Mass poisoning of birds of prey in south Scotland: man charged

Police Scotland press release:

Man charged with wildlife crimes in Stewartry

Police Scotland can confirm that a 64-year-old man has been charged with a number of wildlife crime offences in the Stewartry area of Dumfries and Galloway.

Extensive investigations have been ongoing into the deaths of upwards of 20 birds of prey and other wild birds in the Springholm area near Castle Douglas between 2018 and 2020. Enquiries subsequently established the birds had been poisoned by banned pesticides.

A report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

Wildlife Crime Officer Constable John Cowan said: “Residents in Springholm and the surrounding area as well as wildlife enthusiasts further afield will be only too well aware of a worrying rise in poisonings in and around the Springholm area over the last few years following on from previous appeals for information.

Working alongside partners such as the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), SSPCA (Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture), SAC (Scottish Agricultural College), SGRPID (Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Division), Scottish National Heritage and Scottish Land and Estates, there has been an overwhelming collective determination to halt these incidents.

I would like to thank members of the public for the information they have provided throughout the investigation. This sends out a strong message that Police Scotland and partners treat wildlife crime very seriously and should act as a strong deterrent to anyone engaging in such activities, irrespective of the underhand tactics that may be used.”


We believe this case relates to the illegal poisoning of multiple red kites and buzzards, some of which have been reported here and here.

PLEASE NOTE: As usual, we will not be accepting comments on this case until legal proceedings have concluded. Thanks.

UPDATE 27th February 2021: Mass poisoning of raptors in south Scotland: has there been a conviction? (here)

Shot buzzard in North Yorkshire ‘more than just a statistic’

The buzzard that was found shot near Shipton in North Yorkshire on 29 March 2020 (see yesterday’s blog, here) is now in the care of wildlife rehabber extraordinaire Jean Thorpe.

Jean’s no stranger to having to rehabilitate birds of prey – she lives in the county that has a consistent record of hosting more annual raptor persecution crimes than any other county in England, mostly on land managed for grouse, pheasant and partridge shooting.

She’s been tweeting about the latest victim, the shot buzzard:

She’s also been making some videos to document the buzzard’s treatment. She told us she didn’t want this buzzard to be lost as ‘just another statistic’ but rather wanted people to see it as an individual bird.

The first video has been posted on Jean’s Facebook page. You don’t need to be a Facebook user to watch it here

Jean’s Facebook post:

What this video actually does is demonstrate the extraordinary skill, care and attention required to help just one injured bird. Imagine doing this, as a volunteer, for countless birds and other wildlife, every single day.

Presumably we’ll be hearing in due course about the three other raptor victims currently in Jean’s care.

If you are on Facebook, or on Twitter, please go and support her and show her your appreciation.

Shot buzzard found injured near Shipton, North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire Police are appealing for information following the discovery of a shot buzzard found injured on 29 March 2020.

North Yorkshire Police press release (8 April 2020):

Appeal for information after buzzard found shot near Shipton, York.

Injured buzzard x-rayed and found to contain pieces of shot

[Photos via North Yorkshire Police]

North Yorkshire Police and the RSPCA are appealing for information after a buzzard was found injured near Shipton Grange close to Shipton-by-Beningbrough, York on 29 March 2020.

The buzzard, a male, was found by a local farmer who called the RSPCA and the charity’s Inspector Claire Mitchell collected the bird.

Claire said: “The farmer didn’t know the bird had been shot, but he wasn’t flying so the farmer knew there was something seriously wrong with him.

He was a big healthy bird otherwise, and still quite feisty.

I took him to a local vet for treatment and x-rays, and that’s when they discovered the shot.”

X-rays showed the bird contained five pieces of shot, two in a foot, one in a leg and two in a wing. The bird is now recovering well in the care of a local wildlife rehabilitator and will be released into the wild once ready.

North Yorkshire Police Rural Task Force Inspector, Matt Hagen, said:

This is yet another despicable act of someone deliberately injuring a bird of prey in our county. I would urge anyone who has any information about this incident or might have seen anything which could help our investigation to please get in touch with us on 101.

