Buzzard found shot dead in Peak District National Park – police appeal one year later

Press release from South Yorkshire Police & RSPB (4th March 2022)

Buzzard found shot dead in Peak District

South Yorkshire Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after a buzzard was found shot dead in the Peak District National Park.

The body of the bird was discovered in woodland at Flouch, near the popular visitor hotspot of Langsett in the Peak District National Park, in March 2021. The finder, a volunteer for the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group, reported it to the police. Post-mortem examination revealed that the bird had been shot by a shotgun.

[The shot buzzard found on land owned by Yorkshire Water. Photo by Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group]

[RPUK map showing woodland areas around Langsett Reservoir in the Peak District National Park and its proximity to land managed for driven grouse shooting. The woodland where the corpse was found is believed to be owned by Yorkshire Water]

There have been several incidents of raptor persecution in this area, including a raven poisoned with the banned substance Aldicarb found on a nearby grouse moor in 2018. And recently, in February 2022, South Yorkshire Police, the RSPB and the National Wildlife Crime Unit conducted a search for a missing hen harrier in the Stocksbridge area. An investigation is ongoing.

Buzzards and all other birds of prey are legally protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

Tom Grose, RSPB Investigations Officer said: “Here is yet another bird of prey which has been found shot dead within the National Park. This area of the Peak District is a place where people come to enjoy nature, yet it is one of the UK’s number one raptor crime hotspots. This simply cannot continue. Bringing persecution to an end inside and outside these landscapes will require government action, and we echo the recommendations found in the recently published UN wildlife crime report including the implementation of licences for driven grouse shooting, which can then be revoked if raptor persecution is found to have occurred“.

The RSPB’s most recent Birdcrime report showed that 2020 was the worst year in 30 years for the illegal killing of birds of prey, and that two-thirds of confirmed incidents were in connection with land managed for gamebird shooting.

In 2018, a paper published in the scientific journal British Birds proved a statistically significant association with land burnt for driven grouse shooting and persecution of birds of prey in the Peak District National Park. This, along with police intelligence and population studies of key raptor species, shines a bright light on the systematic killing of birds of prey in the Dark Peak.  

Police Wildlife Crime Officer Liz Wilson said:Raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority and we will endeavour to ensure that those responsible for such heinous crimes are brought before the courts.

We are lucky to have beautiful areas to enjoy, but these areas are home to wildlife and animals, and must be respected.

We are now appealing for information following the death of a buzzard near to Langsett Barn and urge anyone with information to come forward. If you can help please call 101“.

Steve Davies of the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group added: “Here is yet another case of illegal raptor persecution tainting the image of the Peak District National Park. Wildlife Crime enforcement needs more teeth to enable it to be a successful deterrent. Licencing of shooting estates and the introduction and effective implementation of vicarious liability legislation, including suspension and clawback of any associated agricultural subsidies, would directly impact on the shooting estate landowners or shooting tenants and estate managers who are ultimately responsible and benefit directly from game shooting.”

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, phone the police on 101, email RSPB Investigations at crime@rspb.org.uk or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx

Alternatively, if you have sensitive information about raptor persecution which you wish to tell us about in confidence, please ring our confidential raptor crime hotline on 0300 999 0101. This is for reporting information relating to birds of prey only.

ENDS

Once again we have a very late appeal for information, this time one year after the discovery of the shot buzzard. On this occasion it appears the delay is not the fault of South Yorkshire Police, who submitted the corpse for a post mortem soon after the discovery was made. The delay appears to be the result of an over-stretched and under-resourced laboratory, snowed under by the number of raptor corpses that require examination.

Sharp-eyed blog readers will note that the location of this wildlife crime is not a million miles from where a satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances just a few weeks ago (see here).

