Shot buzzards found concealed on a Bransdale grouse shooting estate in North York Moors National Park

North Yorkshire Police have issued the following press release today:

Appeal for information after buzzards found shot in Bransdale

North Yorkshire Police is appealing for information after five dead buzzards were found hidden in a hole in the ground on land below Fox Hole Crag, on the edge of Bransdale in the North York Moors.

Following information reported to the police in April 2020, officers attended the location and discovered five dead buzzards. The buzzards were then x-rayed, with four found to contain pieces of shot.

[X-ray showing one of the shot buzzards, via North Yorkshire Police]

So far, eight individuals have been interviewed under caution in connection with the incident. Enquiries are ongoing and if you have any information which could help this investigation please call 101 quoting reference number 12200063953.

All birds are protected by law, and it is a crime to intentionally kill, injure, or take any wild bird. Persecution of birds of prey is one of the five national wildlife crime priorities.

Find out more about how to recognise the signs of bird of prey persecution here:


Gosh, who might have been out shooting buzzards inside a National Park when everyone else was in lockdown? What a mystery.

The estate name hasn’t been given, but there aren’t that many estates in Bransdale.

[Bransdale (the dale, not the estate) according to Google maps]

[Fox Hole Crag, where the shot buzzards were found concealed in a hole]

[A view of one end of Fox Hole Crag, taken from near Fox Hole. Photo by Gavin Hatton, creative commons]

Looking at the site, North Yorkshire Police deserve some serious credit for locating hidden buzzards up there. They also deserve credit for bringing in eight individuals for questioning under caution. It’d be interesting to know whether any of those suspects gave anything more than a ‘no comment’ interview. Let’s hope the reported ‘ongoing enquiries’ include detailed forensic work on those corpses and anything else that might have been recovered from the site.

There have been a number of persecution incidents reported from this area in the past. In 2010 a shot goshawk was found at Bransdale (see here) and a post mortem reportedly revealed it had also been poisoned (see here). In 2012 a walker crossing the moorland in Bransdale found a dead sparrowhawk, also reported to have been shot (see here). In 2019 a buzzard was reportedly found shot on Bransdale Moor (see here).

There are many, many connections between Bransdale and figureheads in the grouse shooting industry and beyond; we’ll be examining some of those relationships in a series of forthcoming blogs. This incident may well provide the perfect platform for a demonstration of the grouse-shooting industry’s recent (but so far undemonstrated) claim of ‘zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution.

For now, if you have any information that could help the police’s criminal investigation please contact North Yorkshire Police on Tel: 101 and quote ref: 12200063953.

Don’t forget, tonight at 7pm Channel 4 News has a special investigation in to the wider issue of raptor persecution in North Yorkshire and Countryfile will also be covering it on Sunday evening.

UPDATE 30 May 2020: Channel 4 News highlights raptor persecution on North Yorkshire grouse moors (here)

UPDATE 31 May 2020: National Gamekeepers’ Organisation’s pathetic response to Channel 4 programme on rampant raptor persecution (here)

UPDATE 1 June 2020: BBC Countryfile highlights raptor persecution on grouse moors (here)

UPDATE 2 June 2020: 4 shot buzzards on a Bransdale grouse moor: shooting industry’s response (here)

UPDATE 10 September 2021: No prosecution for 5 shot buzzards found hidden on Bransdale Estate, North York Moors National Park (here)

28 thoughts on “Shot buzzards found concealed on a Bransdale grouse shooting estate in North York Moors National Park”

  1. I used not to venture often into the NYMNP except to specific sites for butterflies and orchids, yes sad I know. however last time I was in Bransdale admittedly 2010, working as a sort of undercover plant health inspector looking for phytothora in bilberry I was followed for a considerable distance by two keepers in a landrover, I walked so slowly they had to pass and they eventually got tired of stopping in front and buggered off so I could go to the plants I wanted and as expected they were clear. I know of other folk who have been accosted or followed on grouse moors in that area, suspicious folk these keepers, perhaps now we might be able to speculate as to why, they were on the lookout for folk dumping dead raptors and possibly incriminating them.

    1. I know this area fairly well and am pretty confident which estate that is and where the boundaries are exactly. Incredibly frustrating when these things are uncovered in areas you spend quite a bit of time in. Lockdown has clearly been abused as an opportunity by certain criminals.