North Yorkshire should be a haven for wildlife and we will do everything in our power to ensure we deal with the individuals who target our birds of prey in this way.”

Anyone with information should call 101 quoting reference number: 12200052238 or the RSPCA appeal line 0300 1238018 and ask to leave a message for Claire.


Well done, North Yorkshire Police. This is a fast and detailed response with good illustrative photographs, and it needs to be. The illegal persecution of birds of prey in North Yorkshire is relentless.

Recently North Yorkshire Police have recorded reports of a shot kestrel (here), a shot buzzard (here), another shot buzzard (here), a shot hen harrier (here), another shot kestrel (here), a poisoned red kite (here), a shot marsh harrier (here), another shot hen harrier (here), another shot buzzard (here), another shot hen harrier (here), another poisoned red kite (here), another shot hen harrier (here) and another red kite that was both poisoned and shot (here). This list isn’t exhaustive, it’s just the ones remembered off the top of the head and of course there are records of similar crimes in this country going back years and years.

Meanwhile, the game-shooting industry feigns ‘zero tolerance’ for crimes against birds of prey and the Westminster Government, with all its vested interests, refuses to acknowledge there’s even a problem, let alone a systemic culture of wildlife crime.

UPDATE 9 April 2020: Shot buzzard in North Yorkshire ‘more than just a statistic’ (here)

Shot buzzard found dead on Scottish sporting estate

Police Scotland are appealing for information after a dead buzzard was discovered on a Scottish sporting estate in the Highlands.

A member of the public discovered the corpse in woodland ‘in the Dulsie area’ on 15 March 2020 and a subsequent post-mortem revealed it had been shot.

[Buzzard, photographer unknown]

An x-ray revealing the extent of the shot damage has not been released so it’s impossible to comment on the likelihood that the bird was shot close to where it was found or whether it had been able to travel some distance before succumbing to its injuries.

Police wildlife crime officer Constable Daniel Sutherland said: “Positive work is constantly ongoing in the Highlands in relation to raptor persecution so it is sad and disappointing to find another incident like this reported to us.

I am grateful to the member of the public who came across the bird and reporting it. Our enquiries to establish the full circumstances are ongoing.

Anyone with information is about this incident or may have seen anything suspicious in this area are asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 quoting reference NM502/20 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 if you wish to remain anonymous.”

Dorset Police investigate reported disturbance of nesting peregrines

There have been a few reports in the media (e.g. here and here) about climbers and a drone-user disturbing breeding peregrines this week on cliffs in Portland, Dorset. This is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act.

[Photos by Weymouth & Dorset Police]

Apart from the fact that there’s supposed to be a lockdown, Police wildlife crime officers have stated that they will look to prosecute anybody ignoring the ‘clear signage’ to stay away from the nest sites between 1 March and 30 June:

These signs have been in place for years, initiated by local climbers keen to protect the peregrines (see here).

Buzzard & kestrel suspected poisoned in Derbyshire

Derbyshire Constabulary has published the following message on social media this evening:

Derbyshire Rural Crime Team is investigating after two birds of prey were found dead in the Ault Hucknall area of Chesterfield.

A Kestrel and a Buzzard were found on Monday 23 March. Initial investigations lead us to believe they have been poisoned rather than shot.

The birds have been recovered and an investigation launched.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Rural Crime Team by emailing quoting reference 20000159754.

You can also pass information anonymously to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or visiting


Well done to the police for a very speedy notification. Obviously the investigation is still in the early stages although the proximity of a plucked wood pigeon in these photos is probably a big clue.

UPDATE 3rd August 2020: Buzzard and kestrel confirmed illegally poisoned in Derbyshire (here)

Two hen harriers shot on two North Yorkshire grouse moors: shooting industry’s response

At the end of January 2020 several prominent organisations from the game-shooting industry (BASC, Moorland Assoc, National Gamekeepers Org, Countryside Alliance) and the Country Landowners Association made a huge thing about acknowledging 66-year-old wildlife protection legislation when they announced a professed ‘zero tolerance’ for the illegal killing of birds of prey (see here).

