The dead sparrowhawk was found near Nidd. Photo: North Yorkshire Police

The dead sparrowhawk was found near Nidd. Photo: North Yorkshire Police

Police are appealing for information after a bird of prey was shot and another raptor disappeared in separate incidents.

A member of the public found a dead sparrowhawk and subsequent tests revealed the bird had a piece of shot embedded in its body.

And a GPS-tagged hen harrier has disappeared in an area used for grouse shooting.

The female sparrowhawk’s body was found on Sunday in North Yorkshire, the English county with the worst reputation for raptor persecution.

The bird was found north of the village of Nidd, between Knaresborough and Ripley, an area where a dead red kite was previously found.

North Yorkshire Police launched an investigation after x-rays showed the sparrowhawk had a smashed and broken wing and a piece of shot lodged in the bird’s body.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds. Nevertheless birds of prey are still shot, poisoned and trapped, and North Yorkshire has more confirmed incidents of raptor persecution than any other county in England.

As part of a bid to tackle this North Yorkshire Police teamed up with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales national parks to launch Operation Owl. The joint initiative saw staff distribute flyers and posters to local businesses and talk to members of the public about raptor crime, to raise awareness of the issue.

Sergeant Kevin Kelly, of North Yorkshire Police’s rural taskforce, said: “Our wonderful countryside is host to many specially protected birds of prey.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that people think they can ignore the law and subject these birds to poisonings, shootings, nest destruction and the illegal use of spring traps without consequence. We will be doing everything in our power to catch these offenders, supported by our colleagues in the RSPB and the volunteers in the national parks.”

Guy Shorrock, RSPB senior investigations officer, added: “Two years ago a red kite was found shot in this same area, so there is clearly a problem here. We believe there will be someone out there who has information about what is going on in this area. We urge you to come forward and call us, in complete confidence, on our Raptor Crime Hotline.”

An x-ray of the dead bird. Photo: North Yorkshire Police

An x-ray of the dead bird. Photo: North Yorkshire Police

Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to call North Yorkshire Police on 101, choose option 1 and be ready to quote reference 12180034821. Alternatively, members of the public can email North Yorkshire Police. Confidential information can also be left with the RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline for free on 0300 999 0101.

In County Durham, a satellite-tagged hen harrier has disappeared near Middleton-in-Teesdale.

The harrier, named Marc, was one of a nest of two chicks tagged as part of the EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE+ project in July this year from a nest in the Scottish Borders.

The bird’s tag had been transmitting regularly, showing no signs of any problems, until it suddenly stopped on the afternoon of 5 February.

Data from Marc’s tag indicated he had been in the same area of upland farmland since late November before moving 10km north-west on 27 January to an area of driven grouse moor. From here he posted several positions until 2.04pm on 5 February, after which the tag inexplicably failed to send any further data.

Hen harriers are one of the UK’s rarest raptors with only three successful nests recorded in England in 2017. There have been a number of other hen harriers that have gone missing in similar circumstances both in England and Scotland since the tagging project began in 2015.

This includes Marc’s brother, a bird called Manu who was tagged in the same nest but went missing in October 2017 with his last known location being close to a grouse moor in Northumberland.

Mark Thomas, RSPB principal specialist said: “Hen harriers are facing an uncertain future.

“These spectacular birds should be flourishing in our uplands but studies show that we are down to just a handful of pairs in England with illegal persecution identified as a prime factor. So it’s depressing when yet another hen harrier goes off the radar like this, especially when the supporting tag data is so precise.”

A Durham Constabulary spokeswoman said: “We are very concerned at the disappearance of one of these iconic birds of prey. Hen harriers are fully protected by law and raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority. We urge you to come forward if you have any information about the disappearance of this bird.”

Anyone with information relating to the incident is asked to call Durham Constabulary on 101, quoting reference 163 2022018, or the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed, you can contact RSPB Investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form.

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