8 thoughts on “Buzzard found shot dead in Peak District National Park – police appeal one year later”

  1. I very much appreciate that it is not South Yorkshire Police’s fault in any way but a year is a very long time, I couldn’t tell you what I was doing or who I saw this time last month, so I imagine it would be very difficult for very many to remember what might have been seen on the day this poor, precious buzzard was murdered; therefore making it very difficult to get a prosecution unless evidence was so obvious. Are SYP restricted in the number of laboratories they can send a raptor corpse to for its post mortem?
    How strange then, or in these days of raptor persecution possibly not, that the corpse was found close to where a satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances just a few weeks ago.
    This ‘weak on nature protection’ government of ours really does need to step up and increase its funding for all those agencies who are tasked with tracking these perpetrators down and helping get a conviction. Too much talk and not enough doing. Boris may think his government is green, but only in the sense of its having had very little experience or understanding of this important cause in my opinion to stop these murders of raptors; which, more often than not seem to happen in the same areas time after time.

  2. The important thing here is yet another bird of prey killed in the National Park adding to the huge tally of wildlife crime in this area. The woodland described here is part owned by Yorkshire Water and part private owned. I really don’t understand the process following the discovery of the buzzard. Any number of vets could have provided an x-ray which would have shown broken bones or fragments of shotgun pellets. So there could have been an appeal to the public within 24 hours. I can see a full post mortem might be necessary for a prosecution but given the delay there is no chance bringing anyone to justice. Could the Wild Justice “forensic” fund or similar have helped here?

    1. Fully agree regarding the X-ray aspect. However, the situation is not as clear-cut as might be believed. Was shooting the cause of death is another factor for consideration further down the line. Certainly an appeal could have been made on the basis of an X-ray showing clear munition damage, if this was the case, with the added rider that the bird had apparently died after having been shot – rather than as a result of.

  3. Police Wildlife Crime Officer Liz Wilson said: “Raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority ………..”

    Heard that cliche enough to make me vomit.

    If the police submit a bird for examination they must have reason to believe the cause of death may involve criminal activity. Therefore there is nothing to stop an immediate public appeal being made on the grounds of suspicious circumstances.
    To make an appeal after a year is imbecilic.

  4. The idea of appealing for info a year later is beyond my comprehension but the actions of the powers that seem to be in charge of toxology testing and so on are a constant source of bewilderment but then again it is also a clear sign we are NOT living in a democracy when certain people can break the law with impunity with the prime minister encouraging law breaking.

  5. The more I think about this the more annoyed I become and the more I suspect there is something intrinsically and grossly wrong with the police/investigation process.
    Delay of a year induces suspicion of a premeditated attempt to render any investigation worthless or there is ineptness on a colossal scale.
    Almost any veterinary practice in the country would have been able to X ray the bird that very day it was found .

  6. If the government have declared raptor persecution a national wildlife crime priority, then surely it would be reasonable to expect that the post mortem of a raptor which has died in suspicious circumstances should be a fast track action in order to progress and expedite the police investigation?
    I would suggest the question need to be asked of government, that if they have deemed raptor persecution to be a wildlife priority, why then hasn’t appropriate funding been put in place to ensure that post mortems of raptors which have died in suspicious circumstances is carried out in a timely manner?
    Am I missing something? Or is there a mismatch between what the government claim, and what actually happens?
    Is this just an example of “playing the game” whilst effectively ensuring vested interests are protected?

    As Dougie has correctly pointed out, there is nothing to stop the police making a press release at the time of finding the dead buzzard, and simply claim that a buzzard has been found dead in suspicious circumstances and requesting any potential witnesses to come forward who were in the area at the relevant time. An investigation can be as much about proving something didn’t happen as to proving something did happen. It’s about establishing the truth, and obtaining early untainted witness evidence is crucial to the success of any investigation. A year after an event I would suggest any witness account could be very unreliable and lacking in detail.

    But we have been here before with police press releases long after the date of an incident, and I would be interested to know the rational behind the police decision to wait until after the post mortem is concluded before issuing a press release, especially if they believe a bird has died in suspicious circumstances, and a preliminary examination of the bird suggests the bird appeared in good health at the time of it’s death.

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