Since then police in North Yorkshire, the epicentre of UK raptor persecution, have issued two public statements (on 12th and 17th March) about the witnessed shooting of two male hen harriers, one on a grouse moor in the Bowland AONB (here) and one on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here). The illegal killing of hen harriers has been identified as a National Wildlife Crime Priority. This species is on its knees, thanks to criminals within the grouse shooting industry.

It was also revealed that, unusually, North Yorkshire Police had been able to make two arrests in relation to these reported crimes; this was welcome news and in both press releases the police asked the public to come forward with any further information as their inquiries continued.

[Conservationist Chris Packham holding the corpse of an illegally trapped hen harrier that was found on a grouse moor in Scotland last year. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

You might think, given the recently professed ‘zero tolerance’ of these offences, that police appeals for information about these two disturbing crimes reported on Yorkshire grouse moors would provide the perfect opportunity for the grouse-shooting industry to offer its full support to the investigations and to encourage members of the public to step forward with info, especially if there was concern about dangerous unidentified armed criminals running amok on privately-owned land, right?

Well apparently not. We’ve looked at the websites of the five organisations to search for statements and this is what we found:

BASC: nothing

Moorland Association: nothing

National Gamekeepers Organisation: nothing

Countryside Alliance: nothing

CLA: nothing

Ah, you may say, well they’re all too busy focusing on the coronavirus so haven’t had time to share information about illegal raptor persecution.

Well, that may have been a credible argument had we not found the National Gamekeepers Organisation and Countryside Alliance yesterday making urgent demands of DEFRA’s Secretary of State George Eustice to issue licences that permit gamekeepers to continue killing stoats and sidestep new restrictions (see here and here).

Meanwhile, with the hypocrisy knob turned up to high, BASC has been howling with moral indignation about the timing of Wild Justice’s decision to challenge the casual killing of birds in Wales (see here).

Zero tolerance of illegal raptor persecution? Yeah, right.

(Another) hen harrier shot on a grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park – police arrest suspect

Just five days ago we blogged about the shooting of a male hen harrier on a grouse moor in the Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, just across the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, that had been witnessed by a member of the public. Impressively, North Yorkshire Police arrested a suspect and he has been released pending further enquiries and forensic testing (see here).

[A male hen harrier, photo by Bill Schofield]

Here we go again.

ANOTHER hen harrier has been shot on ANOTHER grouse moor, this time inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park and again it was witnessed by members of the public and again, North Yorkshire Police have arrested a suspect.

Here’s the police press release, published today (17 March 2020):

Two members of the public witness Hen Harrier being shot near Grassington

North Yorkshire Police are investigating the shooting of another Hen Harrier.

Two members of the public witnessed an incident which they believed was the shooting of a male Hen Harrier.

The incident occurred on Threshfield Moor at approximately 10.45hrs on Monday 27th January 2020.

North Yorkshire Police have been conducting enquiries and a man has been arrested in connection with this investigation.

Anyone with further information about this incident or who may have seen anything in the area shortly before the bird was shot, please call North Yorkshire Police on Tel 101 quoting reference # 12200015792.

If you wish to remain anonymous you can pass information to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

This is the second incident of this type to take place in the last six months, with another hen harrier believed to have been shot in October 2019 near Keasden.


Hang on a minute – Threshfield Moor? That rings a bell.

[RPUK map showing location of Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park]

[Photo of the Threshfield grouse moor by Chris Heaton]

Ah yes, Threshfield Moor was reportedly the last known location of another male hen harrier, called John, who ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in October 2017 – see here.

The people believed to be the owners of Threshfield Moor are interesting and they have interesting connections – see here. Obviously they’ll be devastated to learn about the alleged illegal shooting of a hen harrier on their grouse moor and we’re sure will be doing everything they can to assist the police investigation.

Well done North Yorkshire Police – two arrests for two hen harrier shootings in the space of a few months – that’s really impressive work and the officers involved deserve much credit. There’s clearly some evidence to support reasonable suspicion of involvement because otherwise these arrests wouldn’t have been possible but whether there’s sufficient evidence to proceed to prosecution(s) remains to be seen. Whatever the outcome(s), these latest police investigations in to the alleged shooting of hen harriers on grouse moors expose the shooting industry’s desperate propaganda campaign for what it is and Natural England/DEFRA’s wilful blindness to the bleeding obvious.

