Police warning as red kite confirmed poisoned in Nidderdale AONB

Last October (2018) a dead red kite had been found near Wath, in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a notorious raptor persecution black spot.

An x-ray confirmed the kite had been shot and North Yorkshire Police launched an investigation. We blogged about the case here.

It seems that wasn’t the end of the story. Although the x-ray revealed two pieces of shot, these were not considered to have caused the kite’s death so it was sent off for post-mortem and toxicology examination.

The results are now back (10 months on!!) and nobody will be surprised to learn that, like so many other red kites in Nidderdale, this one had not only been shot on two separate occasions, but it had also been poisoned with a concoction of banned pesticides.

North Yorkshire Police has now issued a warning and an appeal for information as follows:


Police have issued a warning about illegal pesticides, after a post-mortem concluded a red kite died as a result of pesticide abuse.

At the end of October 2018 a red kite was found dead in Nidderdale. The finder in this case was the landowner, who was concerned that criminal activity may have taken place on his land.

North Yorkshire Police arranged for the bird to be x-rayed, and this showed there were two pieces of shot in the bird. However, it was not possible to say whether these had caused fatal injuries. Police released details of the incident, and appealed for information from the public.

Officers have now completed their enquiries. The dead bird was subjected to a post mortem, which concluded that the injury caused by one piece of shot was old and had healed. The damage caused by the second piece was recent but was not a fatal injury.

The bird was then submitted to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme, which is administered by Natural England. It was subjected to toxicological tests which found several poisons in the bird. The largest quantity of poison was a substance called bendiocarb, a pesticide which is licenced [sic] for use in the UK. Smaller amounts of two other pesticides, isofenphos and carbofuran, which are both illegal in the UK, were also present. The report concluded that the kite had died as a result of the abuse of several pesticides.

At this time, officers have not received any information to help them identify any suspects. Although the investigation has now concluded, anyone with any information about this incident is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police, quoting reference 12180199938.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “The test results suggest that someone not only has access to two illegal poisons, but is also placing them, along with a legal pesticide, into the environment so that a wild bird has been able to consume them. In addition to being poisoned, the bird had also been shot at least twice during its life.”

Red kites have been successfully re-introduced to Yorkshire, having been extinct as a breeding bird in England, and they are now a familiar sight to people in Nidderdale. All birds are protected by law and it is a crime to intentionally kill, injure, or take any wild bird. If anybody has information about persecution of birds of prey, whether by poisoning or shooting, please call North Yorkshire Police on 101.

Anyone misusing pesticides may also be committing a variety of offences. If you come across an object which you believe may be contaminated with a pesticide or other poisons, please do not handle it. Report the situation immediately to the police giving accurate details of location and why you suspect involvement of a poison.


There’s an RSPB blog about this case here.

Interesting to note the suggestion that Bendiocarb is a pesticide that is licensed for use in the UK. Not in Scotland it isn’t – it’s one of eight pesticides that are considered so highly toxic that it’s an offence to even have them in your possession, let alone use them (the others are Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium phosphide, Carbofuran, Mevinphos, Sodium cyanide and Strychnine).

When an opportunity arose to have these substances banned in England, the then Wildlife Minister Richard Benyon (owner of grouse moor & pheasant shoot) refused to support such a move (see here).

So, here’s yet another red kite victim to add to all the other red kite victims that have been found either poisoned or shot on or close to grouse moors in the Nidderdale AONB, along with all those missing satellite-tagged hen harriers and two shot hen harriers.

RPUK map showing the boundary of the Nidderdale AONB (yellow line), illegally killed red kites (red dots), missing satellite-tagged hen harriers (orange stars), shot hen harrier Bowland Betty (red star), shot hen harrier River (red triangle).


11 thoughts on “Police warning as red kite confirmed poisoned in Nidderdale AONB”

  1. Nidderdale AONB (area of ongoing notorious blackspots).
    The bird was found in October 2018. Are we sure about that. Maybe it was 2017 because that would not be a surprise.
    Utterly bloody hopeless.

  2. Releasing this information 10 months late, when there is a risk to the public, is just ridiculous. Imagine if the Met Office were only now just getting round to issuing weather warnings for last autumn! If banned poisons are a danger to the public, shouldn’t the police be testing for them as standard as part of a post mortem, when there is suspicion about the cause of death of a bird?

