North Yorkshire’s appearance at top of bird crime table “embarrassing and humiliating”, says national park chief

The body of a hen harrier found on the Swinton estate in 2019.

North Yorkshire’s appearance at the top of the RSPB’s bird crime table for the seventh year in a row is “embarrassing and humiliating”, says a Yorkshire Dales National Park boss.

The RSPB’s 2020 Birdcrime report claimed that the county was again the worst place in the UK for the illegal killing of birds of prey.

The charity says much of the persecution is linked directly to driven grouse shooting and has called for the industry to be regulated.

The figures in the 2020 report are the highest number recorded since the first Birdcrime report in 1990, and North Yorkshire has topped the table for the seventh year in a row.

Twenty six of the 137 confirmed incidents occurred in North Yorkshire.

Victims in the county included 16 buzzards, two peregrine falcons, two red kites and one goshawk.

In April 2020, North Yorkshire Police officers found five dead buzzards on a grouse moor on the edge of Bransdale in the North York Moors. Four of the birds were confirmed to have been shot, and the injuries of the fifth were ‘suggestive of damage from a shotgun pellet’.

The charity claims raptors in particular are targeted with poisons, such as Carbofuran and Bendiocarb, which can kill indiscriminately.

A spaniel died and another became ill in April 2020, after consuming a ‘cocktail of poisons’ in Nidderdale.

The RSPB said it was aware of 14 confirmed buzzard shootings in North Yorkshire in 2020, as well as the destruction of a tawny owl nest.

Mark Thomas, head of investigations UK, said, “Although we have become used to the illegal killing of birds of prey, the figure for 2020 is truly shocking. We continue to work with police on many joint investigations and are grateful for their support in tackling these awful crimes.

“We are in a climate and nature emergency. All land must be managed legally and sustainably for people and for nature, and not accelerate the worrying loss of UK wildlife we are already experiencing.”

Commenting on the report, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chief executive David Butterworth said: “This report makes grim reading for all landscape authorities, landowners, managers and other partners who are working hard to call out and tackle illegal raptor persecution, and it’s embarrassing and humiliating to see North Yorkshire yet again topping the league table with the highest number of confirmed incidents.

“As we’ve said before, the continuing issue of bird of prey persecution in North Yorkshire demands maximum exposure, as do the activities of those who take part in this criminality. People need to know what is happening here and the devastating impact this is having on our protected species. This report lays that bare.

“The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority condemns raptor persecution in the strongest possible terms and, as highlighted in this report, we will continue to work closely with partners and others to stamp out this crime once and for all.

“I would appeal to anyone, local or visitor, who witnesses any suspicious activity while they’re out and about in the countryside, or anyone who is made aware of it through their networks, to contact the police”.

In response to the report, Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said there was a “huge amount of work” being done by grouse moor owners and managers to “eradicate incidents of raptor persecution”.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy of raptor persecution and anyone who commits such a crime does not belong in the game management community,” she said.

Ms Anderson said the organisation did not believe licensing would be effective.

For concerns about a possible wildlife crime, you should call 101.

If you witness a suspected wildlife crime in action, call 999 immediately and ask for the Police.

You can speak in confidence about raptor persecution directly with the RSPB on 0300 9990101.


  1. It’s down to landowners telling gamekeepers “do it or else ” followed by ” we didn’t have this conversation “

  2. Shocking to read that North Yorkshire is top of the league when it comes to these terrible deaths of raptors.
    Somehow, the comments in the article from Moorland management spokesmen seem a bit hollow.
    As someone who walks the the Dales all the time, I am struck by the relative absence of wildlife compared to other parts of the country when I spend time.

  3. There is no doubt that licencing would go a long way to stamping out this destructive law-breaking. The difficulty the police have currently is gathering conclusive proof for prosecution of specific individuals. With licencing, estates with bad records would risk losing their licences. Well run estates would have nothing to fear.

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