A man has been cautioned by police after setting “barbaric” traps on a grouse shooting estate in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
RSPB investigators were called to the remote location near Hawes on May 6 after three pole traps, banned since 1904, were discovered by a member of the public.
Particularly concerning, they said, was that a hen harrier had been sighted the same morning hunting on the fell a short distance away.
Setting up covert cameras on the spot, along the north side of Widdale Fell on the Mossdale Estate, investigators filmed a 23-year-old man resetting the traps three days later.
When interviewed by police made a “full and frank admission” and was given an adult caution.
“These are dreadful barbaric devices and have no place in the 21st century,” said Bob Elliot, head of RSPB investigations.
“The sighting of a hen harrier in the immediate area is of particular concern.
“This species is nearly extinct as a breeding species in England and it last bred successfully in North Yorkshire in 2007 despite huge areas of suitable habitat.”
The news comes days after a red kite was put down after being shot in North Yorkshire - the seventh death in just two months of these rare birds.
In total, five red kites in North Yorkshire have been shot or died in circumstances that suggest poisoning, police have said, as well as three further afield in the Yorkshire region.
These are dreadful barbaric devices and have no place in the 21st centuryBob Elliot, head of RSPB investigations
“North Yorkshire has long held the unenviable reputation of the worst county in England for raptor persecution,” said Mr Elliot.
“Yet again, we have seen that there appears to be little sign that birds of prey will be tolerated in our uplands.”
The RSPB, although welcoming the news that a perpetrator has been caught, has expressed concern that a stricter penalty was not given.
“These crimes are extremely difficult to investigate,” said Mr Elliot.
“Whilst we are grateful for the excellent police response in attending this incident, we simply do not understand the decision to issue a caution for such a serious case.
“We will be writing to the police to ask for an explanation of this decision.
“The UK government has set raptor persecution as one of the national wildlife crime priorities. To create a meaningful deterrent we believe there needs to be a zero tolerance approach to serious crimes of this nature.”
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said all options had been considered, including a prosecution at court.
“However, based on the case at hand, it was decided the most appropriate course of action was to give him an adult caution,” a spokesman said.
“We are grateful to the RSPB for their praise towards the police officers involved in the investigation.
“We are also mindful of their concerns regarding the decision to issue the adult caution. We will take the necessary time to review the case and will respond to the RSPB in due course.
“The outstanding efforts of our specialist Wildlife Crime Officers, along with the recent addition of the dedicated Rural Taskforce, shows that North Yorkshire Police takes all aspects of rural policing extremely seriously.”