Gamekeeper filmed shooting 2 buzzards on grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park

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)

98 thoughts on “Gamekeeper filmed shooting 2 buzzards on grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park”

  1. I think that I should point out that in Scotland the case would likely not even have allowed the police to search the house of the suspected perpetrator because the purpose of the RSPB was investigating crime. Despite the more relaxed laws of access in Scotland the Procurator Fiscsl Service has decided that this is not allowable. In my opinion this is more a matter of protecting landowners than a correct interpretation of the law. Yet another gross failing in the Crown Office.

      1. Is it correct though? I don’t think that it is. The rights of access under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act are not for the purposes of investigating a crime. If there is no lawful basis for the RSPB to be on the land then the whole process is invalidated from the outset.

        I am not saying that the situation is satisfactory but I don’t think you can blame the COPFS here. In light of the Rangers case, you might even say that if COPFS were to prosecute that this might actually be considered ‘malicious’.

        1. Winston, you may already be aware that the legislation has a section 9, Conduct excluded from access rights, which makes no mention of investigating crime, like the rest of the legislation. One would expect, therefore that courts would be free to decide if the actions would be admissible. It is my opinion that Crown Counsel could not take the risk of a court deciding that the actions of someone coming upon a crime in progress and acting upon that were acceptable behaviour. I’d be happy to see why you reject this argument. The Crown Counsel position in feeling that the court process had to be abandoned and deciding that a review was necessary rather than leaving the issue to the courts is surely not a reasonable action, unless to protect the possible defendants.

          1. It’s not Section 9 which is relevant but Section 1 which establishes access rights. Access rights are:

            (1) for recreational purposes
            (2) for the purposes of carrying on a relevant educational activity
            (3) for the purposes of carrying on, commercially or for profit, an activity which the person exercising the right could carry on otherwise than commercially or for profit.

            That is the extent to which access rights apply. Anything not falling under this is excluded. Section 9 relates to conduct in the context of exercising access rights responsibly.

            I would posit that it would be acceptable for COPFS to prosecute if a person was exercising access rights who by happenstance came across a crime being committed and reported this. However, RPSB being on land with the sole or main purpose of investigate crime is not exercising access rights and therefore is not entitled to be on private land. Whether or not Section 9 includes investigating crime is irrelevant because from the outset, the RSPB are on land not for any of the purposes of Section 1.

            The COPFS cannot continue to prosecute someone when it accepts that the evidence is flawed from the outset. If they left it to the court to decide then, as I said before, it would potentially mean they are prosecuting maliciously which is unlawful.

            1. Windton, thanks for explaining in greater detail your views on the application of the Land Refirm Act.
              Paul, apologies for going off location, but the bee in my bonnet keeps buzzing me in even when slightly off topic.

  2. Cannot they find that poor Eagle Owl and remove it , it must be somewhere and someone will know where , just awful footage

  3. Presumably irrespective of whether there is evidence to bring anybody to justice, particular individuals are in the frame here. That is what closing ranks means. There must be more sophisticated surveillance methods that might be brought to bear in the search for evidence these individuals. Detailed monitoring of particular areas of concern would also be possible.

    1. Not by the police because the penalties for these crimes are relatively low it is not considered in law a serious enough crime for undercover surveillance by the boys in blue, much as I know they would like to in North Yorkshire Police.

  4. Since there was no conviction then this obviously did not occur.

    There is zero tolerance for this sort of action, i.e getting caught in the action, this gamekeeper will be severely remprimanded and be give retraining into how to detect cameras and other people in the vicinity. However it is irresponsible of the RSPB to hide themselves like snipers on these grouse moors when or people are going about their business with high powered firearms, it’s an accident waiting to happen.

    Lord Tuffon Buffton, upper class twit of the year 1878

    1. As an aside, Tufton Bufton was one of the good guys so far as wildlife and conservation were concerned, and his daughter is carrying on the fight as an MSP.

  5. I have written to the National Park once again to express my disgust. This is an emergency and they need to take much firmer action. Clearly the ‘consultations’ and ‘committees’ to date have been treated with contempt by the shooting cabal. How much more evidence does the government need to licence grouse shooting and bring in vicarious liability for Estate owners? In this case the Estate owner could have been prosecuted.

