Birds of prey illegally poisoned in Staffordshire/Peak District National Park

It just never bloody stops.

Do you remember way back in May, during lockdown, Staffordshire Police asked the public to be vigilant after the discovery of a dead buzzard and two dead peregrines in the Peak District National Park? Officers suspected those protected raptors had been illegally poisoned and the corpses were sent for toxicology (see here).

Then in early June another peregrine was found dead in suspicious circumstances and that, too, was sent for toxicology analyses (see here).

[One of the illegally poisoned peregrines. Photo by Staffordshire Police]

Well guess what? The toxicology results are in and all four raptors were illegally poisoned with the same (unnamed) pesticide, and at least two of the incidents involved a pigeon bait which had been laced with the pesticide.

These illegal raptor poisonings are in addition to the confirmed illegal poisoning of a buzzard and a kestrel in Derbyshire at the beginning of lockdown (see here) and a shot buzzard found with horrific injuries in the Peak District National Park during the middle of lockdown (see here).

Staffordshire Police has issued a press statement about the latest four killings, as follows:

£1,000 reward for information after birds of prey poisoned

Reward offered for information after bird of prey poisoning incidents in Staffordshire during Covid lockdown.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has offered a £1000 reward for information leading to a conviction after four birds of prey were found dead in Staffordshire.

The appeal follows three separate incidents over a three-week period during Covid lockdown. 

On Saturday 16 May, a common buzzard and peregrine falcon were sadly discovered dead in a wooded area of Longnor. On Tuesday 19 May a second peregrine falcon was found dead at Beeston Tor near Wetton. On Thursday 4 June, a third peregrine falcon was found dead in a quarry near Waterhouses. 

[The latest poisoning victims. Photos via Staffordshire Police]

Two of the incidents occurred in the Peak District National Park, and a few of the locations are believed to be near peregrine falcon breeding sites.

As there were no visible signs of injury, and following contact with Natural England the birds were submitted for post mortem examinations and toxicology tests to establish the cause of death as part of the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS). The scheme investigates the death or injury of wildlife and companion animals that may have resulted from pesticide poisoning.

The results show that all four birds of prey were illegally poisoned by the same pesticide, and that at least two of the incidents involved a pigeon bait which had been laced with the pesticide. 

A police investigation into the circumstances is underway as all birds 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 and/or up to six months in jail.

Officers are asking local residents and visitors to these areas to report any suspicious behaviour they may have witnessed in the days leading up to the discovery of the birds and to continue to be vigilant for the signs of criminal activity, including dead or injured birds, poisoned bait and traps.

Detective Inspector Tim Boulton, of the Staffordshire Police Rural and Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “To find out that these birds have been deliberately targeted and poisoned is truly dreadful. We are working to ensure those responsible are identified and brought to justice

It is extremely concerning that a harmful substance has been placed in the countryside putting not only wildlife, but also people and pets at risk too. 

If a member of the public comes across a dead bird or suspicious object, please do not touch or move anything. Please take photographs if you can and make a note of your surroundings and landmarks to help officers to locate it. Every piece of information may be crucial in prosecuting an offender.

We would like to thank Natural England and the Peak District Natural Park for their assistance so far and we are incredibly grateful for the reward offered by the RSPB

Any information, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, could help with our on-going investigation. Someone out there knows who poisoned these birds, so please do the right thing and get in touch with the police directly or any of our specialist partners.”

Mark Thomas, RSPB Head of Investigations, commented “Peregrines are the fastest birds in the world, yet all too often the lives of these magnificent creatures are cut short by illegal persecution like poisoning.

For incidents like this to repeatedly happen in a National Park is all the more alarming. If you have any information about any of these cases, or if you come across what you believe may be a poisoned bird of prey, please call the police immediately. You are our eyes and ears.

Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park, added: “I would to thank those individuals who have reported these incidents to the police, and it remains completely unacceptable that illegal activity against wildlife is taking place in and around the Peak District. The nature of poisoning witnessed in these cases is deeply worrying for species both within and outside our National Park boundary.  

These incidents are particularly concerning in a year where many birds of prey – including the peregrine falcon – have successfully bred in other areas. We will continue to support the police in their investigations, and welcome any information from the public that may help capture those involved and bring them to justice.”

Dave Slater, Natural England’s Director for Wildlife Licensing and enforcement cases, said: “Raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority and a priority for Natural England. We are a committed partner with the Police and NGOs in tackling these despicable crimes. We would urge anyone witnessing or suspecting persecution to contact the police.

Anyone with any information is asked to call one of the services listed below:

Staffordshire Police: 101 quoting incident number 232 of 16 May. You can also report online at http://www.staffordshire.police.uk/report or by sending a private message to Staffordshire Police on Facebook and Twitter.

Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111

RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime hotline: 0300 999 0101.

ENDS

17 thoughts on “Birds of prey illegally poisoned in Staffordshire/Peak District National Park”

  1. I run a osprey group but we cover all birds and animals and have a file where I post all these reports and your first five words sum up what I think every time I post a report :( It just never bloody stops :( awful that the file contains well over 300 reports :(

  2. If the national park authority are really bothered why the hell dont they stop the shooting that goes on there for a year or better still forever I have spoken to some of the farmers and they say they are sick of it and all the burning
    carbon footprint dont make me laugh.

    1. Because they can’t. They are effectively just a planning authority whose remit is to protect landscape through the exercise of their rather few powers.

        1. Nobody, as it’s not required. The landowner must give permission and normal firearms laws apply. That’s about it.

  3. Just a thought…. having read your recent report regarding reporting incidents and identifying locations for others to find…. people could use the app  What3Words to identify any 3m x 3m square on the planet???Best wishes…. keep up the great – if nauseating – work!!! David Moorse

  4. As far as I am aware, there isn’t a Grouse moor in Longnor area, the nearest is Goyt Valley/Cat & Fiddle, owned by Lord Derby. There are plenty of pigeon fanciers in the area, though..and they really hate Peregrines.

  5. Thank goodness for the INDEFATIGABLES aka The RSPB Investigations Team members and their like-minded colleagues who are determined to defend raptors from persecution. May their resolve never falter!

  6. Happy Birthday Ruth,
    Thank you for all you do.
    Have a good day, I will be raising a glass of wine to you this evening 🍷

    [Ed: Thank you!]

  7. I’m horrified! I truly am.
    I want to do MORE!! What do you guys suggest to fight this? I am going to make some art work to try and sell to donate to the causes at least … and to promote the Crimes on art social media account. Even if it gets more people talking about it.
    Thank you for the work you do on this page.

  8. I`m becoming ill with worry for the plight of goshawks here in East Hampshire. Pheasant shooting is massive here. Every year I witness goshawks trying to establish, then 1 or 2 months later they have completely disappeared. If I don`t find a way to help address this situation soon then I will become completely fucking mad. I can`t fight this alone. Please… any suggestions?

    1. Someone knows the identity of the scumbags that committed these terrible crimes, and crimes they are-the people who poisoned these beautiful Peregrines and Buzzard are obviously dangerous individuals-I wonder what else they do given the link between abuse of animals and other crimes-xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx-anyone who harms and kills stunning raptors like the Peregrine falcon are certainly “not right in the head”-whether shooters or maybe xxxxx from the Pigeon fancier”fraternity”-they need to be stopped-I fully support the work of the RSPB and the Police-and of course custodial sentences need to be issued so that these dangerous individuals are locked up

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