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Buzzard shot in North York Moors National Park

The criminals at large in the North York Moors National Park – a region dominated by grouse shoots – have struck again, as a Buzzard was discovered “fighting for its life” on Daleside Road in Rosedale.

X-rays revealed that the Buzzard had been shot, and the bird was transferred into the care of the renowned and remarkable Jean Thorpe, an internationally acclaimed wildlife rehabilitator, raptor rescue accredited rehabilitator, and badger expert witness. Sadly after surviving the initial trauma the bird died on the 10th, leading to an emotional and heartbreaking tweet from someone who has witnessed firsthand far too many instances of raptor persecution in the ‘national parks’ of Yorkshire.

 

 

North Yorkshire Police has launched (yet another) appeal for information. The force said it was the third Buzzard in the last four months that had been shot or had died in suspicious circumstances in the Rosedale area, a valley located almost in the centre of the national park and surrounded by moorland.

PC Jez Walmsley, of the Helmsley and Kirkbymoorside safer neighbourhood team, said: “I would appeal to anyone who has any information about who is persecuting these magnificent birds to come forward.”

It’s a rather forlorn request given that no one ever comes forward from the closely-knit ‘communities’ in this part of the world to report wildlife crime…

 

Raptor persecution and the North York Moors National Park

Many people assume that our ‘national parks’ are havens for wildlife, but that simply isn’t true.

Many are largely owned by shooting and hunting interests, and the North York Moors National Park has a terrible and thoroughly deserved reputation for criminality and raptor persecution that park authorities and police seem unable to get to grips with.

North Yorkshire is notorious as a ‘black hole’ for birds of prey. Undoubtedly a beautiful and evocative part of the UK, the county has become synonymous with the illegal persecution of raptors. In July 2020 the Yorkshire Post printed a list of SIXTEEN raptor persecution incidents from just January 2018 to July 2020‘. In September they followed that up with an article looking at what has become known as ‘The Hartoft Mural’.

Painted by Nicky & Simon Johnston who live in the village of Hartoft in the North York Moors National Park the mural overlooks a grouse moor. Featuring Hen Harriers, a Goshawk, a Red Kite, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin and a Buzzard, the artwork’s intent is unmissable. As the Yorkshire Post puts it, “Two retired teachers with a passion for wildlife conservation have sent out a message to criminals who persecute birds of prey“.

PC Walmsley is generally acknowledged to be doing his best in a ‘beat’ where it’s extremely wealthy landowners who are in control rather than the police. Assuming he is correct and this is the third Buzzard shot in the area since the summer, this bird needs to be added to another two shot Red Kites found in the area in June 2023 (see details on Raptor Persecution UK here and here).

 

Fox Hunting in the North York Moors National Park

As well as the criminality associated with the grouse shooting industry, the ‘national park’ is riddled with fox hunts.

As Protect the Wild previously reported (see ‘Eyes in the Field’: Monitoring hunting in the North York Moors National Park) we were proud to support a monitoring group that works on the southern edge of the park.

The group monitor a staggering EIGHT packs that operate inside the national park, routinely using land members of the hunt own. These hunts include many that typically receive little attention: the Saltersgate Farmers Hunt; Goathland and Glaisdale Hunt; Sinnington Hunt; Derwent Hunt; Cleveland Hunt; Bilsdale Hunt; the Ampleforth Beagles; and the Northern Counties Mink Hounds. They are occasionally joined by the Hurworth Hunt and the Middleton Hunt, foxhound packs that typically hunt elsewhere but ‘cross the border’ to sample the delights of killing wildlife in a ‘national park’.

As the group wrote at the time:

“To tackle the hunting culture in the isolated northern national parks we need locals who know the area and understand the deep-rooted ties that perpetuate this culture of killing. Especially bearing in mind that the people in positions to facilitate change on a legal or administrative level (including the NYMNP Authority, councillors, even the police) are themselves part of the problem as they often come from (or have to be seen to be co-operating with) the local farming and bloodsports community.”

We couldn’t agree more…

 

More raptors will die

Buzzards have been fully protected in law for more than half a century (see our Protectors page > Birds of Prey and the Law), Despite largely being scavengers rather than aerial hunters, they are regularly targeted by shooting estates.

It is clear that more protected birds of prey will die inside this so-called ‘national park’ while the shooting industry is in charge. Industry lobbyists mouth platitudes about ‘zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution while the bodies pile up, and its complicit clientele appear more than willing to look the other way (see Channel 4 News exposes ‘wilful blindness’ of grouse shooters).

North Yorkshire Police now openly acknowledge that the county has the highest recorded number of raptor persecution incidents in the UK, but seem unable to tackle the problem. They are part of  Operation Owl, which “aims to increase public awareness of bird of prey persecution and to seek support in tackling it head on”. While wanting to applaud the concept, given how many birds of prey are dying it’s difficult for us to judge it a success.

And what about the park authority itself? They admit that they control very little of the land inside the park and can – in crude terms – do nothing about the criminality that ‘their park’ is becoming increasingly known for.

 

If we’re serious about ending raptor persecution, of not allowing these ‘law-breaking, gun-licenced, raptor killing heathens’ to kill more birds of prey, then our only viable option is working to shut this lawless industry down – it is certainly NOT offering it a ‘licencing lifeline’ to allow it to continue on and on into a blood-soaked future.