Owners of dog poisoned by raptor bait in Nidderdale speak of their devastation

A family whose beloved dog was killed after eating poisoned bait left out for birds of prey have described her death as 'soul-destroying'.

Molly died from ingesting the poison and Poppy was seriously ill

Springer spaniel Molly's death within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has thrown the prevalence of raptor persecution in the countryside around Pateley Bridge into sharp focus - with many of the baited carcasses left out for birds of prey containing enough chemicals to kill pets and even small children.

Molly's family's other dog, cocker spaniel Poppy, also became seriously ill after eating the pesticide-laced bait while on a walk on April 23.

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North Yorkshire Police have already appealed for information about the incident - believed to be an attempt to target raptors such as buzzards - but the dogs' owners have now spoken to the RSPB about the impact the poisoning has had on them.

Test results show that Molly had consumed a deadly mixture of chemicals including bendiocarb, alphachloralose and the banned pesticides carbofuran and isofenphos, and that this was the likely cause of death.

This unusual combination of substances has been seen before in the area, causing the deaths of two red kites and a buzzard since 2016. It has been nicknamed 'the Nidderdale cocktail'.

Molly and Poppy’s family said: “It’s been soul-destroying. We miss Molly every day. She was a lovely dog, daft as a brush, and she loved everything and everybody. One minute she was a lovely, bubbly spaniel and then she was gone, in a heartbeat.

“We took the dogs for a walk up to Two Stoops and on the way home Poppy started being sick. Then we got down the garden path and Molly started twitching. We thought it must have been something they’d eaten so we took them straight to the vets.

"About an hour later we got the call to say that Molly had died. We couldn’t believe it. She’s buried up on a hill on a farm, but she shouldn’t be there, she should be here on the sofa now, with us. Our other dog Alfie wandered round the house for days looking for her. No-one should have to go through what we’ve gone through.

“It’s bad enough losing an old dog, but Molly was only three and half, she was fit and healthy, and she should still be here, she didn’t need to die. We’re so angry that some people think it’s alright to put out poison like that. I’d love to ask them why? And what if it had been someone’s child?”

RSPB head of investigations Mark Thomas said: “Nidderdale is surrounded by grouse moors and sadly we know from experience, and from the government’s own data, that there is a strong correlation between raptor persecution and driven grouse shooting.

"Carbofuran is one of the most commonly-used substances in the poisoning of birds of prey. It is a highly toxic, banned substance, putting wildlife, pets and people at risk. This is not the first time harmful substances have been found left out in the open and sadly is unlikely to be the last.

"This reckless and irresponsible behavior, which had led to the death of a beloved family pet, cannot be allowed to continue. The RSPB is calling for the immediate licensing of grouse moors, to bring this industry back in line with the law.”

Walkers with or without dogs have been encouraged to be vigilant for the signs that suggest poison has been left out. Often other birds sich as crows, ravens or raptors will be lying dead near the bait, which is often a pheasant or rabbit carcass or chunks of meat.

Anyone who encounters such a scenario is asked to take photos, note the time and location, but avoid touching anything.

North Yorkshire has the highest rate of crimes against birds of prey in the UK, clocking up more incidents in the past seven years than any other county involving the shooting, trapping and poisoning of protected species such as red kites, buzzards, goshawks and hen harriers. Within North Yorkshire, Nidderdale is one of the worst blackspots.

On March 3, a buzzard was found poisoned in Pateley Bridge having ingested chunks of meat laced with the same deadly combination of pesticides found in Molly the dog. This followed the discovery by police of the remains of a red kite in February 2020 near Ramsgill, which was later found to contain traces of carbofuran.

Following these incidents North Yorkshire Police executed searches at a number of properties in the area on July 17 with staff from Natural England and the RSPB. Investigations are ongoing and officers are now appealing for information from the public.

Inspector Matt Hagen of North Yorkshire Police said: “The fact we have seen this same combination of chemicals, the ‘Nidderdale cocktail’ as it is sometimes known, also cause the death of birds of prey in this same location would indicate that the poisons have been deliberately left in a place where they could be found by wildlife and unfortunately in this case, domestic pets.

“Pesticide abuse of any kind will not be tolerated and we are doing everything we can to try and find those responsible.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call North Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting reference: 12200068444.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB Investigations at [email protected] or fill in the online form. Or get in touch anonymously on the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101.