Persecution of birds of prey linked to grouse shootings at worst level in 30 years
The number of slaughtered, trapped or poisoned birds of prey reached record levels last year, which the RSPB suspects to be linked to game bird shooting.
The persecution of protected birds, including red kites and golden eagles, was the worst in 30 years last year, with 137 known crimes, according to the association. But these are only confirmed cases, and there is concern that the real figure is higher.
Wildlife experts believe the pandemic lockdown helped criminals because fewer walkers, who might have spotted illegal activity, were on the move.
The victims included 58 hawks, 20 red kites, 16 peregrine falcons, six hawks, three northern goshawks, rare Northern harriers and golden eagles, according to the RSPB Birdcrime 2020 report.
Almost two-thirds of the crimes – 85 – took place on or near land used or related to game bird shooting, the report said.
“The persecution of birds of prey shows a clear link with the shooting of pheasant, partridge and grouse, with the incidents being more prevalent in the plains and more concentrated in the highlands,” said a spokesperson.
Game bird shooters target birds of prey because they believe raptors – protected by law – would otherwise eat the meat birds they want to kill.
Chris Packham, who previously described the bird of prey killings as’ out of hand ‘said:’ No one should endure the horror of witnessing a hawk shot from the sky or having a pet killed by illegal poison bait.
âThe appalling persecution of birds of prey has become a frightening banality, but public anger is mounting and cannot be ignored. “
Grouse plantations are receiving public funds as part of a controversial program intended to have environmental benefits. A 2019 investigation found they received more than Â£ 10million in taxpayer money in 2018.
Last fall, the Scottish government announced it would start authorizing grouse moorland, and the RSPB is calling on the Westminster government to follow suit.
Of the 137 confirmed cases – the highest total since registration began in 1990 – 99 were in England.
Over the weekend, a Northern Marsh Harrier disappeared from an area dominated by grouse moorland grown in the North Pennines Area of ââOutstanding Natural Beauty.
The report says: âIn perhaps the most damning episode, a satellite tag was discovered that had been thrown into a river after being removed from a golden eagle that went missing on a grouse moor in 2016.
“The incident was a stark reminder of the extensive and organized efforts of criminals to target birds of prey and eliminate evidence.”
Mark Thomas, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: âAlthough we are used to the illegal killing of birds of prey, the figure for 2020 is really shocking.
âWe are in a climatic and natural emergency. All land must be managed legally and in a way that is sustainable for people and for nature, and not accelerate the worrying loss of Britain’s wildlife that we already know.
âLicensing should be conditional on compliance with wildlife protection laws and, if violated, should result in the removal of the right to shoot. Filming operators who behave legally and responsibly should not fear this penalty. “
Killing or injuring a bird of prey can result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in prison, but there were only two prosecutions for raptor persecution offenses last year.
Chief Inspector Kevin Kelly, head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: âI am disappointed with such a large increase in incidents as the crime numbers undermine the hard work that is done daily to fight the persecution of people. raptors.
âThe priority delivery group holds the key to success. It has gone through a period of change, bringing leadership, accountability and some new positive partners. “