Buzzard illegally poisoned in Peak District National Park

A buzzard has been found illegally poisoned in the Peak District National Park.

A poisoned bait (a red-legged partridge) was found close by.

Toxicology tests revealed both the buzzard and the partridge contained the pesticide Alphachloralose.

[The poisoned buzzard. Photo by Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group]

The thing is, this illegally poisoned buzzard wasn’t found in January, or December, or in any other recent month. It was discovered on 14th April 2019.

The police decided, for whatever reason, that it was best to keep quiet about this. There were no public appeals for information and no public warnings that a poisoner was actively placing baits containing dangerous, highly toxic chemicals out in the countryside. Baits that if touched by a child, adult or a dog could result in acute illness and even death.

Two weeks ago the RSPB issued a press statement about this poisoning crime that reads as follows:


22 January 2020

A protected bird of prey has been illegally poisoned in one of the UK’s worst raptor persecution blackspots.

In April 2019 a member of the public found a buzzard freshly dead in woodland near Tintwistle, just north of Valehouse Reservoir, in the Peak District National Park. Close by were the remains of a red-legged partridge.

A post-mortem and toxicology tests under taken by Natural England showed that the buzzard and partridge both contained the pesticide Alphachloralose.

Natural England concluded that ‘abuse of chloralose, using a bird bait, has occurred at this location and at least one buzzard has been poisoned’.

All birds of prey 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. Derbyshire Police were made aware at the time of the discovery and informed of the toxicology result in August.

Alphachloralose is one of the most commonly abused pesticides for illegally targeting birds of prey.

The northern Dark Peak has been the scene of many crimes involving the poisoning, trapping and shooting of birds of prey, making it one of the UK’s worst blackspots, according to the RSPB’s recent Birdcrime report. A scientific article, Raptor Persecution in the Peak District National Park, cemented the link between raptor persecution and land managed for driven grouse shooting in the Peak District National Park.

[Confirmed raptor persecution crimes in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park, 2007-2019. Map produced by RSPB]

Howard Jones, Investigations Officer at the RSPB, said: “The relentless destruction of birds of prey in the Dark Peak needs to stop. This area has become a black hole for birds of prey like buzzards though this is exactly the habitat where they should be thriving. Deliberately poisoning birds is not only illegal but incredibly dangerous to other wildlife, not to mention people and pets. What if a dog or a child had found this and touched it? It doesn’t bear thinking about.”

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

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


When you’ve read more of these types of press release than you care to remember, you get a feel for style and content. It seems quite apparent that this is not a joint press release between the RSPB and the police, as so many of them often are. There’s no quote from an investigating police officer, there’s no incident number, and there’s a pointed sentence that Derbyshire Police were informed of the incident in April and updated with the toxicology results in August.

And then there’s this recent blog about the poisoning incident from the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group, which is a bit difficult to follow because it references unsighted material and various unnamed email correspondents. However, what does seem clear is that someone from the shooting industry is claiming that a police officer said this poisoning incident was suspicious but ‘definitely not illegal persecution’.


Haven’t we been in this position before, where it looked like deliberate attempts were being made to suppress confirmed raptor crimes in the Peak District National Park?

Let’s hope that isn’t what’s going on here, but nevertheless, there is absolutely no excuse for the police not to have warned the public about the presence of potentially lethal poisonous baits, at the time they were discovered, especially inside one of the country’s most visited National Parks.

UPDATE 16 February 2020: Poisoned buzzard, next to poisoned bait: circumstances ‘inconclusive’ says Derbyshire Constabulary! (here)

UPDATE 23 February 2020: Derbyshire Police respond to criticism over poisoned buzzard investigation (here)

25 thoughts on “Buzzard illegally poisoned in Peak District National Park”

  1. I take my small children to this area regularly for walks. They are clearly not safe with these maniacs leaving toxic chemicals lying around. It is with great sadness that I feel I must boycott the Peak District National Park, for the safety of my children.

        1. Hello Gerard. This is a specific case, with specific details. If the public fail to put any pressure on the Police – via letters to the local press – then the Police are less likely to change their attitude. You are in a good position to voice your concerns about the Police response, and how this criminal activity has personally effected you.

          1. That’s why I take this opportunity to highlight a similar specific poisoning case locally. Actually You are right and I will.

            1. “Or even how it has AFFECTED you!” Who? Me? I’m hundreds of miles away. It does not stop me visiting the Peak District National Park – as it did Gerard, who said he previously visited the area regularly with his children, but will now stop – because I never visit it. I somehow think a letter to a local Derby newspaper from someone who is not local, has never visited, is not directly effected, lacks a degree of credence.

              I take action when I am directly involved (for example, when I took Natural England and the UK Government to the ECJ, and for many other issues local to me, none of which involved raptors) otherwise I support and help fund national campaigns… inside and outside of Parliament.

              Gerard is clearly a top man (see above): his local protest carries local credibility!

  2. So this crime took place 4 months before the HH day at Carsington water. The event where the police chief of Derbyshire stood up and said how hard he was going to come down on these criminals. Only saying.

  3. Every time I see another one of these in a National Park a little bit of me dies. It is blindingly obvious that raptors are routinely killed, with apparent impunity, because they inconvenience game shooting interests and, in our upland National Parks driven grouse shooting is a significant land use.

    National Parks have a two part statutory purpose. The first is conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty, biodiversity and cultural heritage of the area. The second is promoting understanding and enjoyment of the area’s special qualities (basically recreation). Where the two parts come into conflict it is a statutory requirement, often referred to as “The Sandford Principle” that the conservation part takes precedence.

