Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority reacts to 2020 being ‘worst year on record’ for raptor persecution crimes

Last week the RSPB published its latest annual Birdcrime report which showed that 2020 was the ‘worst year on record’ for confirmed crimes against birds of prey in the UK (see here).

For the seventh year in a row, North Yorkshire had more confirmed raptor persecution crimes than any other county in the UK. Twenty-six of the 137 confirmed UK incidents occurred in North Yorkshire. Of these two thirds were directly related to grouse shooting and a further four incidents to other types of shooting. Victims in the county included 16 buzzards, two peregrine falcons, two red kites and one goshawk.

[Grouse moor landscape in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

In response to the damning Birdcrime report, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has issued this pretty unequivocal statement:


Commenting on the RSPB Birdcrime Report 2020, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority Chief Executive David Butterworth said:

“This report makes grim reading for all landscape authorities, landowners, managers and other partners who are working hard to call out and tackle illegal raptor persecution, and it’s embarrassing and humiliating to see North Yorkshire yet again topping the league table with the highest number of confirmed incidents.

“As we’ve said before, the continuing issue of bird of prey persecution in North Yorkshire demands maximum exposure, as do the activities of those who take part in this criminality. People need to know what is happening here and the devastating impact this is having on our protected species. This report lays that bare.

”The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority condemns raptor persecution in the strongest possible terms and, as highlighted in this report, we will continue to work closely with partners and others to stamp out this crime once and for all.

“I would appeal to anyone, local or visitor, who witnesses any suspicious activity while they’re out and about in the countryside, or anyone who is made aware of it through their networks, to contact the Police”.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Management Plan objective C5 on illegal persecution of raptors can be viewed here.

For concerns about a possible wildlife crime, you should call 101. If you witness a suspected wildlife crime in action, call 999 immediately and ask for the Police. Finally, you can speak in confidence about raptor persecution directly with the RSPB on 0300 9990101


9 thoughts on “Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority reacts to 2020 being ‘worst year on record’ for raptor persecution crimes”

  1. I would have more appreciation of their stance if they had commented on how the vast majority of crimes are associated with shooting and shooting estates and how those landowners must get their house in order. This spineless attitude, that they should not polarise the argument against the people who are clearly behind the criminal actions, does nothing for the credibility of their response.

    I am sick of the “few bad apples” rhetoric when it is clear that the barrel is full of rotten apples, and those that aren’t absolutely rotten have been tainted by that rot as well.

  2. We should be clear that while these crimes embarrass and humiliate YDNPA, it is not walkers, birdwatchers and other visitors to the NP that is the source of the embarrassment and humiliation. It is the occupiers of the land that are unable or unwilling to ensure that wildlife on their land is not persecuted.

    In the absence of any reduction in the occurrence of these crimes and in the absence of any improvement in the ability of the authorities to ensure compliance and to punish miscreants, perhaps the answer is for the NPA to embarrass and humiliate the occupiers of the land where these crimes take place. The NPA should initiate a process to eject those land holdings where wildlife crime is persistent from the NP.

    I appreciate that this may be a protracted process and perhaps impossible to engineer but even the threat of expulsion or a statement to the effect ‘that I’d chuck you out out if I could’ might be sufficiently embarassing and humiliating. It ought to be worth a go.

  3. As a resident on or adjacant to various grouse moors for over 20 years, albeit a number of years ago, I know that it is virtually impossible to access these moors without being seen — an is impossible, in my opinion, to access them with a firearm without them knowing. At the time I was resident in these areas it was an open secret that the number plates of certain cars .. those of investigators and activists .. were known and supplied to local gamekeepers .. and when spotted mobile phones used to alert their presence to other gamekeepers in the area. It was also part of a daily routine to check parking spots, including secluded or hidden ones.
    This was no amateur operation and meant that every gamekeeper in the district was involved in one way or another — because no other reason exists for an operation largely targetting those whose business it was to protect these birds from criminal acts. In my opinion it would have been impossible for any gamekeeper employed on a full time basis on a grouse moor not to have known what was going on and the implications this holds.
    Today, given what is happening on these moors, I view this statement in the same light I have viewed countless others of a similar nature emerging from various sources.

  4. This might have been done before I don’t know, but if they wanted to – could the Park bosses (eg David Butterworth in this case) not make a strong enough business case to get some funding to employ a full-time investigator (ideally managed by RSPB)? Get him or her a Polaris type vehicle and also get all the Estates to allow them unlimited and unfettered access throughout their network of tracks and roads – of course with open permission to use cameras to record whatever they needed to. NP’s seem to get funded for all sorts of well paid back-room posts without any eyebrows being raised. In addition the MA would surely support this too, their members we are told have nothing to hide and this could help find the true culprits and put their keepers in the clear…

    1. In the Cairngorm National Park this was done a few years ago to no avail. I offered to pay for camera traps for use by the personnel. The offer was not taken up. I believe the whole operation was doomed to failure from the start due to the number of people who wished that no one would be found to be committing wildlife crime. It is perhaps getting to the point where the public wishes more to be done but that is insufficient for any national park to take effective action leading to a conviction.

  5. Sadly, I think the only solution to protecting our uplands is for community buyouts, like the Langholm Initiative, or the purchase of a shooting estate by conservation charities, like Couldoran Estate in Scotland by the Woodland Trust, or by the few conservation minded billionaires or corporations buying up the land and some smaller landowners who have realised that things must improve. The galling thing is having tp pay those who trashed the land in the first place to get them off it.

  6. Is it possible that there might be a conflict of interests for some members on the YDNPA?
    Really no idea, I’m just asking.

  7. Just for my own satisfaction is the county of North Yorkshire larger in size than the rest or is it similar ? If it is the largest is that why there is more cases or is it a true reflection if it is carried out by county? If not has anybody ever done the stats by the incidents per hectare ? I totally condemn wildlife crime but I feel it must be done to scale to stop anybody questioning the data.

    1. Bobby,
      This may not be the right answer, but North Yorkshire Police were instrumental in promoting Operation Owl, which was an initiative to raise public awareness of raptor persecution.
      As such it is probably now a debatable matter as to whether the high number of reported incidents in North Yorkshire are a reflection of more crimes being committed, or more crimes being reported.
      Certainly North Yorkshire Police are one of the few police forces which have a dedicated rural crime unit, who seem to be taking a strong position against raptor persecution. (There are other forces as well!)
      The problem with raptor persecution, is that no one really knows the true scale of the number of crimes being committed, as with so many of these crimes, the killed bird and any other evidence is disposed of by the perpetrators.
      I suspect there are other areas where the scale of persecution is similar to that in North Yorkshire- but these crimes remain hidden from the authorities.
      If you don’t see birds of prey in what should be suitable habitat, then it is most probable persecution is taking place, and probably on a large scale.

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