Map of poisoned birds of prey

Go to the Defra website and you will find a map of poisoning incidents in England and Wales over the last five years.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said:

“I am appalled that these crimes continue to be committed and I am determined to stamp them out.

“Those responsible have no consideration for what they are killing or the impact their activities are having on wildlife and the wider environment.

“I want people to be alert to this problem and report their suspicions to the police. It is about time we put an end to this cruel and barbaric crime.”

The majority of poisonings were carried out using Carbofuran, or aldicarb, which are illegal to possess in the UK and are potentially dangerous to humans.

Members of the public are warned not to touch any suspected poisoned animals or baits and to report them to their local police by calling 101.

Bob Elliot, the RSPB’s head of investigations, said:

“These maps are welcome as they illustrate the problem that our birds of prey face. We need to remember, however, that these dots represent the tip of a much bigger iceberg as these criminal offences are often discovered by pure chance.

“These aren’t just points on a map. Each dot represents a crime where a bird of prey has been killed in a calculated way. Birds of prey have suffered centuries of persecution, and these maps prove those attitudes still prevail today. We will continue to work in partnership to ensure that we all bear down on these unacceptable crimes.”

Glynn Evans, head of game and gamekeeping at the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said:

“The use of illegal poisons to kill birds of prey has no place in modern land and wildlife management. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation welcomes the publication of these incident maps which will be valuable tools in combating those who persist with this unacceptable practice.”

Wales’ Environment Minister, John Griffiths, said:

“I welcome the publication of these maps, which show the extent of this problem and focus attention on the illegal poisoning of birds of prey.

“The Welsh Government is working with a number of organisations to send the message loud and clear that the illegal poisoning of wildlife is not acceptable and the law will be enforced.”

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25 Replies to “Map of poisoned birds of prey”

  1. Really interesting. As someone who works with data I would be interested to see overlays of annual time frames to see if there has been an increase or decline in reported numbers, or indeed, whether the numbers are split evenly across the five year time frame.

    It's interesting to see that the greatest number of incidents appear to fall in South Wales, I'm not aware that this is a particular hotspot for organised game shoots, am I wrong here? It's also interesting to note that these reported incidents seem to be 'one offs' rather than batched to one particular location.

    All in all a really useful source of information that raises more questions than it seems to answer. Having said that it's great to see everyone singing from the same hymn sheet in deploring this crime.

    1. Connormead - South Wales, I guess, is to do with pigeon-racers and/or pigeon-fanciers and peregrine falcons.

  2. It is great to see the maps even if it is on a scale that protects the guilty and tarnishes the innocent. I think in South Wales it is a pigeons and peregrines scenario. It is a Bob Elliot says the tip of the iceberg more birds are illegally trapped and shot here in North Yorkshire we have lost over a dozen Red Kites to poison since reintroduction, all associated with game shooting.

  3. The use of illegal poisons to kill birds of prey has no place in modern land and wildlife management as we can kill them in different ways now!! said BASC. Like Crow Traps, Pole Traps, the gun and especially the bal-chatri used when pigeon lofts are placed up on the moor.

  4. Mark, I'm afraid to say you have got one thing wrong in todays blog. Possession of the banned pesticides mentioned is only an offence in Scotland - not the rest of the UK. In Scotland, possession is a wildlife offence. In England and Wales it is a pesticides offence to store these products. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 gives Ministers in England and Wales the power to being in an Order of "proscribed" pesticides (as had happened in Scotland) but so far the English Ministers (previous Government and this one) have declined to do so (see EAC wildlife crime report). The RSPB amount others have called for this to happen.

  5. At Dave Dick's (former RSPB Scotland) book launch on wildlife crime last year, he highlighted the switch in tactics w.r.t prosecutions north of the border. Proving who killed what and where is notoriously difficult but is still (correctly) the focus of lots of attention. However, the balance of proof required and the consequences w.r.t. the misuse of pesticides at work is seen by the courts as a very serious offence (much more so than a wildlife offence) and many of the recent convictions have been successfully taken through this route. The old keeper's bottle of poison, which may be found on a search, cannot necessarily be linked to the dead poisoned eagle on the grouse moor outside his estate house. What is often not in question though is that (a) said keeper should not have the poison (unlicensed use/possession), (b) said keeper is very unlikely to have had the correct training on its safe use and (c) it is ultimately his employer's responsibility and liability for (a) and (b). Given the success of prosecutions and the consequences for misusing poisons under acts that have little or nothing to do with wildlife, perhaps Richard Benyon should directing more of his efforts towards this approach.

