Crime against birds on the rise
A conservation charity has named North Yorkshire as the UK’s worst blackspot for crimes against birds of prey.
The RSPB says species including the goshawk, red kite, hen harrier and peregrine falcon are being targeted across the county’s two national parks – the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales.
North Yorkshire accounted for about ten per cent of crimes against birds of prey last year, with more incidents recorded there than in Scotland, Wales and all of England’s southern counties combined, according to the charity’s bird crime report for last year, due to be published on Thursday.
Conservationists say people working on shooting estates are responsible for many of the crimes, particularly gamekeepers seeking to illegally remove potential predators from grouse moors.
The number of incidents reported in North Yorkshire doubled from 27 in 2009 to 54 last year, with ten confirmed cases of birds of prey persecutions last year. These include the shooting of a goshawk and the poisoning of four red kites and three buzzards.
In the Yorkshire Dales, there was also an incident of two-week-old goshawk chicks found laced with a banned pesticide and left as bait.
According to RSPB figures, nearly 75 per cent of those convicted of involvement in such crimes over the past 20 years had ties to game hunting, but fewer than five per cent of confirmed cases make it to court each year.
Jeff Knott, the RSPB’s species policy officer, said persecution was still a major problem for several UK birds, including Government-listed “priority” birds such as the golden eagle.
A spokesman for the British Association of Shooting and Conservation said the group “absolutely condemns” illegal persecution, saying gamekeepers were “a convenient scapegoat” and adding: “Not all the blame can be laid at the gamekeeper’s door.”
PC Gareth Jones, of North Yorkshire Police’s wildlife crime unit, said it is worrying that birds of prey are not present in bigger numbers in the county.
He said: “Most gamekeepers are honest, but there will always be rogues who kill birds of prey.”
PC Jones suggested the Government signs into law the “vicarious liability” offence, for those who turn a blind eye to bird crimes, adopted this year in Scotland.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pledged to take into account the success of the Scottish legislation when shaping wildlife crime policy in England.
Source:The Northern Echo.