Catching criminals who kill birds of prey in North Yorkshire is 'very difficult'

Police say it is “very, very difficult” to track down criminals who kill birds of prey in North Yorkshire.

Criminals are targeting a range of birds of prey in North Yorkshire, including red kites

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) described North Yorkshire as a “danger zone” for these birds in its latest Bird Crime Report and revealed that in 2019 it “once again” recorded the highest number of confirmed raptor persecution incidents (15) in the country.

The RSPB said 147 incidents were reported in the county between 2007 and 2019, as criminals have targeted a range of birds, including red kits, hen harriers and buzzards.

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North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce is trying crackdown on this offence as part of Operation Owl and encouraging members of the rural community to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

Alex Butterfield, chief inspector of specialist operations, said there is a “long history of persecution” in North Yorkshire as it is a “very attractive” location for these birds.

“It is one of the worst areas of England for raptor persecution - the shooting, trapping or poisoning of birds of prey,” he told a public accountability meeting.

“Solving raptor persecution is very, very difficult indeed. They happen in very remote, isolated locations and we do require the assistance of the public in relation to any intelligence.”

He also revealed the force is investing thousands of pounds in a Crimestoppers campaign to raise awareness of raptor persecution and hare coursing and encourage people to share any information that could assist police with their investigations.

“We're hoping that this particular investment in an enhanced Crimestoppers campaign will result in some good intelligence that we can act on,” said inspector Butterfield.

During the meeting on Tuesday, he also said poaching has become the force’s “number one rural crime issue”.

The latest figures show 1,351 poaching incidents were recorded in North Yorkshire between April 2020 and May 2021 and police say the impact of the crime on rural communities “can’t be underestimated”.

The force’s Rural Taskforce is targeting poachers and hare coursers as part of Operation Figaro, and working with other police forces to develop a coordinated approach to tackling these criminals as part of Operation Galileo

The meeting heard poachers favour flatter areas, such as Hambleton and Richmondshire, and tend to be active between August and March.