    1. Exactly what powers does the National Park authority have to control this kind of activity on private land? Within the limit of the legal powers they have what action can they take?

  6. I await with interest the linguistic gymnastics of the shooting fraternity as they try to explain this away.

    I do not understand why it is necessary to keep the name of the estate secret. In my view they should be named and shamed. If the ‘great and the good’ of the grouse shooting world profess to be horrified by wildlife crime why do they always close ranks and guard the identity of those who are committing the crimes? It is not credible for them to suggest that the identity of the person committing this crime is unknown to the owners and managers of the estate. Those owners/shoot managers should not be allowed to benefit from the crimes of their employees whilst pretending to be law abiding enterprises.

    1. Agreed, the estate should be named.

      If only to remove suspicion from all the gamekeepers working on the other grouse shooting estates in the area.

      1. Agreed it is ludicrous in this day and age that this happens in the first place but given a prosecution cannot take place the estate should be named to protect the “innocent”

        1. Yes but given we do not know where even roughly in the NP this was it could be on any number of grouse moors.

          1. It wouldn’t be that hard to find out where it is, with those images and a bit of hiking if you live in that area

  7. Surely, find the eagle owl, find the culprit! Or are eagle owls common pets on that grouse moor? Circumstantial evidence is allowed. If the owner claims it was out on loan to someone else then they would have to name them or be guilty of perverting the course of justice.

    Sorry, but this looks like half-hearted police work. Is that coming from the top? What do the feet on the ground think?

    1. Quite a number of keepers own big owls these days just for such purposes, so proving who might be difficult, they might even claim it is an estate asset. Although of course shooting anything over a live decoy, even crows is an offence.

      1. I know lots of grouse keepers personally and I do not know a single one that owns an Eagle owl. Strange how you state that quite a number do. Fake news.

        1. From what I have heard quite a few young (under 40) keepers are into that method. The Owls are borrowed and loaned out among each other in local/regional cliques of keepers friendship groups (just like the way poison is shared out in fact). The same Owl will be used on a few different Estates. I think older Headkeepers are generally less involved as they know it is a bit ‘indiscreet’.

        2. I could name at least three and know of others, I know of one that owned a Snowy owl don’t however know if he still does. it is not fake news.

        3. The one shooter to comment on this incident, and all he can do is to say that his mates don’t own eagle owls. And we wonder why no one believes that shooting will ever bother to get its house in order.

          Incidentally Andrew, aren’t you a police officer?!

        4. I know of a gamekeeper, not very far from where I reside, who had an eagle owl that escaped and could be seen around here for several weeks. No idea what the owl was used for, but the keeper has a conviction for some sort of animal abuse.

  8. So the whole point of this exercise was what? Proving illegality – that we all know anyway. Proving thhat nothing can be done to prevent this activity? Proving that no action of any kind is possible against the perpetrators? Pointing out that these criminals are a law unto themselves, as if we did didn’t know this? Proving that the law is an ass? Expecting that the (unnamed) estate will sack the person involved – yeah, right. Conducting a search warrant and interviewing someone – to what end? The outcome might just as well have been not to have bothered – which is a sad reflection on the current state of affairs pertaining to the persecution of bird species wherever and whenever. So the answer to my first question is – two fingers from the gamekeeper, the estate and all the other organisations with a finger in this dirty pie.

    1. The only good thing to come out of this..and its a big that it continues to point out the lies and refute the denials of this appallingly tainted “industry”. Without hard work such as this that would just have been two less buzzards that no one knew about and another estate pretending to be clean. Well done to those investigators.

      1. A hypothetical question just – I won’t hold my breath for licencing – in 6 months this will be just another unpleasant memory – again.

      2. Licensing wouldn’t fix this. If anyone thinks the licensing system won’t be set up as a sop to shooting interests, I have a bridge to sell them. No vicarious liability = nothing happened.

        Only an outright ban on driven shooting will sort this out. Whilst the incentive to do this in remote areas remains, this will be classed as a ‘low risk’ for the return. For every case like this (which didn’t even result in a prosecution), thousands and thousands of buzzards and other raptors will have been systemically killed like that all over our uplands with no witnesses.