  6. Where do the stats come from? I see no reference to the 6 buzzards poisoned in Kirk Ireton, Derbyshire although it happened within that time frame.

  7. So these are recorded incidents, but do we have any feeling at all how many incidents might actually be occurring every year? One presumes the figure is many times higher than those shown given how unusual it is to find any dead bird, let alone a poisoned one. 10 times more? 100 times? 1000 times? And there's illegal shooting and nest destruction to be added to these numbers of course.

  8. I see you missed some of Mr.Benyon's statement Mark! He tells everyone to call 101 for the police. Out of four occasions I have had to call the police whilst seeing a wildlife crime, three times I was diverted to the 101. Let me explain how the police "unofficially" treat 101 calls...ever seen the programme Room 101? Your call is recorded and if you're lucky you might actually see a copper. On one of my incidents I was told a police officer would be with me within 20 I waited and waited and waited, the criminals had gone THREE hours later I got a call on my mobile "Is that Mr.Mcfarlane?" "Yes" "Two officers have turned up to the location you reported and can't see any signs of what you've reported" I check they have all the correct locations details they did "so where are your officers then? Its just I've sat here for the last three hours and I haven't seen an officer pull into the carpark?" "What, they're not there?" the conversation went on, it turns out the coppers assigned the call had said "they've checked", yet hadn't and went to another incident.
    So when Mr.B says "they're" going to crack down on this crime how are they going to do so when/if the intial call comes through it isn't handled properly, if at all. Also the fact you now have to call 101 tells you two important facts 1)All calls going through 101 are normally deemed "non-serious" (I've had that said to me by my local beat officer) 2) It might not turn up on crime statistics-hence the reason after the 101 system was introducded crime stats have gone down, wildlife crime is ALREADY counted as non recordable, yes you'll get a crime reference number BUT it isn't logged onto a computer system straight away. Which in turn menas someone looking into the incident has to manually check for the report after going through reams of other "non-recordable crimes" slowing down any investigation and also make it harder to see any "similarities" between other reported crimes, this has also been told to me by a an officer who's job is to investigate wildlife crime in her words "it's a joke of a system that frustrates me and slows down my investigations"
    Mark you need to sit down with a copper (current not retired) and ask them the difference between a "recordable crime" and "non-recordable" crime you'll then understand how serious wildlife crime is treated eg what was said and is on my recording of my telephone call the operator to me "well unless it involves a swan or goose being actually killed, is taking a wild bird from the nest a crime?" says it all for me I'm afraid.

    1. Thanks Douglas,

      I no longer work for the RSPB and I am unlikely to do so again but it does answer questions that have bugged me for some time. I am not sure if you are aware of the Bedfordshire swan killing incident (early 2007, I think). I took the initial call on the incident and I had to use all my Wildlife Enquiries training to persuade the reporting caller to give as much information as possible and more importantly, to get his contact details. An Investigations Officer went out to the site while I liaised with the local police (as you say, no easy task) to get someone to join our IO. I am not going to go through the whole incident because I am not sure how much is in the public domain but you should be able to find details with an Internet search. Without posting my own views on the final outcome, your post goes a long way to explaining why things broke down and I urge anyone who has read this blog today and has an interest in Wildlife Crime to do similar. OK, it was (there was a potential question mark over one bird but I am not sure if it was resolved) not BoPs but it shows that there is wider problem out there.

      1. I was aware of the incident and the unfortunate outcome. In my incident I had brilliant contact about the crime from the RSPB, so much detail etc was submitted, everything including Map Reference numbers etc. All that info went onto a RSPB database (I truly believe it means IMO their stats are undisputable) but the main prosecuters the police the wildlife officer from Northants police tells me hers are mostly on paper when she gets the intial reports, how is that right? And it can only be seen how evidence/statements can easily "get lost".
        Now for me regardless of how the police handle it, I know and have done so call again, have done in the past intervene too but if someone else see's a wildlife crime happen and reports it but gets the same response, how committed would they be to report it again or sadly take the response of "the police don't care, why should I"

        1. Indeed Douglas and you have anticipated my own thoughts on the matter but most importantly I would echo your comments about not being deterred from reporting wildlife crime. To extend your points further, I have had experiences with the RSPCA that bordered on the farcical too and although I am not going to gum up this blog with those accounts I would further add that it is essential that everyone out there continues to make reports irrespective of past experiences. It is the build up of information and how it can be used as a crutch in the future to beat the cynics (some might say Mr Benyon) with.

