‘Eyes in the Field’: Monitoring hunting in the North York Moors National Park

The Protecting the Wild Equipment Fund provides equipment like radios or cameras to individuals or groups who are working as ‘eyes in the field’ to tackle wildlife crime and protect wildlife. We have asked each recipient to explain what they do and how they are using the equipment we have provided – not only to show supporters how their donations are being spent, but also to encourage other groups to apply! The more ‘eyes in the field’ there are, the safer wildlife will be.

In this post, independent monitors working largely in the North York Moors National Park tell us what they do and how they will benefit from the Protecting the Wild Equipment Fund. We are of course protecting their identities.


To set their work in context first, there are fifteen ‘national parks’ in the UK. They are described as large areas of land protected by law for the benefit of the nation. For the nation perhaps, but not for wildlife.

In fact, our so-called ‘national parks’ are nothing like how most people picture them. Far from being havens of tranquility, teeming with protected wildlife, vast areas of the ‘nation’s parks’ are privately owned and – in the uplands especially – are managed for shooting Red Grouse. Many are notorious wildlife crime hotspots and particularly hostile to birds of prey: the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative announced in April that it would close as persecution cases continued, and North Yorkshire has more confirmed incidents of raptor persecution than any other county in England.

For much of the UK’s wildlife these ‘national parks’ are death traps as shooting estates manage them to produce a ‘surplus’ of birds for a complicit clientele. But it’s not just shooting that blights some of the UK’s most iconic landscapes.

Protect the Wild recently visited the North York Moors National Park at the invitation of two members of an independent monitoring group. Between them they cover miles of single-track roads, keeping an eye on any one of the eight packs that roam the North York Moors National Park.

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’.

At the time of writing this article grouse shooting in the North York Moors is well underway and hunts are out ‘cubbing‘ – an illegal ‘sport’ where hunts train their hounds to get used to killing foxes by starting them out on defenceless cubs.

Incredibly, while shooting, hunting, and wildlife crime is rampant across the North York Moors, the ‘national park’ authorities are promoting what they have dubbed ‘Mindful Month’, “a way of guiding people towards the activities and places where they can slow down after a hectic summer and regain a sense of harmony as the new season approaches…and let nature nurture the soul“.

Wonderful for park visitors, but a great pity that park authorities aren’t extending this opportunity to find ‘harmony’ to the nature that calls this ‘national park’ home…




Protecting wildlife in the North York Moors National Park

Written by independent monitors, August 2023



“The North Yorkshire Moors National Park (NYMNP) covers an area of almost 1,500 square km and is characterised by its vast grouse moors stretching for many miles.

Many of these moors stretch into very remote locations and are all privately owned (giving the lie to the concept of “national” park!). Gamekeepers and farmers have pretty much no opposition if they choose to kill animals illegally as sparsely populated, tightly-knit rural communities largely protect what is seen as a big financial and/or cultural contributor to the area. Those who do disagree tend to stay quiet as invariably their employment, business, family relationships or children’s education is potentially at risk.

To add insult to injury there are at least six mounted foxhunts which regularly hunt in the national park (as well as several which have meets close to the park and so end up hunting within its borders), a minkhound pack and a beagle pack.

Encouragingly, there seems to be a turning of the tide in some areas of the country – particularly in the southeast and parts of the Midlands. Here in the North the wheels of change are turning much slower though.

There are several great monitor/sab groups in the general region but they are vastly outnumbered by the hunts, and remote areas are naturally more difficult and expensive to access. These groups tend to be based around the large urban areas of cities like Derby, Sheffield and York.

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.

Sadly it appears more fruitful for the police to assist large moorland estate owners, gamekeepers and owners of large farming/shooting estates as they can then be seen to be tackling hare coursing (which they SHOULD be doing – but it’s easy enough to stop a jeep full of lads with dogs rather than taking on the blatant chasing of a fox or hare by a group of well off landowners, business people and gentry) and farm machinery theft. We rarely see cases in the local press of bloodsport enthusiasts having their shotgun licences revoked or their vehicles impounded.

Tackling the hunts

Local, independent monitors can team up if necessary (myself and another person often walk on the moors to keep an eye out for illegal activity such as hunting with hounds and birds of prey persecution). Often we pass on information to other groups who may be interested in what is going on. Other times we report illegal activity to the police directly or to other relevant authorities.

Camcorders and our very presence have often checked illegal behaviour. Animal abusers don’t like being observed and they certainly don’t like being observed and FILMED! And, of course, not everything horrible is necessarily illegal – being out and about allows us to assist injured animals (especially on the roads) or pick up dangerous litter (especially important during hot weather when it can lead to wildfires on the moors and harm wildlife directly).

It’s hard work but we are determined to get what we need to stop them. On behalf of two independent monitors on the North York Moors, we would like to acknowledge our appreciation to Protect the Wild for your grant towards our equipment. Protect the Wild’s generosity means we can put more of our own money towards our fuel costs.”



  • Protect the Wild is proud to support people up and down the UK who are on the front line protecting wildlife. We are able to buy the equipment we give out because of paid subscriptions on Substack. While all our content is free, any money we do receive from paid subscriptions is ringfenced and used to buy equipment to put ‘eyes in the field’. It’s a simple idea – but the best ideas usually are! If you’d like to know more we have explained it all in our post “What do we mean by “Empowering people to protect British wildlife“?
    If you are working in the field to protect wildlife and would like to apply to our fund please read our T&Cs here first and use the online application form on the same page.