    2. Deeply frustrating though it is I think it is absolutely essential that these crimes should be reported publicly and as widely as possible. Especially so in a case like this where the crime was actually witnessed and filmed. The Moorland Association and other representatives are continually downplaying the extent of raptor persecution, peddling the idea that it is basically a thing of the past, that incidents are few and far between and committed by a few renegades and so on. They have the sympathetic ear of ministers and MPs but every time an incident such as this is brought to the attention of as many people as possible the harder it is for these people to pretend that there is not a problem.

      The statement by the policeman that, although no prosecution could be brought, that does not mean a crime has not been committed, is important in helping to nail the lie that raptor persecution by gamekeepers is not a serious criminal problem.

  9. What an absolutely despicable lowlife to abuse creatures in this way….. and what kind of a pathetic judicial system is it that allows this kind of cruelty to occur over and over again. A curse on them all …..

    1. A good judicial system that protects all as innocent until PROVED guilty. It protects you, me and everyone else from malicious prosecution. Sadly it also means that some committing crimes get away with it for lack of identification and other evidence.

  10. For me the estate should be named to protect the innocent. A court case is not happening why protect the guilty?

  11. This estate should be named. It isn’t going to happen but what would the comeback be on the RSPB if they named the estate?

    1. Good question, Mo. Although a prosecution has (sadly) not been possible the police have confirmed what happened. What offence may be being committed by someone releasing the name of the estate on which this occurred?

      1. Agree. That said, if an MP can excersise privilege by dropping the name of a celeb hiding behind a “court protection” on the floor in parliament (I recall a couple well known cases when this occured), then what is to stop any of the so called “wildlife advocate” MPs from doing the same thing? Even dropping names on Twitter despite court privacy bans has resulted in little more than a wrist slap. I for one would take the punishment for doing so if I knew such information. I don’t have 3 seperate Twitter accounts for no reason;) one sole dedicated to wildlife/animal protection. I’ve also received permission from my amazing landlord to not only resume the animal/bird rehab work I formerly dedicated my life to before we moved from a farm to my current home, and my cancer treatment finished (for now), and he was the 1st to bring me 2 displaced baby coal tits found by kids after a cat disturbed the nest after the original nest/family couldn’t be located. I try to 1st find parents after a ‘popcorn’ explosion of pre-fledged birds, as even though they can’t ever return to the nest, knowing a predator already is aware of it, but parents continue to feed/raise youngsters in the safety of hedges, and as the Tit mouse family raise their young longer than most others, it’s a long term dedication to raise such birds properly for successful release back to the wild. The best part of this permission, is he is also aware of my dedication to raptors and has agreed to allow me/us (hubby) to build a flight cage, and a mews, should I seek to rehab/rehome a bird of prey. I had wished to pursue falconry, and am disgusted beyond words, all un-printable, that someone would be so evil as to use a beautiful bird of prey as a tool to murder other birds of prey. So whilst I may not be up north near where this sort of event occurs, to be able to re-home a bird, I still hope word will get out about my availability, experience, and be shared through appropriate channels so I may also be another like Keith of West Lothian, able to give a bird a well deserved, loving and good life. I still struggle to get my head around anyone using a bird of prey to kill other birds of prey…no level of irony comes close to the revulsion, disgust and heartbreak that floors me when reading about such horrifying events. There most definitely are special corners in a sort of hell, on earth or after, for evil ones such as these. For now I can only let my faith in Karma to address the wrongs I have no control over…if I didn’t, I would not be able to think clearly, nor behave in a reasonable manner when confronted with such horror, and the person(s) causing it. We can only hope, work harder, push harder and believe that we will one day see results from our dedication. Until then, respect and regard to everyone here and others determined to keep fighting this very worthy cause. Warmest regards, Mrs Robin Elizabeth