So, grouse shooting industry, how’s that professed ‘zero tolerance‘ of illegal raptor persecution going?

So, Natural England /DEFRA, how that’s seriously flawed Hen Harrier (In)Action Plan working out?

Here’s a clue -let’s add the shooting of this latest hen harrier to the ever-expanding list of hen harriers (at least 31 now) believed to have been illegally killed since 2018, the year when grouse shooting industry reps would have us believe that hen harriers were welcomed back on the grouse moors:

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published wholly inaccurate information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false” (here).

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here)

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland (here)

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating death as suspicious (here)

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland (here).

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here)

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lanacashire (here)

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here)

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here). Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap (here).

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB (here). Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot (here).

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site (here)

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 May 2019: A male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive (here)

7 June 2019: A hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot (here)

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here)

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland (here)

18 October 2019: Member of the public reports the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on White Syke Hill in North Yorkshire (here)

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland (here)

January 2020: Members of the public report the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (this post)

There are two more satellite-tagged hen harriers (Tony & Rain) that are reported either confirmed or suspected to have been illegally killed in the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project Report but no further details are available.

And then there were last year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks that have been reported ‘missing’ but as they’re carrying a new type of tag known to be unreliable it’s not known if they’ve been illegally killed or if they’re still ok. For the purposes of this mini-analysis we will discount these birds.

So that makes a total of at least 31 hen harriers that are known to have either ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances or have been witnessed being shot or have been found illegally killed in the last two years. And still we’re expected to believe that everything’s perfect, that the grouse shooting industry is not riddled with armed criminals and that hen harriers are doing just fine, thriving even, according to the shooting industry’s propaganda.

Wilful blindness, writ large.

[This male hen harrier was found with his leg almost severed, trapped in an illegally-set spring trap on Leadhills Estate grouse moor in May 2019. He didn’t survive. Photo by Ruth Tingay]


Peregrine found shot in Shropshire: police appeal for information

Press release from West Mercia Police (13 March 2020)


Police are appealing for help after a bird was found with what is believed to be a shotgun wound.

The Peregrine Falcon was found on the morning of Tuesday 10 March near Humber Lane, close to the roundabout on the A442 near Leegomery. It was taken to the vets with a broken wing and an x-ray showed fragments of a gunshot.

[Peregrine, photographer unknown]

Although the falcon is recovering well it is possible it will not be able to fly again.

Anyone with information is urged to contact West Mercia Police on 101 quoting incident 704S 100320 or alternatively information can be given anonymously to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555111.


Well done West Mercia Police for a speedy response and appeal for info.

Sparrowhawk shot in Devon

The RSPB and Devon & Cornwall Police are appealing for information after a sparrowhawk was shot in Devon.

[An x-ray of the shot sparrowhawk, by Westmoor Veterinary Hospital]

Map showing Tamar Foliot, near Plymouth, Devon:

From an RSPB press release issued 9 March 2020:

Devon and Cornwall Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after a protected sparrowhawk was found illegally shot near Plymouth.

The female bird was discovered alive but injured in a paddock in Tamerton Foliot, Plymouth. Seeing it was unable to fly, the finder recovered the bird and contacted the police on 2 February 2020.

The bird was x-rayed by Westmoor Veterinary Hospital in Tavistock and found to contain a shotgun pellet in its wing.

Emily Roisetter, a veterinary nurse, said: “On examination one of our vets could feel an unusual lump in its wing, which lead us to be suspicious that a pellet was present, and this was confirmed with the x-rays.”

The bird is currently being cared for at a wildlife centre.

Investigating Officer Sergeant Northmore, of the Crownhill Neighbourhood Team, said: “We would like to hear from anyone who was in the area at the time and saw or heard anything which could have been related to this incident, or has any information they think could be useful, to contact us.

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Devon and Cornwall Police on 101 or fill in the RSPB’s confidential online reporting form here