Another pseudo ‘partnership’ supposedly tackling raptor persecution, this time in Yorkshire

A new report has been published today outlining the findings of what looks to me like yet another pseudo ‘partnership’, supposedly tackling the illegal killing of raptors, this time in Yorkshire, the UK’s worst hotspot for bird of prey persecution.

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Calling itself the Yorkshire Dales Birds of Prey Partnership, it involves the usual suspects including representatives from BASC, CLA, Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers Organisation as well as conservationists from the Northern England Raptor Forum and the RSPB, two police authorities (North Yorkshire and Cumbria), Natural England, Nidderdale AONB and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. The area covered by the ‘partnership’ includes the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the neighbouring Nidderdale AONB.

If this sounds at all familiar then you’d be right. It appears to be an almost carbon copy of the failed ‘partnership’ in the Peak District National Park, where the game-shooting organisations have done their level best to disrupt and distort the reporting of the scale of the persecution problem there, for years, and that so-called ‘partnership’ has failed to deliver time and time again (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here).

It’s hard not to be cynical about the Yorkshire version of the failed partnership, especially when essentially it appears to be many of the same players involved. Perhaps this time it’ll be different?

Who am I kidding.

The new report published today, called an ‘Evidence Report’, relates to 2020 and documents the status of raptor populations and the recorded persecution incidents from that year. It’s data-poor for most species, carefully avoids telling the public certain things (e.g. the Marsh harrier overview on page 7 is laughably coy about this incident) and tellingly, ‘Publication of the report was delayed to ensure the accuracy and completeness of bird of prey persecution data collated by the RSPB and audited by the police’s National Wildlife Crime Unit‘ according to the accompanying press release. Yep, this is a common tactic deployed by certain shooting organisations who routinely challenge the RSPB’s official and carefully curated data, with the clear intention of discrediting the figures.

Here’s the report for anyone who can be bothered to read it:

23 thoughts on “Another pseudo ‘partnership’ supposedly tackling raptor persecution, this time in Yorkshire”

    1. Because it is a case of damned if they do, damned if they don’t. They join, when it fails, they walk away explaining why it is failing – just as they did with the Hen Harrier inaction plan. If they don’t engage then they are accused of turning their backs on efforts to prevent the killing.

  1. I don’t know what is the right thing to do here – but isn’t there a case for the NERF & RSPB people to say ‘sod you’ and boycott it? Better to put their resources into doing what the keepers hate most…quietly pottering about the hills with the binos / camera to hand. By joining in does it not lend the other parties credibility they desire but haven’t earned?

    1. There’s something in that but the YDNPA – although they are operating with one hand tied behind their back, have been shown to be rather more ‘progressive’ in their approach to these issues in the past and have been rather forthright inn calling out the criminals. Surely It’s got to be worthwhile for some of the ‘good guys’ trying to engage with a local initiative – in the face of no new approaches from Central Govt.

    2. I can only guess, but a body involving four statutory institutions (Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, the Police forces of North Yorkshire and Cumbria, and Natural England) probably cannot simply be ignored.

      Which once again begs the question: how should our National Parks be governed? The Government is asking for OUR views on this (and is making some encouraging suggestions). The RSPB have supplied a ready-made template of their suggestions for people to consider…

      Do we participate? Or, do we stay silent… and then complain?

      1. Hi Keith, Hi Paul – objectively (politically) you are right. It just sticks in my throat a bit – I suppose my sympathy is more with the people putting the hours in on the windy hillsides keeping an eye on moors owned by various CLA & MA members and once in a while recovering a shot / trapped / poisoned raptor corpse from the same.

        1. Fair point Mr SM. It’s just I think there are some people in the YDNP and the NY Police who ‘get it’. NY Police doing a tour of all the Parish Councils in the National Park with one of the hardest hitting (and most graphic) presentations I’ve seen on BOP Criminality is but one example.
          I come back to my original point; until C Govt stops buggering about on BOP crime, I think it’s probably better to try to engage – even if it sometimes sticks in the craw.

          1. There certainly are. We’ve seen this on TV news programmes in recent months where one NY Police Inspector in particular was very up-front about the number of wildlife crimes under investigation. Suddenly he’s not visible anymore and the whole topic profile seems to have dropped. I wonder why.

  2. If I am correct North Yorkshire Police initiated Operation Owl, along with other partner agencies including the RSPB, RSPCA and both the Yorkshire Dales and Yorkshire Moors National Parks Authorities. These organisations clearly have an understanding of the scale and nature of raptor persecution, and who is suspected of being responsible.
    It will therefore be very interesting to watch what happens with this new partnership, and how the group dynamics play out.
    Hopefully the original organisations involved in Operation Owl, will not be persuaded by some of the other groups in this new partnership of leaving the monitoring, and day to day observations/policing of what actually takes place out on the moors to some of these other partnership organisations, some of whose members may not be fully committed to truly eradicating raptor persecution.
    The fact that BSAC recently expelled two game keepers for wildlife crimes, should be a lesson to their hierarchy, and to the National Game Keepers Organisation leadership, that whilst the intentions set out in their mission statements/policies etc may be good, not all their members adhere to those principles; and if they really want to engage in partnership working, then they may have to accept that this could entail the police or the RSPB investigating the activities of some of their members; and they should allow those organisations to investigate unimpeded, and accept the findings of those investigations, however uncomfortable those findings might be.
    But it would be nice to think this is a step in the right direction.
    The proof will very much be in the pudding, which should be judged perhaps not on the number of raptor persecution incidents reported (which can too easily be concealed), but on the raptor population within the geographical boundaries of the organisations involved, especially those heavily persecuted raptors, such as Hen Harriers, Red Kites and Buzzards, which have traditionally been seen as detrimental to grouse shooting.
    As such it will be worthwhile closely monitoring just what happens to this years satellite tagged Hen Harriers, and where any birds go missing, as well any other reported incidents of raptor persecution.
    I have full confidence in Ruth keeping a watchful eye on what really takes place- so I will say thank you now, in anticipation of future updates.