      1. I think my comment above may appear as a reply to Paul Irving. I meant to put it as its own comment.

    2. Classic behaviour of an egg thief (Of course I am not saying you are – but it is suspicious behaviour). Lots of rare birds nest up on those moors. Good on the game keepers for making sure you knew you were being observed. You never quite know who may be up to no good these day.

      1. If they had asked I might have told them what I was doing, what rare birds do you mean the Effing grouse or the waders, but then the NYMNP is too dry for the amount of waders I’m used to . Also I had at that stage been monitoring Merlin, Peregrine, Hen Harrier, Goshawk and Short Eared Owl for years in various places in the Pennines, Barn Owls, Little Ringed Plovers and Avocets on low ground. What is suspicious behaviour about walking along at track wearing a pair of binoculars, I spent 6 years working for RSPB, protecting stuff from egg thieves amongst others although the effing keepers proved to be a far greater threat, in my experience they are the ones often up to no good.
        Then they are good at intimidation telling folk they can’t be where they have a perfect right to be or pretending they have the right to search your car or ask what you are doing or where you are going. I’ve had all that and have two standard responses, one is to ignore them, the other take their picture. these days I might put my phone on record.

      2. Poor gamekeepers, they have such a hard time trying to protect the moors from of all the criminal activities out there. Can we all stand outside and clap for these under appreciated lost souls!

        1. Only if its clapping them in handcuffs Phil!
          Don’t think they have souls or a conscience, how otherwise could most of them sleep at night.

    3. I used to know Bransdale tolerably well from the late 70s to the late 90s. Throughout that period it was well known as having a reputation for raptor persecution. Plus ca change.

  2. This can’t be that hard to find out who is responsible for this sickening crime, how many people are carrying shotguns around in normal times? and even less during a national lockdown , it is not some random individual wandering around with a shotgun .

    1. And there’s the problem, right there, Kevin. There may be a number of people legitimately carrying shotguns in the area but which one(s) was shooting buzzards? Forensic analysis may help of course, depending on what else the police found on the scene.

  3. With a vole year there has been large numbers of non breeding Buzzards entering the grouse moors in England and Scotland. The new Poyser book on Buzzard has no information on upland areas for non breeding Buzzards and were totally missed out in the work at Langholm for 10 years! I would be interested in any body has any numbers in their areas.

  4. A couple of years ago it was revealed that fingerprints can now be taken from the feathers of dead birds. As they were stuffed down a hole then it follows they were handled at least twice and probably more… thus probably leaving DNA in addition to any other clues on the carcasses. This seems to present the police with a very valuable opportunity to hit right at the heart of the crime syndicate.
    The real problem being that the higher up the status scale one goes the tighter knit the Omerta Code seems to be … while the power to stop or derail the investigation increases every step upwards one makes. All it takes is one and the enquiry is dead in the water.
    Lets hope that this is the incident that blows them apart.

  5. Just watched C4 news. Usual bullshit from the tweedies. One spoke of “nipping (raptor crime) in the bud”. In the f***ing bud??? A criminal empire, operating for 66 years “in the bud”? Just more shameless downplaying from the enemy. Not to mention the laughable wheeling out of Duncan xxxxx.

    1. Nipping in the bud, dear god I ask you and he is the head keeper on Dallowgill. DT did his usual bullish its only a few act, this is Nidderdale we are talking about Duncan that won’t wash!!!!

  6. National trust only bequested bransdale to protect from too many people going up there . The jewel in the crown they call it . More like killing field for the rich .

    1. Bransdale itself is almost all owned by the National Trust. It’s surrounded by the Bransdale grouse moors which are in different ownership.

      Interestingly the shot buzzard found there about this time last year was on National Trust land, just over the boundary wall with the grouse moor if my understanding is correct.

  7. Following information reported to the police in April 2020, officers attended the location and discovered five dead buzzards. The buzzards were then x-rayed, with four found to contain pieces of shot—————–Was the fifth one poisoned or trapped ?

  8. Let’s hope some of these stupid idiots that kill for pleasure are charged. They wave their rights when they slaughter protected creatures

  9. According to a commenter on the NYMMO – North Yorkshire Moors Moorland Organisation Facebook page the x-rays are clearly of pheasants. Of course! There’s the answer – no crime here, just a jolly fellow out for a bit of sport, shot five pheasants and then realised he wasn’t hungry.

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