RSPB press release – raptor persecution

Bird of prey persecution crimewave during lockdown 

Red Kite. Photo: RSPB
  1. The RSPB has received a surge in reports of birds of prey being illegally killed since lockdown began 
  2. The majority of incidents have been on or close to sporting estates managed for game bird shooting 
  3. The public are being asked to stay vigilant and report crimes against birds of prey 

The RSPB’s Investigations Unit has been ‘overrun’ with reports of birds of prey being illegally killed in recent weeks. 

Police have been called out to investigate multiple cases involving the shooting, trapping and suspected poisoning of birds of prey following reports by the public.  

The RSPB is currently aware of many confirmed incidents involving the targeting of birds of prey involving hen harriers, peregrines, buzzards, red kites, goshawks and a barn owl in the last six weeks. Amongst the cases being dealt with by the police are a number of significant ongoing investigations on land managed for grouse shooting.  

On 29 March a buzzard was found shot at Shipton, near York. Its wing was fractured in two places and an x-ray revealed several pieces of shot within the bird’s body. Thanks to the care of a local wildlife expert the buzzard recovered and was released.  

Over the Easter Weekend, a red kite was found shot dead near Leeds. It had 12 shotgun pellets lodged in its body.  

The following weekend, wildlife presenter Iolo Williams recovered a dead red kite in Powys, which had been shot. Reports also came in of a further two shot red kites in the area, which is managed for pheasant shooting. 

And in Scotland, the police are following up several raptor persecution cases and multiple reports of illegal trap use on grouse moors. 

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.  

Mark Thomas, RSPB Head of Investigations UK, said:  

Since lockdown began, the RSPB has been overrun with reports of birds of prey being targeted. It is clear that criminals on some sporting estates both in the uplands and lowlands, have used the wider closure of the countryside as an opportunity to ramp up their efforts to kill birds of prey. 

Spring is the time when birds of prey are most visible and therefore vulnerable, as they put on courtship displays, build nests and find food ready to breed. It is clear the criminal actions are targeted and malicious in nature, taking out birds before they have the opportunity to breed, often in areas where they have previously faced persecution. 

We welcome the fact that the public is remaining vigilant and encourage any suspicious incidents to be reported. But please observe government guidelines at all times.” 

Superintendent Nick Lyall, head of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, said:  

Over recent weeks, I have been sickened by the number of raptor persecution cases that have come to my attention as chair of the Raptor Persecution Delivery Group. I know that there are officers currently investigating a number of crimes against wild birds of prey which have occurred since lockdown began. 

It is clear that lockdown has been seen as a green light by those involved in raptor persecution offences to continue committing crimes, presumably in the belief that there are fewer people around to catch them doing so.  

I remain grateful to everyone involved in investigating these crimes, and thankfully in the vast majority of the cases I am aware of, it looks like some really good lines of enquiry are taking place which should lead to arrests and interviews.”  

If you have any information about birds of prey being killed in your area, call the police on 101 or the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101. 



11 Replies to “RSPB press release – raptor persecution”

  1. I think one always feared that when this “lock down” started that with far fewer people in the countryside the criminals would be much more active in their criminal activities and so it has proved.
    It is utterly outrageous that in this day and age these crimes are allowed to continue. They shame and disgrace this country around the world as well as all the Government’s concerned and yet these Governments still prevaricate and do nothing to prevent it happening This is mostly I suspect because many of them especially Tory politicians have vested interests in shooting.
    Politicians are keen to use the so called “voluntary approach”. If ever there is proof this does not work and never has worked with these criminals this is it.
    When will we see some decisive action from our politicians that takes this country out of the Victorian age and stops the murder and suffering of our poor raptors?

  2. Entirely predictable that the dark side of criminals that are thriving and rife throughout shooting would do this. Gamekeepers work alone so justified their none essential work during lockdown.
    They of course should not be working as none essentials.
    At this time of the year most keepers concentrate on killing the stuff they don’t want and for many this includes legally protected raptors, badgers and the like. We need RSPB investigations out there trying to catch them lock down or not. it is always the case that if keepers are working “our side” RSPB investigators and raptor workers should, nay must be out there too.
    Proof that all that hot air from the shooting bodies about zero tolerance to raptor crime, is utter rubbish, we cannot and must not forget.

    1. Paul, the test of whether you could ‘go to work’ or not from the beginning of lockdown was not whether your work was essential, it was whether your work could be done from home. If you couldn’t work from home and you didn’t work in one of the sectors officially proscribed from opening (some retail, hairdressing, hospitality, etc.), then the government expected you to go to work (and indeed there have been a few reports of their surprise that so much of business stopped).

      1. Yes I know that and lots of estates have scaled back either the release of alien pheasants and RLPs or the expectations of lots of grouse shooting customers. Taking this into account some, few I suspect keepers have been furloughed, one wishes they all were permanently. Most ( not all Trapit) of them are professional wildlife criminals, that’s the way they behave and in many cases their employers instruct or expect them to behave. A countryside largely devoid of folk who know this has as expected been too great a temptation for them and protected wildlife pays the price, as always.

  3. In the last month I’ve seen a Raven, Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard with tell tale ragged wing feathers.
    There are pheasant shoots within a few miles of my house in nearly every direction.
    I imagine thousands and thousands of raptors will have met their end over the last 7 weeks throughout the UK.

  4. Once again, I invite “The Disliker” to justify his/her objections to this blog and related comments. Do you have the decency to explain yourself? Or are you just too chicken shit?

    1. you have to almost admire both the diligence and I suppose the predictability of him. Wonder if he shoots or works on a shoot, silly question of course he does.

  5. “Superintendent Nick Lyall, head of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, said:

    “Over recent weeks, I have been sickened by the number of raptor persecution cases that have come to my attention”

    If only he was in a position to do something about it. It is just a shame he isn’t a member of some sort of investigatory and prosecutory body that could deploy resources to stop this sort of thing.

  6. Sickening! I’m fairly certain I made a tweet just after lockdown started that there was the danger of this happening. I say this not to imply I had some great insight, just that the behaviour of these people is so predictable. They pretend in public to disapprove of the illegal killing of raptors, but obviously don’t. This is not just a small minority as the apologists for the shooting industry try to imply. This is an industry wide attitude.

    We have to remember that the cases we know of are just the tip of the iceberg. For every raptor killed, which is witnessed, where a dead raptor found, trap or poisoned bait found, there must be many, many more incidents that go unwitnessed. The aim of these people will be to conceal their crimes. So if a raptor gets away to die a lingering death, is found in a trap etc, it is a mistake by the perpetrators. It is impossible to know the frequency of detected raptor crimes, to actual raptor crimes perpetrated. However, I don’t think it unreasonable to suppose that the actual crimes committed could easily be hundreds times greater than raptor crimes detected.

    Yet the dishonest shooting industry apologists want you to believe that unless there is a conviction – and remember only a tiny proportion of raptor crime detected, results in a conviction, and only a tiny proportion of raptor crimes perpetrated are detected – that there is no evidence this is happening or widespread. This is more than denial. I say those involved in shoot management must be very aware that raptor persecution is widespread. That they deliberately set out to mislead the public into thinking it is just a minority thing, by only acknowledging cases where there is a conviction, suggests that it is not just a matter of they don’t care – but they know it is widespread and they are deliberately trying to cover up.

    What is very telling is just how few shooters acknowledge and admit the extent of the problem, and just how many obfuscate, grossly minimize the problem and use sophistry to cover it up. Suggesting that tacitly that there is widespread acceptance of this practise in the shooting world.

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