  9. That's a good point Hilarymckay. Whilst the publication of these maps by Defra is welcome and long overdue, unfortunately they only tell part of the story. Each spot on the map does not refer to a poisoned bird - it refers to what NE consider to be a poisoning incident involving birds of prey. They may well have counted all six buzzards poisoned near Kirk Ireton as one incident, even though the four and the two were discovered several months part. This neatly demonstates the fact that there is still a lot of work to do by Defra and PAW to produce a really accurate record of the scale of poisoning that is going on in the countryside.

    Another anomaly is that these maps only show the location of poisoned birds of prey. They do not show the location of poisoned baits that have killed other wildife or domestic animals, or indeed baits that have been laid out indescriminately but have not yet poisoned anything. So for example, whilst these maps will capture a rabbit bait laced with carbofuran that has poisoned a red kite, they will not capture an identical bait on the next hill that has killed a fox (but might just as easily have killed a kite), or the bait on the next hill that has killed nothing but is lying there ready to kill any kite, fox, dog or child that happens along. To their credit, the RPPDG have stated their intention to consider adding to the maps poisoned baits that have the potential to kill birds of prey in the future.

    It would also be a mistake also to think that such maps are completely new. The RSPB has been publishing poison maps for decades in its annual 'Birdcrime' reports. They use exactly the same datasets as Defra but turn the poisoning statistics into crime statistics treating every incident that is separated spatially or temporally as a separate crime. In addition, every poisoned bait that is laid out in the countryside that could potentially kill a bird of prey is mapped and all the individual incidents including the number of birds killed, the species and location is listed in Appendix IV of the report. You will find your six poisoned buzzards listed there (see ).

  10. I wonder how sincere those quotes on your blog from various people are.
    If they were sincere we would be at least half way to getting the problem solved.
    Sadly I think anyone who believes them are naive.
    Somehow I think the answer to it will have to come from shooting people from pressure put on them somehow and from hopefully the good shooting guys who I hope are in a majority.
    Lets face it what other answer is there as detecting these crimes is almost a impossible task unless luck lets someone stumble on the crime and the Politicians will not do anything.

    1. "I think the answer to it will have to come from shooting people" - that's maybe a bit drastic but I understand how you feel!

  11. I would have more faith in Richard Benyon's pronouncements, were he not himself a member of the shooting fraternity!
    Until magistrates and judges take a more serious view of illegal poisoning and shooting of protected species, and hand down appropriate sentences, I do not believe the situation will ever improve.
    It must be most galling for RSPB, after they have put hours of effort into catching these criminals, to find that they are let off with 'a slap on the wrist'.

  12. Richard Benyon's language here seems striking and rather different to when he submitted evidence to the EAC and spoke of the presence of raptors being in conflict with land use (which I thought was a shameful statement, but maybe I misunderstood...). Is he feeling compelled to be saying and seen to be doing the right thing? If so, whilst only a small step, this is to be welcomed.

    To, I hope, answer Dennis' and other's points about sincerety, clearly we now need action to back up these words. This includes making sure Douglas' experiences of poor call handling a thing of the past.

  13. Personally Mr.B's statement to me smacks of a man who's carrer is starting to implode on him and perhaps he's started to realise he's not suited to the position and is grabbing at straws and releasing statements HE thinks might save him.

    1. With Owen Paterson and David Heath digging furiously in the black hole of the burger business Mr B may well be thinking he will become El Jefe by default.

      Callow Caroline and Gentleman Jim must be looking on with bemusement and a growing glow of Schadenfreude

  14. Thanks MK, to be honest I'm the sort who when he gets a bone doesn't let go, my response had me writting/visiting/emailing the cops until I managed to get a sit down meeting at the police hq at Wotton Hall, Northants. I had duty sergeant, the call handler. inspector on duty and his boss.
    But the problem is deep rooted across multiple agenices. For example one Sunday morning I stopped off with my camera and stumbled across some blokes stealing Pike from a local lake, armed with my camera and not liking the look of the three blokes I snapped them taking the Pike, wrapping them (after being clobbered) in plastic and placed in boot of car. So I got the evidence and lokk at my phone, go onto the Enviroment Agency website, find the department...JUST AN EMAIL ADRRESS NO PHONE NUMBER! Noone in office to answer email. Though I've been told they've added one now. I think to tackle wildlife crime if it has to be multi agency then they should be better linked up which they aren't. To highlight my point I recall when Countryfile tackled the NWCU funding crisis they attended a police briefing before a raid and the officer said " I welcome all the involved agencies to toadys raid" he then tells the reporter "it's been a long time since we've been able to get all the different agencies working together today!" says it all for me.....


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