Shot pheasants, ducks & geese found dumped on nature reserve in Yorkshire

The rotting carcasses of shot pheasants, ducks and geese have been found today, dumped on the Otley Wetlands Nature Reserve in West Yorkshire.

Morgan Caygill (@atypicalbirder) posted the following on Twitter this afternoon:

From the grisly photograph it’s clear that at least some of these birds have been ‘breasted’ (i.e. the breast meat has been removed, presumably for consumption).

It’s not clear whether the birds were all shot on the nature reserve or whether they had been shot elsewhere and just dumped on the reserve. It seems unlikely that bird shooting would be permitted on this award-winning reserve as it’s previously been celebrated as a ‘safe haven for wildlife’ (here).

Even if shooting is permitted here, however, the dumping of shot bird corpses would not be permitted. It’s an especially stupid and reckless thing to do given the ongoing concerns about the spread of avian flu.

Regular blog readers will know that the dumping of shot gamebirds is not a new phenomenon, it’s been happening up and down the country for years, prior to this latest outbreak of avian flu: e.g. in Cheshire, Scottish borders (here), Norfolk (here), Perthshire (here), Berkshire (here), North York Moors National Park (here) and some more in North York Moors National Park (here) and even more in North Yorkshire (here), Co. Derry (here), West Yorkshire (here), and again in West Yorkshire (here), N Wales (here), mid-Wales (here), Leicestershire (here), Lincolnshire (here), Somerset (here), Derbyshire’s Peak District National Park (here), Suffolk (here), Leicestershire again (here), Somerset again (here), Liverpool (here), even more in North Wales (here) even more in Wales, again (here), in Wiltshire (here) in Angus (here), in Somerset again (here) and once again in North Yorkshire (here).

The dumping of shot game birds is a breach of the Code of Good Shooting Practice which states:

Shoot managers must ensure they have appropriate arrangements in place for the sale or consumption of the anticipated bag in advance of all shoot days‘.

The Code of Good Shooting Practice is, however, in effect, just advice. It has no legal standing and is unenforceable. It’s handy for the shooting industry to point to it as ‘evidence’ that the industry is capable of self-regulation but it’s not really worth the paper it’s written on if shoot managers can breach it without consequence, as they so often do.

Last year, almost a year to the day, after yet another episode of dumped shot game birds, there was an exchange in the House of Lords where game bird shooter and DEFRA Minister Lord Benyon denied that there was evidence of shot gamebirds being dumped (I know!) and Lord Newby, having seen the evidence provided by this blog, stated he would pursue Benyon to find out what plans the Government had for dealing with it (see here). Unfortunately nothing ever came of that but in December 2022 Green Peer Natalie Bennett said she’d chase it up with Benyon.

UPDATE 5th February 2023: DEFRA Minister responds to House of Lords question on avian flu risk posed by shot, dumped game birds (here).

25 thoughts on “Shot pheasants, ducks & geese found dumped on nature reserve in Yorkshire”

  1. I don’t suppose “Aim to Sustain” or any of the other alphabet soup of shooting organisations will condemn this blatant act.

  2. Presumably dumping these birds on a Nature reserve is a metaphorical two fingers to those who do actually care about wildlife.

  3. How vile. Imagine “coming across” this if you were just visiting the Wetlands. 😞 The ‘tweed clad ” morons seem to be causing problems up and down the country.

  4. There is a distinct lack of respect for wildlife and the law from the shooting industry. Then when a prosecution (a rare occurance) is forthcoming there is a distinct lack of punishment by the authorities. With little prospect of any consquence for their henious actions this is just going to keep on happening. Meanwhile, raptor’s numbers remain ever dwindling, the assault on wildlife continues unabated, and countless imported birds are released into the countryside during the worst ever avian bird flu outbreak just to be shot and dumped. How can the countryside be subject to such devastation on a national scale to cater to the whim of a few blood thirsty half wits? Are we a civilised country or not? It appears not.

  5. Only 2 days ago Professor Ian Brown from the Animal and Plant Health Agency reported that evidence of avian flu had been found in foxes and otters, and it was believed these animals had fed on the dead or suck wild birds infected with the virus. It is believed that ” a sick or a dead wild bird contains an awful lot of virus. So scavenging mammals that will be opportunistic and predate on dead or sick birds will be exposed to very large quantities of virus. That gives a possibility for the virus to enter a host population that it doesn’t normally maintain in.”

