Buzzard & red kite suspected poisoned on North Dorset estate

Well this saga gets more interesting by the day.

I’ve written about the poisoned white-tailed eagle found dead on an as-yet undisclosed shooting estate in North Dorset and Dorset Police’s decision to close the investigation prematurely (see here, here, here, here and here).

I’ve also written about the suspected poisoning of another white-tailed eagle on another as-yet undisclosed shooting estate in North Dorset and a subsequent multi-agency raid in which items of interest have been submitted for toxicology assessment (see here).

Now there’s this – the suspected poisoning of a buzzard and a red kite on an as-yet undisclosed shooting estate in North Dorset, as revealed on Twitter this afternoon by Ian Denton:

More to follow……

28 thoughts on “Buzzard & red kite suspected poisoned on North Dorset estate”

  1. I live in the Derwent Valley, Tyne and Wear, where the Red Kite were reintroduced over a decade ago. They have been a major tourist attraction with thousands of people coming each year to see them. The overwhelming majority of people who live there see the bird as a local icon, they fly over the local villages and housing estates on a regular basis. The bring massive benefit both financially and ecologically to the local community than any shooting estate could ever bring.

    Yet they still are killed illegally in my area by shooting estates xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx. Nothing happens to the people that break the law, the police are all to happy to ignore and turn a blind eye. The police are not fit for purpose in rural areas tbh, they are more akin to a private police force for the wealthy land owners. When this useless corrupt government are kicked out, we need lobby for a total revamp of how wildlife crimes are investigates (create a separate city based agency to investigate wildlife crimes), have tougher wildlife laws and punishments and finally make the land owner legally responsible for crimes committed on their land by their staff. When some of the shooting estate owners are prosecuted then we will see this stop.

    1. Lee – there’s lots you can do to try to improve things in your area.

      Contact your MP. Durham Police Force has no dedicated Wildlife Crime Office. Please call for one to be appointed.

      There has recently been lots of burning on the moors near Slayley, Derwent Reservoir, Stanhope, Weardale. The RSPB wants What3word locations of recent black burns and active burns. Believe it or not – even though active burns can be seen for miles they are extremely difficult to locate exactly because of the lack of access points on to the moors. So take your time. Have a good long walk at the weekends.

      Naturally England also want visitors to their Derwent Gorge and Muggleswick National Nature Reserve. Despite the site being of national importance it and the surrounding areas are wildlife black holes. Raptors have a very unfortunate habit of disappearing and at least 3 badger setts on the reserve have been abandoned due to persecution. Sadly, a local shooting estate still retains the sporting rights on the NNR and can shoot there for ‘vermin’ control and game birds when in season. So, amazingly, their keepers are allowed on the land. The reserve welcome visitors looking for signs of badger activity and raptors and, obviously signs of persecution. They really are magnificent woods.

      While you’re out walking, check out the streams on the nearby moors. These are widely used for trapping stoats using DOC, Tully and Perdix traps. The old style Fenn traps are now illegal for use with stoats. So get familiar with those traps so you can report illegal traps. You can spot spring traps on the give-away logs placed at regular intervals over streams with caged traps on top. The gamekeepers have so much work to do they often use traps over streams near road / track sides so they can quickly check them – which means you can too!

      The more eyes and ears on the moors the better! Thanks.

      1. Thanks Lizzy, I am from Rowlands Gill area where the Red Kite is a cherished part of community. The kites draw many bird watchers, hikers, families to the area as they can be seen very easily flying over the village and surrounding countryside. Their reintroduction here has been a total success for the birds and for the local economy. Their persecution happens further up the river on the moors. I only get the opportunity to walk/cycle up there a few times a year and I have seen the traps you mention near streams right next to the road. I will definitely follow your advice and document any traps/burning I do see in the future as well as take the traps out of commision when safe to do so. I’ll also lobby my mp and Durham police to get a wildlife unit established in the area.

        1. Great!

          You may be interested to hear that I found snares actually IN the Derwent Gorge and Muggleswick National Nature Reserve (!) near one of the abandoned badger setts, under a pig wire fence on the edge of the reserve and near an abandoned pheasant feeder which I reported to the NNR. That’s when they told me gamekeepers were allowed to kill ‘vermin’ on their land and they had shooting rights for game (pheasants) during the shooting season. Isn’t that incredible. So it’s worth keeping an eye out for snares in the woods in that area. Lines of branches laid along animal tracks are good indicators that the animals are being lead into a snare trap.

