North Yorkshire Police launch Operation Owl in fight against bird of prey persecutions

Red Kites are among the birds targeted in North Yorkshire.
Red Kites are among the birds targeted in North Yorkshire.
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A new operation to prevent the illegal and 'unacceptable'' killing of birds of prey across North Yorkshire has been launched.

Operation Owl, a joint initiative between North Yorkshire Police and organisations including the RSPCA, is in effect from today (Saturday, February 17).

Despite protection for birds such as Red Kites and Peregrine Falcons under the Wildlife and Countryside Act the county has the highest rate of raptor persecution in England.

While surveillance is to be carried out on known hot spots for illegal killings other measures will also be taken including the training of volunteers to spot traps.Sergeant Kevin Kelly of North Yorkshire Police says that this and support from the public will help provide more 'eyes and ears on the ground.'

He said:“Our wonderful countryside is host to many specially-protected birds of prey such as peregrine falcons, red kites, buzzards and owls.

"It is absolutely unacceptable that people think they can ignore the law and subject these birds to poisonings, shootings, nest destruction and the illegal use of spring traps without consequence.

"We will be doing everything in our power to catch these offenders, supported by our colleagues in the RSPB and the volunteers in the national parks. But the area is huge, so the more eyes and ears we have on the ground the better. That’s why we’re asking the public to help.”

Members of the public could help police by reporting 'pole traps' that are used to capture birds of preys. When the bird lands on top of the spring loaded posts they are stuck , often for several hours, until the trapper returns to kill them.

If they are found police are asking that you attempt to 'spring it' and report the location through the non-emergency line 101. Land owners will also be approached by the police, and flag the legal position on the raptor persecution.

The RSPB is also offering to speak with anyone wishing to report details of the illegal persecution confidentially.

Guy Shorrock, RSPB Senior Investigations Officer, said:" The landscape of North Yorkshire attracts huge numbers of visitors every year. Unfortunately, it also has a terrible history for the illegal shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds of prey.

"We are proud to support North Yorkshire Police with this initiative and would ask people to report any concerns to them. If people want to speak in confidence about raptor persecution they can contact us on 0300 9990101."

Despite suitable habitats for many birds in the the Dales CEO of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, David Butterworth, says there is an 'uncomfortable conclusion' to be drawn from the illegal killings.

He said: “The monitoring data, the number of confirmed persecution incidents and the absence of some species from large areas of potentially suitable habitat provide compelling evidence for an uncomfortable conclusion: illegal persecution is limiting the populations of some species of birds of prey in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

"I’d like to appeal to the public to join in Operation Owl to help bring about the changes in attitudes that are so urgently needed. Only through collective action can the persecution be stopped.”