    Whilst at the moment I understand it was not believed there had been mammal to mammal spread of the virus, Prof Brown is quoted as saying “acutely aware of the risks” of avian flu becoming a pandemic like Covid-19″.

    This was reported on mainstream media, so should be public knowledge.

    Such a large amount of dead birds all dumped together is likely to attract scavengers whether that be foxes, crows, or other scavengers. There has to be a risk that some of these birds could be infected with the virus. So who ever dumped these birds is not only acting contrary to guidance offered by the BASC, but also being extremely reckless in that such an action could accelerate the spread of the virus in mammals, which in turn according to scientific evidence could result in mutations which eventually could result in creating a virus capable of infecting humans in a similar way to Covid-19.

    I really hope the authorities including DEFRA, Natural England, Environment Agency and the police conduct a thorough enquiry to find who was responsible.

    If it transpires the birds were dumped by someone from the shooting fraternity, then I really hope the government have the conviction to take positive action, and suspend all game bird release and shooting until this avian flu epidemic is over. This incident isn’t unique, and I understand such dumping of unwanted game birds is a common feature of badly run shoots. It is also further clear evidence that shooting organisations such as the BASC have absolutely no control over how some shoots are run, and how some shooters behave.

    The fact these birds have been dumped in the manner they have, just shows how completely stupid some of those involved in game shooting are. Which raises another question, as to whether such imbeciles are fit to hold a firearms licence?

    It will also be interesting to see how the shooting industry itself responds to this incident, at a time when avian flu should be of real concern to anyone who has any contact with birds whether domestic or wild.

  6. It’s about time shot birds were subject to the same law as livestock carcasses. If pheasants were classed as livestock throughout their lives, then they would. But of course, by the time they’re shot…. they’re wild again!

  7. I have often come across spent shotgun cartridges on nature reserves. The more remote they are – and the least visited – are the ones most likely to attract shooters after some form of prey:-(

  8. I’ve obtained legal advice on the dumping of animals and birds on stink pits and on “gamekeeper gibbet” hanging lines which I forwarded to RPUK.

    The law is complicated because animal carcasses (wild animals, game, livestock etc) are covered by a variety of regulations.

    Animal by-products are animal carcasses, parts of a carcass or products of animal origin that are not intended for human consumption. I suspect that the remains of the breasted game were “not intended for human consumption”!
    The handling, use and disposal of animal by-products is controlled by the Animal by-products Regulation 2009 and enforced in England by the Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2013 ( (with amendments made by The Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (S.I. 2015/1980)).  
    Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and local authorities (usually Trading Standards) are responsible for enforcing animal by-products legislation.

    APHA contact details:
    telephone 03000 200 301 or email
    I would recommend that the finder contacts Trading Standards. In my experience Trading Standards are pretty good at responding to the dumping of livestock and, I hope, breasted game.

  9. And I suppose they all died spontaneouslty as part of a suicide pact, offering their breasts to someone or other and that this is nothing to do with anyone who shoots and I should wash my mouth out with Jeyes fluid for even thinking they might have been shot let alone by someone who legally holds a license. This is blatant taking the urine.

  10. The Avian Flu risks have already been referred to above, Assuming that these birds have been shot, there will most likely be a fair concentration of lead remaining in their carcasses and available for ingestion by scavengers whether avian or mammal.

  11. I hope you have had clarification that these birds were not in fact dumped on the reserve and that all the species involved can be shot legally with the relevant licence for control purposes. I am not in any way a supporter of gun sports, the exact opposite, but exaggerated posts like the photograph and description posted can be used by the gun lobby to show that campaign groups use distorted facts against them. I quite agree with the fears of avian flu but please get these posts fact checked before allowing publication.

    1. “I hope you have had clarification that these birds were not in fact dumped on the reserve and that all the species involved can be shot legally with the relevant licence for control purposes.”

      Why would any be breasted if they were ‘shot legally with the relevant licence for control purposes.’?

      Sounds like you are just desperate to divert blame away from the shooting industry.

