Large police operation investigating raptor persecution near proposed release site for hen harriers

Press release from Wiltshire Police (23 September 2020)

One arrest made after operation into bird of prey persecution in Wiltshire

A teenager has been arrested today following two warrants executed in East Wiltshire.

Led by the Wiltshire Rural Crime Team but supported by local officers, officers from Hampshire Constabulary, South West Forensics, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the National Wildlife Crime Unit, Natural England and the Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, warrants were executed at locations in the Pewsey and Beckhampton areas.

A 19-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of raptor persecution under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Firearms were seized as part of ongoing enquiries, and the carcasses of a number of birds of prey, including red kites and buzzards, were located at the location in Beckhampton.

PC Marc Jackson, Wiltshire Police Rural Crime Team, said: “Following an extensive search of both locations, we have recovered the remains of a number of birds of prey, including red kites and buzzards.

The recovery of these remains presented a number of complex challenges and we are grateful for the support from other agencies.

Our enquiries continue into how these birds were killed and disposed of. If anybody has any information that they think could support our investigation, please contact us on 101.”

Inspector Liz Coles, Tactical Lead for Rural Crime in Wiltshire, said: “Today’s warrant shows that we take all aspects of rural crime seriously and we will proactively work with partners to protect wildlife and our rural communities.

“Last week saw the introduction of the new dedicated rural crime officers to the team, and this is a prime example of how they will help us moving forward.

“We continue to develop more intelligence-led policing in relation to prevention, detecting criminal activity and proactive operations“.

Wiltshire Police are part of the national initiative called Operation Owl. The initiative sets out to raise awareness of raptor persecution, encouraging the public to be vigilant for signs of this criminal activity, and to report suspicious activity to the police.


Well now this doesn’t look good for Natural England’s ridiculous project to ‘reintroduce’ hen harriers to southern England, does it? And after all that work they’ve done trying to convince potential donor countries that raptor persecution is no longer an issue in southern England (e.g. see here and here).

[RPUK map showing proximity of Natural England’s ludicrous hen harrier reintroduction site to the area where a large police investigation in to raptor persecution is underway]

UPDATE 7th May 2022: Wiltshire gamekeeper due in court to face multiple raptor persecution charges (here)

UPDATE 12th May 2022: Wiltshire gamekeeper facing multiple charges of raptor persecution is named (here)

UPDATE 20th May 2022: Court case delayed against Wiltshire gamekeeper Archie Watson (here)

UPDATE 2nd June 2022: Gamekeeper Archie Watson convicted of raptor persecution & firearms offences on Wiltshire pheasant shoot (here)

25 thoughts on “Large police operation investigating raptor persecution near proposed release site for hen harriers”

  1. Nothing new here, I’ve long suspected, known & reported on raptor persecution in this area to police , RSPB & Raptor persecution.

  2. If there is sufficient evidence to achieve a worthwhile prosecution, and should the person charged, either admit their guilt or be found guilty, then I PRAY that they will receive the full force of the penalties attached to such a crime. – – – –

    I would though remind everyone that we generally accept that those who are charged and found guilty of Drink-Driving, DON’T represent the masses of our UK Motorists, and just as we don’t have a blanket of condemnation to cover those of us who drive motor vehicles, so we should also recognise the worthwhile conservation work which is carried out on land given over to field sports.

    1. Like 6,000 tonnes of lead (which poisons around 100,000 wildfowl), and 46m non-native gamebirds dumped on our countryside every year. Not to mention the unnecessary legal slaughter of countless native birds and mammals in order to facilitate big bags.

      Yeah, well done.

      1. Coop, sadly I have to point out that your rather excessive claims, aren’t factual.

        Quite where you get the figure of 6,000 tonnes of lead shot falling upon our wetlands which are inhabited by wildfowl, annually, I’m not sure. Lead shot has been banned for some years now over our wetlands, as there is the risk of dibbling ducks ingesting it.

        Another curious aspect to lead shot is that given time, the ground grows over it and the lead is returned from whence it came – to the soil where it poses no risk to any living creature. You may not be aware, but since millennium man has grazed sheep over and around the Derbyshire Lead Mines without harm to either sheep or man.

        With the possible exception of dibbing ducks which may possibly ingest spent lead shot, to suggest that any bird would pick it up and eat it in error, simply isn’t being realistic. Quite how birds recognise any food which they don’t chew, I haven’t the faintest idea, but if we watch the food supplies which we lay out for birds, it’s quickly obvious which they prefer, or in the case of lead shot – don’t.

        1. I have to point out to you that you’ve misrepresented my previous statement. I stated that the 6,000 tonnes of lead is dumped on our countryside, not just on wetlands!

          I also suggest that you read the following…

          Click to access CDP-2015-0120.pdf

          P.S. You may not be aware that many species swallow grit to aid digestion, including “dibbing ducks” (perhaps a cross between diving and dabbling?) and lead is ingested thusly.

        2. Lead shot is ingested by dabbling ducks not as food but as gizzard “stones” to crush food and due to its size and shape is probably attractive to them.

        3. Hi Perdix, I’m assuming from your name that you are interested in Partridges? Then you will know that Perdix Perdix is known to ingest lead pellets believing it is grit. Plenty from the pro-shooting side including GWCT on that, and that wildfowl is generally still shot with lead despite the laws.

    2. Your point would be valid, except that Gamekeepers account for ~70% criminal convictions for raptor persecution. If the drink driving was responsible for ~70% of road collisions then we would quite righty do something more about driving and the overall attitude of those who drive.

      1. And the percentage of crimes associated to land use are equally damning. Can’t even be bothered to look it up, the RSPB publishes it in every wildlife crime report.

        And Perdix, as for lead on wetlands, why is BASC going to ‘fight a new forthcoming EU regulation restricting the use of toxic lead ammunition on wetlands’?

    3. Perdix – I like your drink driving comparison. If I saw such I’d call 999, crime in progress, because it’s in the interest of all of us.

      So would you do the same over raptor killing, if you became aware of it?

  3. Sadly I suspect Natural England will find a reason to carry on regardless with the ludicrous meddling scheme, to the uninitiated public it sounds laudable.

    However I think that recent events around the hypocrisy involved with Rule of 6 exemptions the public are better informed about grouse slaughter and the impact of it on upland moors.

    If reason were to prevail and it were to be abandoned then excellent. If however they proceed, then those signing the relaese(s) off need to be held properly accountable for any losses and applauded if the releases survive and breed thereby adding HHs to the population. I know which option I’d risk money with at a bookies (but what odds would they offer) ….

  4. I’ve kept fit all my life, mainly through the military, often in the true field – I have only ever witnessed a barren landscape devoid of wildlife wherever so called “field-sports” are all too frequently conducted.

  5. As a resident of this area and largely ignorant of events such as this I am moved to say that I find this both sad and embarrassing. I have to say that the public at large are also largely ignorant of this, especially if they have no interest in birding but would likewise be appalled. MORE PUBLICITY AND EDUCATION NEEDED.

  6. I was speaking to a gamekeeper of a grouse moor.
    He said the the only bird you should see is a grouse.
    I think it is time to do away with grouse shooting altogether as it is only for a very few Torres that we could all do without. The people who would lose jobs could use their skills elsewhere. The only shooting that is needed now is with a camera.
    John Rafferty

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