    The existence of driven grouse shooting and the environmental havoc it wreaks is probably the biggest two-fingered salute to the Sandford Principle in existence. DGS is, unquestionably, a form of recreation (though I suspect that its afficionados would try playing the “cultural heritage” card). Its consequences are reduced biodiversity, an unnatural landscape, carbon emissions, degraded water quality, increased flood risk etc etc. It should not happen in a supposedly protected landscape for which every taxpayer contributes financially to maintaining and enhancing its natural beauty and wildlife.

    Incidentally the Police and every other public body are “relevant authorities” bound by a statutory duty to have regard to the purpose of National Park designation when undertaking functions that may affect it.

    1. Whilst I don’t in any way disagree with you John I’m sure that the proponents of DGS would argue it is not only recreation and cultural ( which personally doubt) but also a business. I also suspect that in the event of an authority or somebody in that authority trying to ban, get rid of or curtail DGS within an NP it would be opposed by government and that authority brought to heel or the offending person removed from office.
      On a different note WIIS said this was abuse so any officer of the NP or Derbyshire/ South Yorkshire police officer claiming otherwise is simply wrong.

      1. You’re probably quite right about the political realities, but this doesn’t detract from the premise that DGS is a land use inconsistent with the purpose of National Park designation. Doubtless someone could make a living setting-up a recreational motorbike scrambling venue up in the Peak District moorlands but this would be, presumably, vigorously opposed by the National Park authority. The fact that DGS gets a free pardon to degrade the natural beauty, biodiversity, tranquility, and ecological health of our uplands is a national disgrace and, while it goes on, the UK is in no position to get on its high horse regarding international issues such the slaughter of protected migratory species in Malta etc.

        1. John, your thinking is profound and you’ve hit the nail on the head, so much so that I see no need to add anything. Your comments stand alone.

  4. This is appalling, sickening and farcical.
    The buzzard and bait were found in April and it takes 4 months to get toxicology results (another outstanding performance). Not much point in posting an appeal for help after all that time. However, the lack of urgent public safety initial action by the police is irresponsible and unforgivable.
    Exactly what the police are up to, or are not up to, is beyond my knowledge. What is obvious is that police performance must delight criminals and dismay law abiding people (Perhaps that is their actual mission statement).
    We appear to be in a situation where a number of hard working and dedicated groups are attempting to achieve protection for persecuted wildlife, but are being confounded and thwarted by official bodies (the failure of the Scottish Parliament to empower the SSPCA is an obvious example).

  5. A deafening silence from the local police wildlife heros speaks volumes imo, and confirms once more what I suspect most decent people conclude in these re-occurring circumstances. . Money talks. What is the bleedin’ point you might ask……

  6. It has been suggested elsewhere , that this may be a regular method of control at this site. No doubt it will be closely watched in future, but a chance missed because of xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx.

  7. Sorry to have to say this but the “opposition” [wildlife killers] are well aware that alphachloralose, while deadly to birds and animals ingesting it….is not dangerous to human beings, unless they were to directly eat a large quantity. Comparing this to the likes of really dangerous poisoned bait chemicals such as carbofuran or strychnine will get picked up on by the killers, always ready to point out conservationists errors…..On to a more serious topic – why do we accept the fact that it takes the authorities months to analyise/identify poisons?..the actual scientific work to identify these well known chemicals can take as little as a day? Priorities?

    1. I suppose priorities is to an extent the right word Dave but the real reason that analysis takes so long is that analysis is batched because the WIIS is so grossly underfunded. Can anyone imagine this sort of underfunding in drug or murder cases? No of course not so in the end it comes down to government priorities and the stupid thing is that in terms of GDP Natural England, NRW or NWCU funding and thus WIIS even if funded properly which they are not is less than a drop in the ocean of GDP.

  8. In 1974 when I was just a 14 yr old, I eagerly took along a Hampshire bird ringer to a kestrel nest that I had discovered in Stansted Park. After climbing up to the nest…. Horror!. The whole nest had been destroyed, the ledge completely smashed off so that they could never nest there again. As I descended an old flat-capped man appeared and asked what we were doing. Keith Grant the ringer demanded what happened to the nest. The old man said “they been taking the young pheasants”.

    I`m now 60. I could write a book of cases I have witnessed of this disgusting “Mafia Filth” that still thrives today.

    FACT; The higher levels of the law are still firmly in bed with the Mafia Filth Gentry

  9. In 1987 I had the pleasure to work as a species protection warden in the Peak District National Park (employed by the National Trust). The pleasure was in being outdoors and doing what I felt was a very important job . I was one of a team who were doing our utmost to protect peregrines from persecution. We had a couple of incidents where the nesting pair were deliberately disturbed, and the perpetrators were let off with a gentle slap on the wrist (from NT, not from the police or the courts – things never got that far). Thankfully our efforts in wardening the site paid off, with four fledged chicks (in previous years without wardening the peregrines failed to produce young thanks to egg thieves). In the meantime, we learned that most of the goshawk nests in the national par failed, and rumour had it that this was due to persecution.
    Now, 33 years later, things are no better. I read time and time again that raptors are subject to illegal persecution in the Peak District National Park. In 33 years things have changed – new National Park wardens, new police staff, new landowners, new gamekeepers. Yet, the Victorian attitudes towards raptors haven’t changed, and these attitudes have prevailed for far longer than the 33 years since I worked at the Dark Peak. And the delay in getting important info to the public is absolutely shocking! Just what is it about the mentality of people there? Why no change in attitude? Why is the Dark Peak a Dark Hole for raptors? (I know the answers, as do readers of this excellent blog).

  10. This might sound naïve but is there no scope here to lodge a formal complaint with the Police about failure in ‘duty of care’ to notify the public? Likewise a formal complaint with the police watch-dog about police failure to deal adequately with an obvious and clear case of wildlife crime?

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