          Try lobbying the Police & Crime Commissioner too about the lack of a Wildlife Crime Officer.

          Thank you so much for your offer of help. I really appreciate it. The more the merrier! All the best.

    2. Hi Lee, I agree with Lizzy. You need to get out west of the A68 (thats the beginning of the north pennines aonb black-hole for almost all species of raptors, owls & ravens as breeding birds) and drift about (legally and responsibly) during early morning / late evening in the places well away from the popular public areas & walks. Let us know the welcome you get / approaches from keepers assessing what risk you pose to them. Sounds like it’s the same in dorset – who knows what else is rotting away in the undergrowth down there?

  2. Sadly there will be many more victims of these poisonings that we will never know about as these are just the incidents that have been found out!! Farmers and gamekeepers will continue to persecute these magnificent beautiful birds of prey probably until they become almost extinct once again because there is no deterrent at all…all they have to do is read these blogs or news stories and realise that no serious punishment ever occurs. I bet the offenders wouldn’t feel so clever from inside a prison cell but sadly our police and legal system are too easily corrupted to pass any proper punishment so we will continue to witness these horrific crimes over and over again

  3. Hmm. I thought I’d check out PC Dinsdale & the Rural Crime Team, so I went to the Dorset Police site. It told me the relevant pages had been moved & the site couldn’t find them. As I said… Hmm

    1. Good to see these facts are now being publicised by the national press…. and bear in mind that – according to comparative body weights – the amount of brodifacoum found inside G461 would have killed upto 82 Brown rats. That is no accident! Except in the xxxxxxx minds of Dorset Police.

    2. Thanks for sharing the article.
      Hopefully the RSPB, and other wildlife campaign groups will be asking their members to campaign on getting brodifacoum banned from outdoor use, so that prosecution of those who are using this poison for criminal ends can be much more easily achieved.
      But isn’t it strange that prior to 2016 brodifacoum was banned from outdoor use.
      So who sanctioned its outdoor use?
      Was this the result of “vested interests” lobbying politicians to get the law changed, so that those with vested interests in persecuting raptors could have another poison available to misuse, as their stocks of other banned poisoned diminished?
      The cynic in me suggests this might well be the case.
      Why do we have politicians who like to tell the public that raptor persecution is a national wildlife priority, and yet fail to legislate to properly protect them?
      Does brodifacoum work against snakes who speak with a fork tongue???!! 😉

      1. “But isn’t it strange that prior to 2016 brodifacoum was banned from outdoor use.
        So who sanctioned its outdoor use?”

        From https://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/fa3f5493-6089-bbf3-ec81-84b79b56f259

        Regulation (EU) No 528/2012 concerning the making available on the market and use of biocidal products

        Evaluation of active substances. Renewal of approval

        Brodifacoum

        September 2016

        “- Amateurs should have the option to use ARs in and around buildings for the control of rat
        infestations, since there is evidence that rat infestations almost invariably have an outdoor
        origin (burrows). Any restriction of an active substance, or a biocidal product, to use ‘indoors
        only’ is a de facto restriction preventing use against most rat infestations.
        The control of rats in and around buildings for the general public can be approved at the
        substance approval stage but it may also be subject to derogation from MR at the product
        authorisation stage.”

        But note that Dorset Police, after finding the body of G461 on a shooting estate, declined to investigate whether any poison had been distributed more widely than ‘in and around buildings’. Neat, baring in mind that G461 was found to contain enough poison to kill 82 Brown rats (comparing body weights).

        1. Hi Keith, I must admit in my own mind (and I won’t be the only one) I would still put money on the following scenario rather than just irresponsible use of a dangerous & poorly regulated product. It is purely my opinion and speculation but (a) someone has wanted rid of some hooky-beakies of one or more species and they have hit upon the idea of (b) getting a few dead rats, slitting the belly & tipping some of this ‘legal’ poison in, closing it up and laying out a couple of dozen of them as deliberate baits. Whether or not this was the case is where a thorough investigation would come in. There are a number of legal (in fact everyday household) substances used a bit like this to kill cats and badgers.

          1. Yep. The Police have to ask themselves: how was it possible for G461 to have ingested enough brodifacoum to kill up to 82 Brown rats? After ingesting just 12 such rats (and how was even that possible?) G461 would be dead. But, hey, Dorset Police say there is nothing more to investigate, so they don’t ask themselves anything:-(

            And then, why was Wildlife Police Officer Claire Dinsdale QPM ‘removed’ from her job? And all that after rogue Tory MP Chris Loder publicly questioned (Feb 10th) both any investigation by Dorset Police into the poisoning and also (Feb 11th) the responding tweets from the Dorset Police Rural Wildlife & Heritage Crime team (as then was)?