        1. To clarify, I am not referring to doxxing of random suspects, but sharing known/proven information with appropriate resources and authorities. I detest vigilante style actions, often targeting individuals that may or may not be innocent/guilty, only making sure appropriate knowledge is shared via responsible means. My Twitter I refer to is for sharing validated info through to other rehab, wildlife and animal rescue persons/authorities. Hopefully my prior comment will not be misconstrued as acting in an illegal manner, only supporting the need for information to be made available to maintain, share for the protection of animals, with persons and facilities already known, yet need to be known further, whether to vets, rescue/rehab facilities, shelters, wildlife officers etc. Someone given a ban on owning animals should be known beyond a limited area, as villages, towns, counties don’t often share/have ready access to those banned/convicted of animal crimes, allowing them to move, resume illegal animal persecution activities. A list should be available to appropriate authorities nation wide, but that would be a project undertaken when other higher priority issues have been successfully addressed. I hope that clears up any misunderstanding or confusion. Emotion can sometimes extend to paper when deeply felt anger, injustice is being written about. Mea culpa if I came across too strongly. Warmest regards as always, Mrs Robin Elizabeth

  12. Clearly a or some gamekeepers are employed to look after that area of moorland where the illegal shooting took place. In looking after the moorland they should also be responsible for the upkeeping of the law even if they claim it was a third party who committed the offence on there patch. So they could have failed in there duty by allowing a poacher free range and need dismissing . The keepers have let down there boss, fellow keepers, the shooting fraternity, wildlife lovers, and everyone else in the country and probably broken there terms of employment. By by.

  13. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    I think not.
    I hope I live long enough to see an end to this cruel deceitful gunmen farce.
    It has to stop.

  14. Perhaps it is time to become a bit more aggressive about this constant criminality. Hunting Leaks have started doxxing members of the hunting community, releasing names, addresses, email addresses of those people signed up to the hunts that regularly break the law. Perhaps something similar could be done naming the owners, the employed keepers and their contact details.

    Yes – it is not nice, but then neither is persistent law-breaking and the horrible ways that our wildlife are being killed by the shooting estates. Those of us on the side of the angels need to become a bit less angelic. It is one thing being on the moral high ground: but not if all it gets you is a better view of the corpses.

    [Ed: There’ll be absolutely no doxxing permitted on this site. Doxxing has strong links to harassment, stalking, and threatening and/or malicious behaviour, none of which is tolerable on here]

    1. That’s interesting.

      Some time ago I had my uninsured house arsoned and completely destroyed. A few years later I discovered that my local police force tags, on a map, the locations and dates of offences. It also shows when the case is closed. Out of interest I checked ‘my’ arson and found out the arson on my house was closed on the same day it was opened – so (just as I suspected) no officer bothered to check the local residential cameras or speak to a neighbour who knew the full name of the person I suspected burnt down my house.

      Maybe a crime referencing scheme similar to my local police forces exists in this rough location – given we know the dates of the alleged crimes.

  15. I may be missing something but in what other circumstance is the location that a crime is known to have been committed not allowed to be disclosed?

    1. “I may be missing something but in what other circumstance is the location that a crime is known to have been committed not allowed to be disclosed?”

      Yes, I also cannot fathom that out.
      Advice from someone with appropriate law qualifications would be useful.

  16. This keeper will not even get near being prosecuted, the police are in the pockets of the big landowners.

    [Ed: Christopher, did you actually read the blog? If you did, can I suggest you read it again? The police were very clear about why there was no prosecution – it’s unfair to criticise them with such a lazy, unsupported accusation in this case]

  17. If the RSPB and North Yorkshire Police had witnessed a young girl being assaulted and abducted, but were unable to identify the culprit, would they still resolutely keep the identity of the Estate secret? Or, is this because the (racist) Royal Family and the Establishment like to shoot?

    Why is the video of the incident so obscured, yet stills taken from it exhibit far higher resolution? What is the UK CITES Management Authority doing about the illegal use and mistreatment of Eagle Owls in North Yorkshire?

  18. I believe that a list of gamekeepers and other estate workers who own birds of prey should be kept. Plotting them on a map would be extremely interesting

  19. Sack the gamekeeper ? – more likely to be given a bonus. I can’t believe that more could not have been done to find this killer. Who owns an Eagle Owl in this area and treats it so badly ? Too many of the “Elite” are escaping justice. I can appreciate that this must be frustrating for the police and the people who brought this killing to notice but even when they come to Court it’s just likely to be a mild slap on the wrist. Disgusting and frustrating !!!

