Raptor Persecution

POISONING, TRAPPING & SHOOTING:

Gamekeepers fear predation of young grouse and eggs by raptors including goshawks, buzzards and hen harriers. Natural predation by raptors would reduce grouse stocks and therefore shooting numbers and profits for estates. To prevent this, gamekeepers illegally poison, shoot and trap raptors.

Poison may be used in bait, eg in a strewn carcass left on the moor. Look out for dead flies on the flesh, which indicates they too have been poisoned. Beware, these poisons can also be lethal to pet dogs and even humans. Local police have been shockingly inactive, even when illegal poisoning has been clearly documented on our moorland. For example, see the case of the poisoned raven in the Peak District National Park. This case has still not been investigated, despite the clear evidence of crime and risk to public health.

Raptor shooting may occur by day, when the gamekeeper will hide on the moors, often with a plastic “decoy bird” to entice in territorial others. This account, also from the Peak District National Park, gives an idea of their operation. The gamekeeper will always claim to be shooting corvids, which is bad enough, but there is every chance he is waiting for a raptor, which is illegal.

Shooting may also occur by night, when the keeper patrols the woods for owls in flight – even tempting them out with fake calls. Or the keeper may simply walk up to the nest and shoot it down, killing its occupants and shattering eggs. This has been a particular problem in the Peak District.

Traps are used extensively throughout the Peak District National Park, ostensibly legally (though cruelly) to catch corvids, but just as easily (and illegally) to catch raptors. This account of a young golden eagle witnessed flying around the Cairngorms National Park with an illegal trap clamped to its leg in 2019 illustrates the issue. This video from the RSPB documents a buzzard that was illegally caught and probably killed in a corvid traps on a grouse moor. See our separate Birds Traps page for more info.

And finally, here is the rare story of a gamekeeper conviction for bird crime in the Peak District. The law rarely defends wildlife here.

NEST DISRUPTION:

Gamekeepers will often detroy or disturb nesting birds – either by shooting them down or by making conditions unfavourable.

In this report, a rare goshawk nest was shot down in the Derwent Valley, smashing the eggs which were about to hatch, so the young brood died on the forest floor. The nesting season is a very vulnerable time for raptors, so please be vigilant.

This RSPB report highlights historic goshawk nest disturbance by the convicted gamekeeper Reginald Cripps, who still lives on the Moscar Estate.

GAS GUNS:

Gas guns are placed on grouse moors by gamekeepers, ostensibly to discourage corvids but more likely to disrupt raptor nesting. Gas guns fire off loud intermittent shots, which disrupts the nesting behaviour. Gas guns have been found on Broomhead, Langsett and Axe Edge, amongst other places.

Most of the Peak District moorland is SSSI meaning that gas guns must be licensed. As usual, there is little-to-no enforcement of this, so… get involved. Gamekeepers have total disregard for the SSSI status of the area and it’s time to ensure the status is respected.

HOW TO HELP:

  • The general public can play a key role in observing gamekeepers’ misdeeds – we have a lot of eyes and cover a lot of ground between us!
  • Be alert for poison and take care of pet dogs.
  • Report any dead or injured bird or possible incident to the RSPB immediately.
  • During springtime nesting season, the gamekeepers will target the nests, by day or by night.
  • Monitor your local raptor nests and keep an eye out in Peak District woodland for men in camo armed with guns… Yes really.
  • If you find a gas gun on the moors, please report it to us.
  • Also send a Freedom of Info request to get specific confirmation that there is consent to use a gas gun in that location at that time.
  • Let us know your findings, and we’ll take it further if there is no consent.
  • Follow Raptor Persecution UK and Birders Against Wildlife Crime for more info.
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