            1. Thanks for the information. I totally agree with the points you are making.
              Having read the EU document which clearly states “For amateur use, tamper-resistant bait stations should always be mandatory, with baits securely fixed inside the bait stations when possible (wax blocks, paste). Loose baits (such as grain and pellets) cannot be excluded, even for amateur use, because of their higher palatability.”

              I would hope game keepers and farmers, when it come to pest control fall into the same category as the general public and are deemed to be amateurs. A professional by definition is someone engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation.

              This then raises the question of just why and how these raptors in the Dorset area were killed by this poison?
              The two options appear to be either, very incompetent misuse, which the EU document has suggested provisions to minimise, or deliberate criminal misuse to target raptors.
              It therefore beggars belief that Dorset police cancelled the planned searches, which might have uncovered important evidence in establishing how the sea eagle came to ingest such high quantities of poison.
              Was bait deliberately poisoned and left out for raptors on one of the shooting estates?
              Was this why Mr Loder was so vocal in his opposition to Dorset police investigating the dead eagle?
              I know what I believe!!!
              …..and if the wildlife criminals in Dorset are allowed to get away with this- where next???

              Which brings me back to my original point of getting brodifacoum banned from outdoor use by anyone other than professionals- who one would expect to keep records of why, where and jut how much poison was used in any particular application. This would make it difficult for the criminals to misuse, without risk of discovery, unless of course following the reported death of a raptor or other non target species, proper searches weren’t conducted!!!!!

  4. Dorset appears to have a raptor persecution problem. It is worth considering that the majority of crimes are committed by the same individuals, who are repeat offenders. This is probably also true of raptor persecution crimes. This makes it even more concerning that Dorset Police appear to have prematurely closed the investigation into the poisoned eagle. What message did this send out to Dorset’s wildlife criminals? There has to be a possibility that whilst some of these poisoned raptors where found at different locations, the same perpetrator could be involved, or if the crimes were committed by different individuals then there may be a close association between those responsible? These criminals could feel emboldened and untouchable, if they are of the opinion that Dorset police will not be conducting thorough investigations and turning over every stone to identify them. As is often the case, the effectiveness of any investigation is down to the skills and persistence of the investigators, and if one of Dorset police finest wildlife officers is being hindered in conducting investigations, then that can only be a bad thing, and lead to a lack in public confidence in the senior management who are not empowering that officer to investigate thoroughly.

    1. Bear in mind that Dorset Police only acted to drop the investigation after the intervention of Tory MP for West Dorset Chris Loder, who demanded they do so.

      [Ed: The timing of Dorset Police’s decision to prematurely terminate the investigation did coincide with Chris Loder MP’s tweet saying he wanted police time & resources to be deployed on county lines investigations instead of the suspicious death of the white-tailed eagle, but we are not at the stage where we can demonstrate this was the motivation behind the police’s decision]

  5. The fact that the poison used was a rodenticide does not necessarily mean that the bait was rats. Having discovered that brodifacoum is an effective raptor killer, the use of which as a primary poison can be effectively disguised, it strikes me as far more likely that it will have been applied to a bigger bait. This would have ensured that more of the poison was ingested quickly, rather than the victim having achieved the implausible feat of consuming over 80 rats! It will be interesting to see what the objects of interest found on the other estate, where the first suspected poisoning occurred, turn out to be.
    There is one aspect of this case which puzzles me. Apparently an abnormality in the signals from the transmitter was observed over a period of several days. 20:20 hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it strikes me that the project people were slow off the mark here. We don’t know what the subtleties of the signals received or how they were interpreted might have been, but it occurs to me that the possibility of entanglement/trapping should have been considered and investigated earlier than was the case.

    1. “The fact that the poison used was a rodenticide does not necessarily mean that the bait was rats.”
      ” it strikes me as far more likely that it will have been applied to a bigger bait.”

      Indeed. But it is licensed for use against rats and mice only.

      Once again, Dorset Police find NOTHING worth investigating when a White-Tailed Eagle is killed with such a huge amount of brodifacoum. In their xxxxxx minds, 82 rats is as feasible as a MUCH larger animal is legal.

      “it occurs to me that the possibility of entanglement/trapping should have been considered and investigated earlier than was the case.”

      There is no evidence to support that: the blog report states “The satellite data indicates that the eagle, which was otherwise healthy, deteriorated and died over a period of several days.”