      1. “Sounds like you are just desperate to divert blame away from the shooting industry” The complete opposite actually, all I was pointing out was that after this article was posted someone clarified that the carcasses were not actually dumped on the reserve. Inaccurate information posted against shooters does campaigns no favours and can actually be detrimental. Those who run this website are aware of the work I have done monitoring hen harriers and other raptors for conservation groups. Try not jumping to your own conclusions!

        1. Dave,
          Apologies for this late addition to this thread.

          The original blog posted by Raptor Persecution clearly states:
          “It’s not clear whether the birds were all shot on the nature reserve or whether they had been shot elsewhere and just dumped on the reserve.”

          Where the birds were shot is actually immaterial.
          The fact is the birds were shot, and whoever shot them should have followed the BASC guidelines and removed the carcasses.

          The BASC Code of Good Shooting practice clearly states the following:-

          Rule 3 of the 5 Golden Rules- “It is fundamental to mark and retrieve all shot game which is food and it must be treated in accordance with the Guide to Good Game Handling.”

          Shooting behaviour- “Respect for quarry, habitat and the wider countryside.”

          Retrieval and handling of game- “Shooting should not be conducted where it will not be possible to retrieve shot game.” / “Shoot managers must ensure that adequate provision is made to retrieve all shot game and dogs are an essential part of this process.” / “Guns must mark the fall and assist in the retrieval of their own shot game and, where practical, should help inform pickers-up. Guns should also assist in the retrieval of other shot game.”

          I would be grateful if you could explain how leaving the carcasses of the dead birds in the countryside fits in with these principles?

          The word “dumping” is defined in the dictionary as “to deposit or dispose of (rubbish, waste, or unwanted material), typically in a careless or hurried way.”

          So whether the birds were shot on the reserve with a licence, or shot elsewhere with a licence, or shot with no licence doesn’t detract from the fact that whoever shot them saw the carcasses as nothing but waste and deposited or “dumped” the carcasses at the place where they were found on the reserve.
          The use of the word “dumped” does not suggest the birds were shot elsewhere and then transported to the reserve to be disposed of, but refers to the fact that the birds were treated as unwanted waste and then “dumped” or disposed of in the countryside.

          Such behaviour is contrary to the BASC guidelines which I think we can all agree makes it perfectly clear that the carcasses should have been removed by whoever shot the birds and then disposed of in accordance with the legislation as outlined in the post by Lizzybusy, which provides the links to relevant legislation.

          So I would disagree with your view that what has been reported distorts or exaggerates the facts.

          The fact is someone has shot these birds, and has disposed of the unwanted carcasses in what could well be in an unlawful way, which has the potential to increase the spread of avian flu.

          The fact that this type of behaviour is not unique would suggest that within the “gun lobby” are individuals who neither follow the good shooting practices, care little about nature or the environment, and are quite happy to engage in criminal behaviour by breaking the law in how they dispose of unwanted game.

          Such behaviour does the shooting industry umbrella organisations, and those responsible, conservation minded shooters no favours, and just serves to increase public anger towards an industry which is already struggling to justify so much of its behaviour in an increasingly environmental and nature conscious society.

          What Ruth so correctly points out, is that self governance by the shooting industry is not working, and I would suggest that the only way to effectively rid the criminals from within the shooting industry, is by the introduction of effective regulations, which make it impossible for criminals to operate without meaningful consequences.

    2. ‘please get these posts fact checked before allowing publication”

      Did you ‘fact check’ your own post?

  12. “all I was pointing out was that after this article was posted someone clarified that the carcasses were not actually dumped on the reserve.”

    Did they? Who? Where?

    So why did you write “I hope you have had clarification that these birds were not in fact dumped on the reserve”?

    Hope? You wrote that you ‘hoped’ about someone receiving something you called ‘clarification’. You did NOT write that anyone had actually ‘clarified’ anything at all.

    Who has made this supposed ‘clarification’?

    1. An eye witness submitted the clarification in a local birding group, the person who submitted it is a trusted person who is very strongly against bird crime in any form, no name will be given, nor should it be necessary. Maybe concentrate your attempts at cross examing at those who commit crimes rather than someone adding correct information to an incorrect article.

      1. An unnamed person made an unsubstantiated claim in an unnamed birding group, with no evidence provided, which you demand everyone else should accept as closing the matter. And you expect adults to take that seriously?

        Do you often post unsubstantiated stuff without supplying your full name?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s