The RSPB Investigations Team has published a blog this morning, detailing their undercover work filming a gamekeeper on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, who used a tethered eagle owl to draw in two buzzards close enough for them to be shot.
The blog, authored by RSPB Investigations Officer Howard Jones, describes the circumstances of the crimes, which include the obvious ones of shooting two protected buzzards but also the use of a tethered decoy (in this case, the eagle owl). Howard and his colleague Jack were filming through a telescope from approx 5km away and witnessed a gamekeeper drive across the grouse moor with the eagle owl, tether the owl to a post close to a grouse butt while he lay in wait close by with his gun.
[Screen grabs from the RSPB’s video]
Unfortunately, once again, despite a police investigation this case will not result in a prosecution because the identity of the gamekeeper committing the crimes could not be verified. However, importantly, Inspector Matt Hagen of North Yorkshire Police is quoted as follows:
“We conducted a search warrant and interviewed an individual in relation to this incident. Ultimately, however, the identity of the suspect on the film could not be proved, and it was not possible to bring about a prosecution. However this does not mean the event didn’t happen. We know that a gamekeeper on a grouse moor has been shooting buzzards, using a live eagle owl decoy to bring those buzzards into a position where they could be shot. We urge the public to report incidents like this to the police, and to come forward if they have information about this or any other incident involving the illegal killing of birds of prey“.
You can read the blog here
You can watch the RSPB’s video here:
The Yorkshire Dales National Park has been a known raptor persecution hotspot for many, many years, with wildlife crimes disproportionately taking place on the Park’s driven grouse moors. These crimes have been raised as a concern by both residents and visitors alike (see here).
The National Park Authority has its hands tied behind its back to some extent because these crimes are taking place on privately-owned grouse moors, but the Authority can’t be accused of ignoring the issue, e.g. see here for some of the work it’s been doing.
So how about the grouse shooting industry? What are they doing, exactly, to tackle these ongoing crimes?
The name of the estate in this latest case hasn’t been published, presumably to protect the identity of any other gamekeeper not directly involved, but the estate manager and owner will be well aware of this police investigation. Will they sack this gamekeeper?
What about the Moorland Association? As members of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), I’d expect the MA to be informed and for them to take action against the estate if it turns out to be one of their members.
Other RPPDG members include BASC and the National Gamekeepers Organisation – what action will they take if this gamekeeper is one of their members?
And the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group, representing estates and gamekeepers in the region – what action will they take?
Where’s the evidence of the so-called ‘zero tolerance’ to raptor persecution, so loudly paraded in January 2020?
There is no evidence of there being zero tolerance because it’s a total sham. Some gamekeepers continue to break the law, in broad daylight, because they know the chances of getting caught are minimal and even when they are caught the industry in which they work will close ranks, call ‘foul’ on the RSPB and carry on as normal.
I haven’t seen any evidence, since the industry’s purported ‘zero tolerance’ announcement, that serious efforts are being made to oust the criminals within. Which is why these crimes continue, week after week after week.
Well done to the RSPB and North Yorkshire Police for their work on this case.
UPDATE 12th March 2021: ‘Zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution? They’re fooling no-one (here)