  3. One of the things that interests me about such talking shops is why does whoever sets them up invite the bad guys to join in ( MA, NGO, CLA and BASC) when a discussion group is set up to say help solve burglary or car crime they don’t invite the burglars or car criminals why do they need to be in this. It gives those groups a semblance of respect and respectability they do not merit. Also if you must have them why both the MA and the NGO, keepers do what they are told so don’t under any circumstances need to be present, although in this case it would be interesting who attends for both these organisations. Why because the area is rife with Wildlife criminals and their bosses.
    The other thing, knowing the area well is what is not in their hopeless report:- there has been no successful nest of Peregrines on a grouse moor in either the YDNP or Nidderdale AONB since 1994 or 98 depending on whose data you believe. It would be interesting to ask the assembled group how they think those sites, most of them “traditional” are kept vacant and who by. How many Hen Harriers display but don’t go on to nest, never mind successfully, oh and a brood managed nest is not a breeding success it is a man caused failure. The Merlin “project mentioned is run by Jack Orchel on behalf of NE and the MA, he lives in London and frankly having myself studied Merlins in part of the area since “stolen” by Orchel, his study will tell folk nothing that isn’t already known or been published for example by Peter Wright, its a sham to keep raptor workers out. I wouldn’t licence most head keepers in the area concerned to take a piss never mind visit schedule One nests. Who verifies their results? North Yorkshire has apparently lost its best and most senior wildlife police officer. Matt Hagen.

    1. Indeed, Paul.

      I just conducted a quick search for Matt Hagen, which failed to come up with any info on his current standing. I did, however come across this piece of unmitigated nitwitery (if anyone here can stomach reading such drivel)…

      [Ed: Thanks, Coop, but there’s no way I’m providing a link to that site. I’m sure you’ll understand]

    2. The responses from those people I know who have read the report have been entirely positive. I suspect that PVI might find himself in a minority of one in describing it as ‘hopeless’. Clearly it is not perfect and the author goes to some length to point out where deficiencies lie, through data being incomplete. Moreover, they were hardly likely to point out the Peregrine issue to which PVI refers at the same time as admitting that the data held on the species was incomplete.
      Time will tell how successful this partnership will turn out to be, but I know that I’m not alone in wishing it well, particularly as a joint effort between the YDNP and AONB Authorities and NY Police.

      1. Hi WTF, I’m afraid I agree with Paul – I reckon it is hopeless too, because I reckon it’s purpose is to distract, delay and give false reassurance to people that something might be getting done and that there is no need to worry. There is a big need to worry – the intensifying of keepering & Owner / Sporting Tenant / Agents land-grab for any “under performing” ground is if anything still increasing. The Estates (via their keepers who do genuinely know what is happening on their beats) could have contributed masses of data about the birds they see but they are not credited as having done so in this data report. If one day Estates are as a matter of routine reporting any and all pairs (of all species*) that their keepers see paired / nesting to the RSPB and inviting them to come in and use the estate roads to gain access to monitor them / ring them, I will genuinely eat humble pie and admit there is some potential in it.

        *not just Merlins (the generally acceptable PR raptor).

      2. I think some of the “missing” data could be supplied by estates or their keepers as Sphagnum also comments. Then the Estates don’t want us to know the exact status of these species except perhaps brood meddled Harriers and their ” green” bird the Merlin. The Dales including the AONB has always needed more raptophiles on the ground and not in league with the estates I know I used to be one of them there for 30+ years.
        I wish it well too but experience says that the “darkside” with obfuscate, philibuster, evade, and water down, they have never entered any previous discussions with anything like full co-operation. They are there to serve their own interests nothing else if that is seen as cynical fine nobody will be happier to be proved wrong than me.
        May I suggest we start with something easy how about an area wide survey of SEO.
        Oh and Sphagnum there are plenty of raptor workers who could be ringing these estates birds within and associated with NERF outside RSPB but these estates want tame ringers who ask no questions, see no evil and express no views contrary to their own.

        1. Totally agree, if I was a billionaire who owned a huge chunk of the YDNP…and if I genuinely cared to get to the bottom of the “mystery” as to why there are almost no breeding raptors on my 36,000+ acre Estate…I would welcome the help of ordinary people of average means who are giving up their own time to look for raptors in all weathers & throwing the doors open to RSPB & NERF. “Come in anytime folks, bring as many knowledgable volunteers as you can get, bring your spotting scopes, use our roads, go wherever you want without any notice needed, stop the night in our lunch huts – they will hardly get used before August – we’ll even switch the calor gas on for you, put up your hidden cameras – do what you need to do to find out why on earth we have no raptors!”

          The above could be accomodated at almost zero cost to the billionaire – it is not as if he has to loan out his private jet or yacht, is it? Must be some other reason I suppose.

          1. They are a bit like the catholic church, if kept ignorant we might continue to believe. Unfortunately for them the shooting cabal have been rumbled, we are just waiting for officialdom to catch- on. That and stop inviting the bastards to serious stuff they will just hinder.

  4. I wonder how much is PR, whether there is an awareness that potential visitors might go elsewhere after the publicity about raptor persecution.

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