The reward is increasing in a bid to find the killers of the red kites. Photo: Brian Scott CC-BY-2.0

The reward is increasing in a bid to find the killers of the red kites. Photo: Brian Scott [CC-2.0]

A reward of almost £14,000 is now on offer to try to catch the killer of 16 birds of prey in the Highlands.

Four buzzards and 12 red kites have been found on the Black Isle, at least some of which were illegally poisoned.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds put up an initial £5,000 for information leading to the successful prosecution of the perpetrator. That was matched by the same amount from an anonymous donor and now members of the public have boosted the sum by £3,900.

The RSPB said, since the announcement of the deaths of the raptors, all within a two-square-mile area on the edge of the Black Isle south-east of Conon Bridge, it has received an unprecedented number of enquiries from the public. “Many people have expressed a desire to make a financial contribution to the reward,” it added.

It set up a justgiving page online, which has at the time of writing attracted pledges worth £3,939.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management for RSPB Scotland said: “This appalling incident highlights the very real threat illegal poisoning poses to fantastic species like red kites.

“The vulnerable Black Isle population in particular has been repeatedly hit by deaths due to illegal poison use.

“The Chilterns population in southern England is nearly ten times bigger, yet both projects started at the same time in 1989 with the same number of birds released into the wild.

“That is a shocking indictment on behaviour of some in this part of rural Scotland.”

Meanwhile, in the South of Scotland, a peregrine falcon was found poisoned.

Tests confirmed the bird, found by a member of the public in the Abington area of South Lanarkshire on 17 February, showed it was poisoned.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Members of the public are urged to be cautious if they come across any animal or bird remains, and to report their find to police.

“Police Scotland is committed to the investigation of all wildlife crime and is a member of [Partnership Against Wildlife Crime] Scotland.

“Officers are continuing inquiries and appealing for information.”

It said anyone with information should ring 101 or anonymously on the Crimestoppers number 0800 555 111.

Anyone who wants to donate to the Black Isle poisoning reward fund can visit the RSPB Scotland justgiving page.

The buzzard found at Dunford Bridge that had to be put down. Photo: MickPrice

The buzzard found at Dunford Bridge that had to be put down. Photo: MickPrice

South of the border, a £2,000 reward is being offered after a buzzard had to be put down when it was badly injured in a metal spring trap.

The bird was illegally trapped at Winscar Reservoir at Dunford Bridge in the Peak District.

The Moorland Association which represents grouse-moor owners, the National Trust, Natural England, the Peak District National Park Authority and RSPB, working together through the Peak District Birds of Prey Initiative, have joined forces with the landowner Yorkshire Water to offer a £2,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction.

Geoff Nickolds, national park authority member and chair of the Peak District Birds of Prey Initiative, said: “Local bird groups and moorland managers have been helping us monitor birds of prey across the Peak District moors, and everyone in the group has expressed their deep concern and great disappointment at this incident.

“We work closely with landowners, gamekeepers and bird groups to encourage birds of prey such as buzzard, merlin and peregrine to nest and rear chicks successfully in the national park.

“The death is especially upsetting as the bird had been ringed as a chick last year at a nearby site.”

Mike Pearson, Yorkshire Water’s land and programme manager, said: “Our upland water catchments are internationally important for their wildlife, their birds and plants.

“We have a long and effective record of working in partnership with Natural England, the RSPB, our tenants and other users to protect and enhance these stunningly beautiful places.

“To hear that one of the most visible and iconic birds in our region has been trapped is sickening. We will be working with the police, wildlife agencies and land managers to investigate further and to look at the positive actions we can all take to prevent future tragedies.

“Sadly this is not the first time we have seen raptor persecution but are pleased to report that birds of prey are largely doing well on our land.”

Buzzards are protected by law; it is illegal to kill buzzards or disturb their nests.

Placing spring traps on poles or stumps where they can trap birds is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine and or six months imprisonment. Spring traps can be used lawfully to catch stoats and weasels but must be set in tunnels to avoid trapping birds.

Police are now investigating the incident. Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Constable Bryan Butterworth at Huddersfield Police Station on 01484 436565, or call West Yorkshire Police on the non-emergency crime line 101, or phone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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