  20. Am I missing something here,you’ve got a video, place,time,motive,vehicle,eagle owl,full description tall slim lad,clothing that will be unique to him and not the other keepers ffs

  21. I am still shocked by the dreadful handling of the poor Eagle Owl . . . . . . . . . .and this was an occasion that they were observed , how many many more occasions are not caught on camera . Shocking beyond belief

  22. That blasted loophole again, ‘lack of evidence’! Those blasted ‘pillars of the community’ keepers, who don’t have the common decency to own up to their crimes! (Mind, if they were the ‘decent people’ they purport to be we wouldn’t be worrying about raptor persecution at all, would we?) It’s really not good enough promote yourselves as ‘decent people’ for looking after your granny, cutting the village cricket field, tidying a retired keeper’s garden, donating grouse or pheasant breasts to the local Food Bank, putting up owl boxes, inviting local school children onto the moors, raising money for the Air Ambulance or the Samaritans etc. when many of you know what’s really going on, are part of what’s really going on, are complicit in what’s really going on or seem to think that you have a ‘divine right’ to persecute wildlife that you can’t see as ‘turning a profit’!
    Surely, it cannot be too difficult to introduce legislation requiring all lethal weapons to have ‘tags’ attached, in the same way as criminals are tagged & tracked. Why not insist on tagging mule & quad vehicles … and eagle owls too, for that matter? In fact most falconers already satellite tag their birds! Whenever anyone takes a lethal weapon out of doors it should be flagged up and trackable!
    Spare a thought for the Investigations Team members, who have to endure these awful experiences, again and again it seems, in the hope that someone can be ‘caught in the act’ fair and square. It’s about time for a review of the law … along the lines of ‘guilt by association’, because, sadly, there is little honesty to be found within upland shooting communities, it seems!
    Go ‘Team Indefatigable’, the RSPB Investigations Team! You are our raptors’ frontline defenders and occupy the high moral ground, for sure!

  23. I think it is high time for the shoot leaseholders to be made personally liable for the misdeeds of their ‘keepers. I have a feeling that this will be the only way that we will eventually put a decisive end to this disgusting trade.

  24. While the evidence might not be quite good enough for the Courts, it is more than good enough in the ‘Court of Public Opinion’. This type of footage makes it increasingly difficult for the shooting industry to win over anyone who is otherwise neutral. On a tangent, I have tried out a cheap (£17ish amazon) little mobile phone bracket for binoculars, which means you can utilise the extra magnification on your phones camera. Easy to use albeit after a bit of fiddling, it is suprising what it can do. After all, one or two keepers caught like this won’t make them stop using Eagle Owls as decoys by any means – the effectiveness of the method by far outweighs the risks. Also, note the box on the quad, for comparison the next time a keeper speeds past you on a moorland track, yes it might just be for the terriers…but it might just as likely be an Owl sitting in there. ps big well done RSPB, and NY Police who seem genuinely to be doing what they can within their current powers.

    1. “This type of footage makes it increasingly difficult for the shooting industry to win over anyone who is otherwise neutral”

      Have you watched the published RSPB video? It appears to have been deliberately obscured (or is so far out of focus) so that no person, no gun, no quad bike, no Eagle Owl, no Buzzards and so no shooting is discernible… It is so bad that it doesn’t even look like a moor:-(

        1. Eye witness evidence. I do not believe anyone would take any action whatsoever, based on such poor quality video (as published above and on YouTube). Where did the higher quality, inserted, stills come from? At least the 2km footage was clear, but the 5km video is useless as evidence (as published).

      1. Hi Keith, yes I have – on their YouTube video. The two bits of footage together are more than good enough for me to easily accept that in all probabality this was a keeper illegally decoying for raptors, but I accept not beyond the ‘reasonable doubt’ threshold needed for prosecution. Likewise had I observed the second scene with my own eyes I would think ‘likely a Buzzard just bought it over there, tut tut’. Rough heathery ground perfectly normal to me; keeper, Owl & quad with terrier box clear at about 40secs.

