Raptor persecution is hitting the Yorkshire Dales' reputation

Raptor persecution is hitting the Yorkshire Dales' reputation

National park bosses said persecution of birds of prey is damaging the area’s reputation.

The Yorkshire Dales authority said it abhors the illegal targeting of raptors and will do what it can to bring perpetrators to justice.

The stance by the national park authority follows a case where a junior gamekeeper on the Mossdale grouses-shooting estate was given a police caution for setting pole traps, which have been illegal for more than 100 years.

The 23-year-old man, from the Hawes area, was secretly filmed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds resetting three of the traps, which snap shut on birds’ legs.

The RSPB was critical of North Yorkshire Police’s decision to issue the man with a simple caution rather than prosecuting him through the courts.

Chairman Peter Charlesworth: 'We abhor the illegal persecution'. Photo: YDNPA

Chairman Peter Charlesworth: 'We abhor the illegal persecution'. Photo: YDNPA

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chairman Peter Charlesworth said: “We abhor the illegal persecution of birds of prey and we will continue to support the police and Natural England in any way we can to help bring the perpetrators of these sorts of crimes to justice.

“The pole trap incident happened on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales national park. This land, like the vast majority of the National Park, is in private ownership.

“At a time when the Yorkshire Dales is receiving such widespread recognition as a wonderful place to visit, it’s incredibly disappointing that the criminal persecution of birds of prey continues to damage the reputation of the area.

“We know that birds of prey are a big attraction to the millions of visitors that come here, so these acts are causing economic damage as well as appalling harm to wildlife.

“The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently published a national plan to increase the English hen harrier population, which was developed in conjunction with Natural England, the RSPB, the Moorland Association and others, including national park authorities. We stand ready to assist those organisations, and work with our partners right along the Pennines to help deliver locally on the intent in that national plan.

“In the meantime, we will continue to support the police in any way we can to identify those responsible for any illegal killings and to bring them to justice.”

Following the police decision on the Mossdale case, Bob Elliot, head of RSPB investigations, said: “These are dreadful barbaric devices and have no place in the 21st century. North Yorkshire has long held the unenviable reputation of the worst county in England for raptor persecution.

“The sighting of a hen harrier in the immediate area is of particular concern. This species is nearly extinct as a breeding species in England and it last bred successfully in North Yorkshire in 2007 despite huge areas of suitable habitat.

“Earlier this year [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] launched its hen harrier action plan, which has been supported by shooting organisations. Yet again, we have seen that there appears to be little sign that birds of prey will be tolerated in our uplands.

“These crimes are extremely difficult to investigate. While we are grateful for the excellent police response in attending this incident, we simply do not understand the decision to issue a caution for such a serious case. We will be writing to the police to ask for an explanation of this decision.

North Yorkshire Police said, in response to the RSPB’s criticism: “The investigation led the suspect, a 23-year-old man from the Hawes area, to go to Richmond police station as a voluntary attendee on 22 May.

“He made a full and frank admission to using the illegal spring pole traps near Widdale Fell, which were initially reported to the police on 10 May by the RSPB who had obtained video evidence of the offence.

“All options in how to deal with the man were considered, including a prosecution at court. However, based on the case at hand, it was decided the most appropriate course of action was to give him an adult caution.”

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