In April during lockdown, two pet dogs became ill during a walk in Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale. One of them (Molly) subsequently died and the vet suspected poisoning.
[Molly (left) and Poppy, photo via North Yorkshire Police]
Samples were submitted for toxicology, although analysis was delayed due to Covid19. Meanwhile, North Yorkshire Police issued a warning notice (here) for local residents to take extra care, especially as illegal poisoned baits had been used in the area many times before, killing birds of prey, especially red kites (here).
Just a couple of weeks ago North Yorkshire Police, along with poisons experts from Natural England and persecution experts from RSPB, conducted high profile raids at several Nidderdale addresses as they continue to investigate ongoing poisoning crimes (see here).
The toxicology results confirmed that Molly had died after ingesting what has widely become known as the ‘Nidderdale Cocktail’ – a lethal combination of four pesticides (Bendiocarb, Chloralose, Isophenphos and Carbofuran) that has been identified in a number of raptor persecution poisoning crimes.
It’s interesting to note that this particular ‘cocktail’ isn’t restricted to use in Nidderdale; it has also been used on several estates elsewhere in England and Scotland. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see whether there was a common link between these various estates, you know, something like a shared agent or perhaps a gamekeeper who’s worked on all the estates?
On Wednesday, North Yorkshire Police issued the following press release seeking more information about the poisoning of Molly:
Police appeal for information after dog dies from suspected pesticide abuse
Properties searched as investigation into poisoning continues
North Yorkshire Police is appealing for information as part of an ongoing investigation into the poisoning of two pet dogs, believed to be as a result of pesticide abuse.
On 23 April 2020, two spaniel dogs fell seriously ill immediately after a walk, with their owner, in the countryside near Pateley Bridge. The dogs were rushed to the vets and whilst one of the two recovered, the second was so severely ill that she did not survive.
The incident was reported to the police and local area searches conducted, as a well as a warning put out to other dog owners. Samples taken from the dog which died were submitted to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) administered by Natural England and the results showed the presence of four pesticides. The dog had a significant quantity of Bendiocarb in its system, along with smaller quantities of Chloralose, Isofenphos and Carbofuran. The tests concluded that exposure to these pesticides most likely caused this dog’s death and the severe symptoms suffered by the second dog.
The same combination of four poisons have been found to cause the deaths of two red kites and a buzzard in Nidderdale since 2016, with other cases of poisoned birds of prey in the area also involving one or more of the chemicals involved.
North Yorkshire Police Inspector, Matt Hagen, explains:
“The fact we have seen this same combination of chemicals, the ‘Nidderdale cocktail’ as it is sometimes known, also cause the death of birds of prey in this same location would indicate that the poisons have been deliberately left in a place where they could be found by wildlife and unfortunately in this case, domestic pets.
Pesticide abuse of any kind will not be tolerated and we are doing everything we can to try and find those responsible.”
Following receipt of the test results and acting on local intelligence North Yorkshire Police conducted searches at a number of properties in the area with assistance from Natural England and the RSPB. Unfortunately none of these searches resulted in any further evidence as to how these poisons reached the two dogs or who may have been responsible for this suspected pesticide abuse so officers are now appealing for information from the public.
Mark Thomas, Head of Investigations at the RSPB, said:
“Nidderdale is surrounded by grouse moors and sadly we know from experience, and from the government’s own data, that there is a strong correlation between raptor persecution and driven grouse shooting. Carbofuran is one of the most commonly-abused substances in the poisoning of birds of prey. It is a highly toxic, banned substance, putting wildlife, pets and people at risk. This is not the first time harmful substances have been found left out in the open and sadly it unlikely to be the last. This reckless and irresponsible behaviour, which had led to the death of a beloved family pet, cannot be allowed to continue.”
Whilst Chloralose is licenced for use in England in a low concentration as a rodenticide, Bendiocarb, Isofenphos and Carbofuran are all banned from use in the UK. None of these chemicals should ever be used in an environment where domestic animals and/or wildlife should come into contact with them.
Anyone misusing or abusing pesticides may be committing a variety of offences. If you come across an object, often an animal carcass, which you believe may be contaminated with a pesticide or other poisons, do not touch it. Take as many photos and details as you can and report this to the police as soon as possible.
Dog owners worried by this incident should take care to keep their dogs on a lead or within sight and under control at all times when taking them for a walk. Dogs should only be walked on public rights of way or other land where the owner has permission to be.
Anyone with any information which could help the police in this investigation should call 101, quoting reference: 12200068444 or if you wish to remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
The RSPB also published a blog about this case, which includes comments from Molly’s owners (see here).
There’s also good coverage in the Yorkshire Post (here).