The red kite's body was found beside the Wharfe near The Strid. Photo: North Yorkshire Police

The red kite's body was found beside the Wharfe near The Strid. Photo: North Yorkshire Police

Police are investigating after a dead red kite was found in the Yorkshire Dales.

North Yorkshire and the Yorkshire Dales are a blackspot for raptor persecution.

The kite was found near The Strid near Barden on the Bolton Abbey Estate in upper Wharfedale on 12 July. Initial tests indicated there was a piece of shot in the body.

North Yorkshire Police said they are examining the circumstances of the bird of prey’s death.

Sergeant Kevin Kelly, wildlife crime lead for the force, said: “It is key to examine whether the bird has flown to the location injured and subsequently died or whether it has been shot near to where it was found.

“A detailed pathology report will assist us in establishing this.

“What we know at this time is that a triage x-ray shows a small piece of shot inside the bird. This will be recovered and forensically tested. We will be working with partner agencies and the Bolton Abbey Estate to establish the facts that will assist an effective investigation.”

Benedict Heyes, from the estate, said: “We were disappointed to be notified by a member of the public that they had found a dead red kite on the Bolton Abbey Estate.

“Red kites and other birds of prey are often seen at Bolton Abbey and are enjoyed by many visitors to the estate. The estate alerted the authorities and would ask that anyone who has any knowledge or information in relation to the death of this bird to contact North Yorkshire Police, so as to assist them in their investigation.”

Doug Simpson, Yorkshire Red Kite Co-ordinator, said: “This latest incident brings the total confirmed Yorkshire red kite illegal persecution victims up to 42 since releases began in 1999. Thirteen of these birds having been shot.

“It is sickening that a small minority of people appear intent on breaking the law by targeting these birds, which have become an integral part of our beautiful North Yorkshire countryside.”

North Yorkshire Police launched Operation Owl earlier this year to try to tackle illegal persecution of birds of prey and a wildlife seminar was held in March.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s chief executive David Butterworth said at the time: “I need to be absolutely clear: bird of prey persecution is a criminal offence and is foremost a police matter.

“If you suspect it, or wish to report any information, you need to dial 101 or in an emergency 999. But it is also is a matter for us, as the authority exists to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and wildlife of the national park.”

A report prepared for the seminar pointed out a link between raptor decline and game shooting.

Mr Butterworth said: “North Yorkshire has gained an unenviable reputation as England’s bird of prey persecution hotspot. The problems are well documented but, as yet, there are no widely accepted solutions to the conflict between some land management practices and bird of prey populations.

“People need to be clear that the national park authority does not own the land, and that there are no legislative powers to regulate game shooting.

“This does not mean that we are sitting idly by doing nothing. We are helping North Yorkshire Police with Operation Owl – a scheme to get people who are out and about enjoying the magnificent countryside to look out for and report suspected wildlife crime.

“With the help of residents and visitors we can make a difference. We want birds of prey back in this iconic national park.”

Sonya Wiggins, who co-ordinates the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group, said: “We have been made aware of this incident and fully support a police investigation.

“At Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group we believe in good practice and accountability; we work closely with the local police and other agencies to tackle wildlife crime.

“Killing wild birds is unacceptable and we would ask for anyone with any information to contact the police.”

Anyone with any information is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 2 and ask for Sgt Kevin Kelly, or email him.

Members of the public are asked to quote reference number 12180131874 when giving information.

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