  25. “. Some gamekeepers continue to break the law,” Surely this should read “ALL”

    [Ed: No, the word ‘some’ was included deliberately]

  26. This case is yet another example of why legislation needs changing to give the police greater investigatory powers in relation to raptor crimes.

    As an example- At the moment following the arrest of a suspect for wildlife crimes the police have no powers under Sect18 of PACE to search premises controlled by the suspect for evidence relating to the offence. This is an important power as it would enable the police to seize items such as clothing worn by the suspect at the time of the offence, or mobile phones which might contain data to link the suspect to the crime scene. In this case it is reported that the police were granted a search warrant, but they will have been limited to search only for evidence stipulated in the warrant. We don’t know the extent of that search, but hopefully it will have included any item which might have helped link the suspect to the crime scene? But I should imagine the whole process of arranging the interview of the suspect and obtaining a search warrant, will all have taken time, and given a suspect the opportunity to dispose of any incriminating evidence? Whereas the quick arrest of a suspect following a crime being committed and subsequent Sect18 search, which if properly planned can give a suspect little opportunity to dispose of any evidence.
    It would be good to see a working party set up within the NWCU, Police, CPS and Law Commission to look at the investigatory powers in relation to wildlife crimes, and why there are so few successful prosecutions.

    It also seems absurd that the details of the location of the offence have not been released. This doesn’t have to name the landowner or estate, but merely the locality of the crime. As others have pointed out, had this been a crime involving a person as the victim, there would be an expectation that the location of the crime would be put out into the public domain. This would serve as an appeal for potential witnesses to come forward, as well enabling crime prevention strategies to be put in place.
    These crimes are happening on grouse moors- most grouse moors are Open Access Land – a simple crime prevention strategy is to get a vigilant public out onto the moors were the crimes are happening- this will either deter those committing the crimes or it will help provide more potential witnesses to the crimes which are occurring. Insp Haggen appeals for this in the interview he gave – so why aren’t the locations where these crimes are occurring being released, and why aren’t visitors to the National Parks being made aware of what is happening up on the moors?

    The fact that raptor persecution is supposed to be a national wildlife crime priority, and yet the police haven’t been given robust investigative powers, or locations where these crimes are occurring isn’t being shared with the public suggests to me that these crimes are “priority” in words only.

    It is time the government woke up to the fact that its current strategies to tackle raptor persecution aren’t working, that the police are being required to investigate these crimes with one hand tied behind their back, that wildlife criminals are not being brought to justice, and that the current legislation is failing to protect some of our most endangered species.
    Those in government responsible for wildlife protection should hang their heads in shame!

    1. You are absolutely correct, I think. And the reason the law is ‘light’ on this issue comes down to class. The criminals are protected by the Establishment’s penchant for using live birds for shooting practise, all the way up to our ‘sacred’ Head of State.

      One needs to think who are the Patrons of the RSPB and the BTO to realise just how morally corrupting shooting is.

      However, shooting also requires vast depletion and enduring damage to our environment, and so comes up against science at a time of unheralded world crisis (and I am not talking about a mere pandemic). In this respect it becomes a battle of wills between ‘the people and science’ and any Government which tries to represent the Establishment’s interests in this piddling, pointless, immoral, medieval, bloody ‘sport’.

  27. Apart from the obvious offences of shooting the buzzards and use of a decoy bird, the individual’s treatment of the Eagle Owl ought to have been sufficient for him to be barred for life from keeping any form of livestock. The disrespectful manner in which the owl is handled tells us much about the callous attitude and mindset of these people.
    The witnessed offences beg the question how many times this act has been repeated, both in this location and elsewhere. Yet again there’s no sign of any statements from the MA, GWCT, BASC, etc condemning the shooting of the buzzards. Their silence speaks a thousand words.

    1. Has the RSPCA been asked to investigate this individuals’ treatment of the owl? Certainly worth following up I would have thought.