      No definition of ‘deteriorated’ is given. It could mean lots of things.

      1. “Indeed. But it is licensed for use against rats and mice only”.

        Agreed, but since when have these bastards stuck by the rules and abided by what it says on the tin?

        1. That isn’t the point. They are criminals. They break the law. That is what they do. They do not care.

          The point is that Dorset Police have closed the investigation *despite* this evidence of criminal activity. They didn’t come to a ‘dead end’: they decided not to look.

          (And it appears that they have disciplined their own Wildlife Police Officer who started to investigate)

          Also, they did these things after a xxxxx local Tory MP xxxxx xxxxx that Dorset Police should not investigate this type of criminal activity, and then went on to question the tweets by that Wildlife Officer…

          1. There is another issue also worth considering.
            The code of conduct for MPs states-” Members shall base their conduct on a consideration of the public interest, avoid conflict between personal interest and the public interest and resolve any conflict between the two, at once, and in favour of the public interest.”
            Should it not have been in the publics interest to thoroughly investigate the suspicious death of an eagle, which was released as part of an ongoing conservation project by a charity, which no doubt will have spent money donated by the public on the project? Especially when the results of the post mortem indicated a level of poison which appears to be so high as to be abnormal, to the extent that criminal behaviour has to be a distinct possibility, and when raptor persecution is supposedly a national wildlife crime priority?

            It is one thing for Mr Loder to publicly state his opposition to the introduction of white tailed sea eagles, a matter which he claims is of concern to some of his constituents.
            However, it is another matter entirely to publicly state that the police should not be investigating potential criminal acts in relation to the death of that eagle.
            Surely, it is always in the publics interest to thoroughly investigate crime, especially when that crime is supposedly a national wildlife crime priority?

            There needs to be a very thorough and transparent enquiry into just what has taken place, as at the moment there are simply far too many unanswered questions. Questions which potentially suggest that there are some individuals who think they are above the law, and are able to manipulate the justice system in order to avoid prosecution. If this is the case, then this is totally unacceptable, and completely contrary to how the public expects the justice system to operate.

            1. I agree. The principal injured parties need to first issue an official complaint to initiate any kind of investigation into the decision by Dorset Police to abandon their investigation into the poisoning of G461 (because the principal injured parties are the people who know most about the incident).

              I will be more than just disappointed if they do not issue such a complaint, because then we will never know what reasoning the Police offer to defend their action, or, indeed, whether other parties intervened.

              At the moment it is all too cloak-and-dagger… which is probably exactly how Dorset Police would like it to stay (there must also be some internal inquiry currently going on concerning the future of the Wildlife Police Officer who was publicly ‘challenged’ by Loder about using a Police Twitter account… How far did Loder take that challenge?)

              Should NatureScot allow any further White-Tailed Eagles be taken for re-location to the Isle of Wight if Dorset Police cannot or will not guarantee that poisonings (or any other mysterious deaths and disappearances) will be properly investigated? Will the public continue to support the re-introduction programme under such hostile conditions?

              Who will support the rule of law in Dorset?

          2. With respect, it is very much the point. If the criminals weren’t doing it there wouldn’t be an issue.

            Where is your evidence that Dorset Police have taken disciplinary action against their Wildlife Police Officer?

            1. “If the criminals weren’t doing it there wouldn’t be an issue.”

              Indeed. So why has the investigation been stopped?

              “Where is your evidence that Dorset Police have taken disciplinary action against their Wildlife Police Officer?”

              No longer doing the job… removal of the word ‘Wildlife’ from the unit’s title…

  6. Hi WTF, obviously I am just thinking out loud, but personally I think using rats is a typical piece of keeper-esque “cunning” and not without precedent. As there is an inbuilt defence of “a legally poisoned rat was accidently consumed”. Whereas if you were going to risk lacing a rabbit or bird carcass with poison this could only indicate a deliberate act if found. And if you were lacing the rat you would obviously tip in a bigger quantity (enough to kill a buzzard at least) than the few pellets that a rat would ingest & perish under it’s own action. The bad guys like to put plenty “flavour” or “sugar” on so that it does not just “weather away” when its outdoors for a few days. RSPB have recovered small animal baits down the years toxic enough* to kill dozens of creatures.
    *albeit usually the traditional poisons, well documented. But whether you or I are right or wrong on this is beside the bigger point I guess – that there are some sly bastards out there and in this case among many others they appear to have benefited from influential connections to some extent – in that this case was shut down prematurely when a police team started making some headway.

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