York & North Yorkshire

Birds of prey suffer 'relentless persecution', says RSPB

Hen harrier Image copyright RSPB
Image caption It is a criminal offence to intentionally harm or disturb a bird of prey

Birds of prey are being subjected to "relentless persecution," according to the RSPB's annual report.

The highest number of recorded offences, 15, against birds of prey took place in North Yorkshire in 2018.

The charity's Birdcrime report said other blackspots included the Peak District and southern Scotland.

The RSPB said these areas were primarily on and around land managed for driven grouse shooting and has called for reform to the industry.

It said many shooting estates saw birds of prey as a threat to their stocks of red grouse.

RSPB conservation director Martin Harper said "Grouse moor management needs urgent reform.

"The relentless persecution of birds of prey must stop. Enough is enough."

Birdcrime report 2018

Image copyright RSPB
Image caption Offences against birds of prey include poisoning, shooting and trapping, the RSPB said.
  • 87 confirmed offences across the UK in 2018 - 67 in England, 12 in Scotland, five in Wales and three in Northern Ireland
  • 41 incidents involved shooting, 28 poisoning, 16 involved trapping and two involved other forms of persecution
  • 31 buzzards, 27 red kites and six peregrines among the victims
  • The RSPB believe many more birds will have been killed and not found.

Source: RSPB

Mr Harper said the RSPB wanted to see UK-wide licensing for grouse moors and an independent review.

He said: "Any industry which includes criminal and environmentally damaging practices needs reform."

The Moorland Association, whose members manage about 860,000 acres (3,480 km sq) of moorland in England and Wales, said owners and managers took "great pride" in their conservation work.

Director Amanda Anderson said: "If our moors were not managed for grouse shooting we simply would not have the same abundance of wildlife and protected priority habitats."

She added owners were committed to eradicating wildlife crime.

"We believe that a 'hearts and minds' approach to prevent crime coupled with existing regulation and legislation is the best way forward."

Image copyright RSPB
Image caption The RSPB said the actual number of birds killed is probably much higher as many will not have been found

RSPB Scotland said there had been a minimum of 12 detected incidents of raptor persecution in Scotland, more than double that in 2017.

It said the cases included a poisoned peregrine falcon in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh, buzzards killed in South Lanarkshire and near Inverness and a hen harrier caught in a trap in Perthshire.

The RSPB said other raptors had been found dead in Aberdeenshire and close to the region's border with neighbouring Moray.

Scottish Land and Estates, which represents the interests of estate owners, said it condemned wildlife crime and was awaiting a Scottish government report that would provide "authoritative and reliable" data on the illegal killing of birds.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said it had a "proven stance" against wildlife crime.

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