    2. When I watched the video, and the treatment of the owl, I did ask myself whether there was sufficient evidence to consider an offence under The Animal Welfare Act 2006.
      This piece of legislation makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.
      I believe the Eagle Owl will fall within the definition of “a protected” animal.” It would be a matter for an expert- like the RSPCA to determine whether tethering the owl as bait or handling it in the manner captured in the video would constitute unnecessary suffering.
      What the case does highlight is that the suspect clearly has no compassion for animals, whether wild or in the keeping of humans.
      I wonder if there was a follow up by the RSPCA- to consider whether the suspect was keeping any animals in his/her ownership properly?
      If the Eagle Owl is being used for the unlawful purpose of luring other birds of prey, would this be sufficient in itself to ban the owner from keeping such birds??
      Could this activity be likened to a dog owner who keeps a dog for dog fighting, or poultry for cock fighting??
      We are not told whether these ancillary matters were considered during the investigation.

  28. A few people who have said ‘track down the owner of the Eagle Owl’ seem to have missed this line in the blog – ‘On the search, the suspect [linked to the search] arrived home with the eagle owl in the rear box on his ATV’.

    This case came down to the simple fact that the identity of the gamekeeper using a decoy Eagle Owl and filmed shooting the Buzzards could not be proven beyond all reasonable doubt, so there was no realistic prospect of a conviction. Police did a good job.

    Mark Thomas, Head of RSPB Investigations

    1. Mark,

      We owe your investigations team a great debt of gratitude. Time and time again it is you and your team that bring these issues into the public gaze. Thank you and please keep up your good work.

      1. So, Mark, why cannot the estate be named – if only to say ‘we were filming on the x estate when we saw this…..?

    2. Mark, You’re a legend. Thank you for all your hard work. One question though: Why can’t the police identify the suspect through his mobile phone location? as they do know the exact time and location!
      Keep up the great work.

  29. On the 29th Feb, the police tracked a car on the motorway at 140MPH, so fast that they couldnt catch the driver. Whilst they appreciate that it wont help gather evidence from potential witnesses, they have declined to give the location of the offence incase any other driver that may have been in the area may think they are guilty.

  30. I have been searching for the statements from the GWCT, Moorland Association, Countryside Alliance, BASC and associated apologists for raptor persecution, condemning this activity and undertaking to name and shame the gamekeeper and the estate concerned as evidence of their “zero tolerance for this type of crime”.

    However, it seems there is no reference to this incident anywhere!

  31. “Police did a good Job” but not good enough.They know who the suspect is so are they keeping an eye on him.
    Can we be told on which estate he works?

  32. You cant see anything in those videos. Those bird are also used to shoot crows. I think if your going to lie about something having a questionable video with two member of the rspb talking over it. To make you think its happening it should be illegal. Also it is illegal to purposely record someone like that you are only allowed to watch if you actually looking for wildlife.

    1. While you’re at it, read the words of Inspector Matt Hagen…

      “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.”

      “I think if your (sic) going to lie about something” read the whole article before making yourself look a prat.

  33. Does anyone know what has happened to the decoy owl? The RSPCA/Police report says it was seen on the back of the gamekeeper’s vehicle. But no mention of the owl’s welfare. I’m assuming you need a licence for such birds?

  34. The rspb need to employ a retired special forces soldier who loves wildlife to do obs and gather evidence, or at least train people to do it.

  35. Its all feudal 1066 stuff .the estate wont be named as this tossers employer is just as liable for prosecution as the gamekeeper .
    I live in the YDNP and I find it shameful ,and beyond belief that these things happen here with impunity ,along with all the hypocrisy of the various organisations touting zero tolerance statements ,
    There are dark sub cultures everywhere ,and it makes me ill to think there is one on my own doorstep.

  36. Yet again all conjecture show us the face with all the money rspb have got the took a picture and video with a £20camera come on skullduggery I think .I reckon the two parties (gunman cameraman)where from one organisation

    1. “I reckon the two parties (gunman cameraman)where from one organisation”

      From someone who either does not understand basic English, or cannot write it (xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx) that is just convenient wishful thinking.

    2. Hi Paul,
      I’d like to know where I can get a telescope and camera that can take pictures such as these from 5km away for £20. My £8000 camera can’t manage it.

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