    1. Hi Amadan,

      Without knowing the details/timeframe, it’s quite likely that the police have only just been informed of the toxicology results (the police aren’t doing the testing – that’s down to Govt labs).

      You’re right, ten months is far too long to find out if highly toxic poisons have been used but perhaps in this case the police should be given the benefit of the doubt. Let’s not forget they appealed for info in Nov 2018 when they knew the bird had been shot, and now here they are again appealing for information and issuing a warning about the use of poisons.

      1. Fair enough, and thanks to you and Paul for the clarification. It sounds like the backlog with WIIS is the issue. And it is quite a backlog – I notice that WIIS have several animals still awaiting testing from incidents dating back to Dec 2018. Presumably the reason this process is so unhurried is that the lacing of the countryside with illegal poisons is only treated as a threat to pets and wildlife. This reflects a worrying lack of imagination. Surely this would be a very different conversation if a child had ingested one of these poisons.

  3. In answer to the above I suspect that the police have not been tardy at all but have been waiting on the analysis by the WIIS scheme, this sadly seems to be the bottleneck.
    Interestingly in 2012 I found a dead Red Kite with a small bait it had probably fed from on the wing, the poisons used were Carbofuran, Isofenphos and Bendiocarb. This Kite was found on the boundary of two estates probably five miles away from this incident as the crow flies. Its also I believe the same pesticide mix used to kill a WTE on Glenogil Estate in about 2008. Time the police found the link.

  4. I remember that incident well Paul. The only other poisoning, at that time using the same mix of pesticides was in Fife a few years earlier. I seem to recall another Red Kite was poisoned a couple of years later and found floating in Leighton Reservoir which is just a few miles away. The bottleneck at FERA needs funding to release. When will the Government take wildlife crime seriously?

    1. For completeness, here’s a list of the details of those Red Kite victims which have been confirmed in that area since Yorkshire releases began in 1999, together with an indication of the primary poisons identified:

      12/04/00 – alphachloralose.
      17/05/02 – alphachloralose + 2 rodenticides (rods).
      03/05/08 – carbamate.
      —/10/08 – alphachloralose.
      12/05/12 – carbofuran, bendiocarb, isofenphos + 3 rods.
      12/03/16 – alphachloralose + 3 rods.
      16/05/16 – alphachloralose, isofenphos, aldicarb, bendiocarb, carbofuran + 3 rods.
      11/03/17 – shot.
      25/10/18 – bendiocarb, isofenphos, carbofuran.

      It is worthy of note that one of these victims tested positive for no fewer than 5 primary poisons, as well as 3 rodenticides. Clearly someone was intent on his work!

  5. Hi RPUK

    Just a word (or two) of clarification about the horribly complex world of pesticides. Bendiocarb is approved for use in a number of professional and amateur products in the UK. There are several pieces of legislation relating to the storage and use of pesticides. In 2004, Scotland took the progressive step to introduce a new offence under Section 15A Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 to make people more accountable for holding those pesticides most regularly abused to poison wildlife – and a list of eight pesticides was prepared. Of these bendiocarb, along with with alphachloralose and aluminium phosphide, are still approved for use in a number of legal products.

    However, anyone with products containing these eight pesticides has to be able to demonstrate they have a legitimate reason for having them. If they contain any of the five pesticides no longer approved (banned), such as carbofuran or aldicarb, then effectively there is no defence available. It was intended to have similar legislation in England and Wales and amendments were made in 2006 – unfortunately the government would not actually commit to populating the schedule with the relevant pesticides! Similar legislation introduced more recently in Northern Ireland also has the same problem. The lack of commitment to tackling such serious offences, with inherent risks to people, is particularly disappointing.

  6. I live in Nidderdale and I know that I should be seeing more Red Kites than I do and am often surprised by the naive comments of some who think that they are seeing a lot of them. The report in this blog indicates that this poor bird was shot twice and poisoned. This means that it is going on regularly. I despise and loathe the local criminals who shoot, poison and trap the raptors in my area. Reference your blog of the 16 May 2019, it’s a pity that we have not got sniffer dogs to find these poisons no matter where they are. We could learn a few lessons from the Spanish. It would be one thing that would make the landowners and gamekeepers really worried.

  7. Hi there I dont know if rpuk have seen todays dundee courier (13/8/19) there is a distressing picture of a golden eagle with what looks like a trap attached to its leg taken in Scotland…absolutely horrific.

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