The UK’s birds of prey continue to be at risk according the latest Birdcrime report which has revealed a minimum of 68 confirmed incidents of detected illegal bird of prey persecution in 2017.
Birdcrime 2017 – the only report summarising offences against birds of prey (also known as raptors) in the UK – revealed 48 shooting, 9 poisoning, 3 trapping, 4 nest destruction and 4 other incidents of illegal persecution against raptors.
More than a quarter of the confirmed incidents took place in Yorkshire, with the majority of these happening in North Yorkshire, confirming yet again its position as the worst county in the UK for bird of prey crime.
Between 2012 and 2017 there were 71 confirmed bird of prey crime incidents in North Yorkshire, nearly three times as many as Powys in Wales, which is the second worst county during this period with 25.
Crimes against birds of prey in North Yorkshire in 2017 included the shooting of five buzzards, the destruction of a marsh harrier nest and the poisoning of a red kite. Other victims of raptor crime included a kestrel and two goshawks.
In East Riding there were two poisoned buzzards and one shot sparrowhawk and in South Yorkshire there was a shot buzzard.
Evidence suggests these figures are just the tip of the iceberg with many illegal killings going undetected or unreported.
And it’s not only detection that is a problem. There were just four raptor persecution-related prosecutions in the UK in 2017 and only a single conviction.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “Birds of prey are part of our heritage and inspire us. We should all be able to enjoy seeing these magnificent birds, however illegal activity continues to put species at risk. There are laws in place to protect these birds but they are clearly not being respected or adequately enforced. We need governments across the UK to do more to tackle illegal killing to protect our raptors for us and for future generations to enjoy.”
Previous research has shown that illegal killing of birds of prey is associated with land managed for intensive driven grouse shooting, leaving vast areas of our uplands without typical breeding raptors. A Natural England study revealed ‘compelling evidence’ that persecution of hen harriers – associated with driven grouse moors - was the main factor limiting their recovery in England.
Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: “North Yorkshire has plenty to be proud of but its notorious reputation for raptor persecution must be addressed. The persecution of birds of prey is a widespread problem in the UK, and is affecting some of our most loved and vulnerable species, like owls and eagles.
Every week the RSPB’s Investigations team get reports of yet another raptor being shot, trapped or poisoned. But for every report we receive, scientific studies suggest there are many more that go undetected and unreported. As such, these figures only scratch the surface of the true extent of raptor persecution in the UK.”