take time, as do the toxicology tests, and we realise there has been some delay in publicising this. But we feel this is an important story to tell.


12 thoughts on “Heap of poisoned ravens found on Welsh/English border”

  1. Surely the incident should have been reported in April 2018 asking for witnesses and adding …. corpses to be tested. Also as the poison is a danger to humans and dogs we should have been warned of possibility of poison. Unacceptable delay from Health and Safety angle???.

    1. Every other type of crime gets publicised with a “suspicions of” within hours or days (or in the case of damage to police property or personnel, within the same hour) of it occurring. Why is wildlife crime so different? Why are anti-wildlife crime groups so intent on softsoaping the police too? You don’t see that with other campaign groups, they go for the police’s throat and hold them accountable for failings from the getgo. Let the cops make their own excuses, they are more than capable of it

  2. Ian, you have to remember that if the police had warned the public of the danger posed by poisons to people and animals which were were found on a known location, it might unduly prejudice the public against the land owner or tenant violating his/their human rights. Far better to risk the lives of animals and people than face the possible consequence of adverse publicity to the land managers.

  3. I can accept that investigations can take a while, I was involved in many…although two months would be more understandable…but toxicology should never take this long surely..particularly as “Shropshire has a history of diazinon abuse” should help as a shortcut?

  4. I’ve said it on here before and I’ll say it again, all this will come to a head when a child dies because it touches something like this, then we will get the same old shit being spouted, “lessons must be learned” The police need to start coming down hard on these criminals who put poison down and kill raptors before it happens , it’s just a matter of time.

  5. Shepherds and gamekeepers at it again, however the law will look the othe rway, and the judiciary do the same if and when these prolific cases ever even get to court.

  6. Are you able to establish when the toxicology results were made available and when the rspb were made aware of them?

    Anyone would think they’d been sitting on this story until it became convenient to publicise against a background of other news in the area, say a raptor reintroduction scheme.

    Not very helpful to be playing politics like that. Delays are bad enough without adding to them. Presumably no game shooting interests here either? Do we know the main land use in the area the birds were found?

  7. For Ravens, read Eagles.
    A culture that doesn’t respect Raven doesn’t deserve Eagle.
    Time for anti poison dog teams to get some scum in court.
    Wouldn’t real vicarious liability be great.
    The tide has changed against the poisoners in Spain with big fines,jail and other sanctions.
    UK Gov please learn their lessons !

    Keep up the pressure !

  8. How can there be lack of evidence? Finding the lamb carcass there that has been doused in the drug Diazinon surely must be evidence? And why would a lamb have been put through a sheep dip if that is the alibi? Wouldn’t it have been too young to have done so? Can’t the lamb have DNA analysis done to match it to the correct farm (the farm the carcass was found on presumably); and that farm and its legal owner surely is then guilty of the poisoning? Or am I being really dumb here? Its not like it is the first time it has happened in Shropshire. These people just keep on getting away with it every time there is this type of persecution to raptors and the like. Its a disgrace.

    1. I agree with you in being very frustrated by such events that do not lead to a prosecution and conviction, especially in this case there could be several charges including failure to legally dispose of the original lamb used as bait. however there is nothing to directly link the bait to an individual, however much we might wish otherwise. I have often wished we had a law of criminal stupidity, such that we could charge the landowner for being so stupid he either allowed this to take place on his land or was so incompetent he didn’t know about it– penalty loss of said land, its better than some landowners deserve.

  9. According to RSPB Investigations, “These once-scarce birds [Ravens] are gradually starting to recover after persistent persecution at the hands of humans….” This claim is repeated frequently, often with responsibility for the ‘recovery’ being attributed to the work of the RSPB. To be honest I find this hard to believe, possibly even a mistaken concept. Concurrent with an increase in the local population of breeding Hen Harriers in the Clyde area of Scotland, I recorded breeding Ravens and non-breeding flocks of immature birds during an intensive seven-year study between 2003 and 2009. This happened to coincide with the widest field vole plague recorded in recent years, possibly the entire 20th century. The recovery of Raven, Buzzard, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and Kestrel were simultaneous, and it is even possible this extended to a far larger area throughout the UK. In summer holidays to Argyll throughout these same years, vole-eating birds were also noticed to have peaked, followed by a sharp decline after 2010, mirrored by a significant decline in all the vole predators already mentioned. During the peak numbers of Ravens, close observations of Raven flocks foraging on sheep afterbirths showed a strong tendency to concentrate where voles were most abundant in adjacent fields of hay/silage or rough grazing. By the present day, numbers of the listed vole predators have declined by at least 50% or more, including Ravens, although the breeding population of that species has more or less been sustained.

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