Operation Owl: Fighting raptor crime

  • 20 of 83 incidents took place in North Yorkshire
  • 2x as many incidents than any other county
  • 1,000 beer mats advertising the Raptor Crime Hotline
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North Yorkshire

In February, RSPB staff took arms against the ongoing problem of raptor persecution in North Yorkshire. 

The county has long been a blackspot for the illegal killing of birds of prey. In 2016, 20 of the UK’s 83 confirmed incidents of raptor persecution took place here. Over the past five years, North Yorkshire has suffered more than twice as many incidents than any other county.

In February, our Investigations team joined officers from North Yorkshire Police and staff from the RSPCA, Yorkshire Dales National Park and North York Moors National Park at Brimham Rocks, a tourist spot in Nidderdale. The aim was to raise public awareness about raptor crime and root out those responsible. Operation Owl was ready for duty.

A great turnout

A large number of police turned up, along with several members of the local press, which was a really great result. We handed out leaflets and demonstrated how pole traps catch raptors. The following day, we put up posters in local shops, then headed up to the North York Moors visitor centre. 

Of the many people we engaged with, hardly any were aware of the problem. Most were shocked and had no idea that this was happening on their doorstep. The question most people asked was: “Why?” 

To explain, we’d prepared a short video, featuring recent Wildlife Law Enforcer of the Year, Acting Inspector Kevin Kelly of North Yorkshire Police, and RSPB Senior Investigations Officer Mark Thomas, who outlined the different methods used to illegally catch raptors, what signs to look for and how to report anything suspicious. We also used the occasion to launch the RSPB Raptor Crime Hotline, to provide people in rural communities with a means of reporting raptor crimes in confidence. We advertised the hotline by distributing 1,000 beer mats featuring the number to local pubs.

Have you seen anything suspicious?

Guy Shorrock, Senior Investigations Officer, said: “We are sure there are people within rural and shooting communities who know who is committing these crimes but are cautious about speaking out. We would like to see shooting organisations showing their support by including the hotline on their websites and encouraging their members to come forward with information regarding crimes against birds of prey in the UK.”

Do you have any information about suspected raptor crime? Call the confidential, 24-hour hotline on 0300 999 0101.

Can you go further for nature?