A report by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) concludes that illegal persecution of birds of prey on Dales grouse moors is limiting populations of peregrine falcons and hen harriers, and preventing the colonisation of the area by red kites.
YDNPA has published an report on birds of prey persecution – which was first presented to a wildlife crime summit held at the authority’s offices in Bainbridge last month.
The report assesses the populations of a number of key upland raptor species nationally and in the park and quantifies the confirmed incidents of persecution.
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It concludes that the collation of breeding data, the number of confirmed persecution incidents and the absence of some species from large areas of potentially suitable habitat provide “compelling evidence that illegal persecution is limiting the populations of peregrine and hen harrier in the National Park, and is preventing the colonisation of the area by red kites”.
It states: “There has not been a successful peregrine nesting attempt on any of the monitored grouse moor sites since 1997, with birds now absent from the majority of sites that were occupied in the 1990s. This is in stark contrast to the success of nest sites away from grouse moors. There is no natural explanation for this difference.
“Despite large areas of potentially suitable nesting habitat, there has not been a successful hen harrier nesting attempt in the national park since 2007.
“In addition, 11 (19%) of the 59 hen harriers that were satellite tagged by Natural England at sites across northern England and Scotland between 2002 and 2017 are classed as ‘missing, fate unknown’ in the Yorkshire Dales.”
The report was presented at a wildlife crime seminar organised by the YDNPA, which took place at Yoredale in Bainbridge on 21 Feb.
More than 50 people attended the event, including police officers from the North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire forces.
YDNPA chief executive David Butterworth said: “The wildlife crime seminar has trained staff to know how to assess and deal with incidents – and when to report them to the police.
“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.
“During the coming weeks, the training that staff have received will also be handed on to our Dales volunteers. They will be briefed on how to spot and report suspected wildlife crime incidents.”
He added: “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.”
To read the report click here.