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Wildlife Crime

Operation Owl

Operation Owl is a national initiative that aims to increase public awareness of bird of prey persecution and to seek support in tackling the problem head on.  It has been developed from the successful scheme delivered by North Yorkshire Police, the RSPB and the RSPCA, who worked together with the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks in 2017.  It is currently led by the Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group Superintendent Nick Lyall and the North Yorkshire Police Rural Task Force, and is supported and governed by the National Police Chiefs Council Wildlife Crime & Rural Affairs portfolio.  

For more information on the work of Operation Owl and how you can help please see here.

Operation Owl Logo

North Yorkshire has more confirmed incidents of raptor persecution than any other county in England, and is a situation that North Yorkshire Police and others are determined to tackle.  Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds.  Nevertheless birds of prey (raptors) are still shot, poisoned and trapped – especially in some areas where the land is managed for driven grouse shooting.

The aim of Operation Owl is to reduce the number of illegal attacks on birds of prey in the country and we need your help to be our ‘eyes and ears’ when out and about in the countryside.  If you come across anything suspicious please report it to North Yorkshire Police, either on 999 if you witness a crime being committed, or, if you want to report a suspicious incident, then ring 101. If you want to speak in confidence about raptor persecution you can contact the RSPB hotline on 0300 9990101.

A wildlife crime is basically any activity that breaches the legislation that is in place to protect wild animals in the UK.  There are various different types of wildlife crime, including poaching and hare coursing, but in many upland areas of the country, such as the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the illegal poisoning, trapping and shooting of birds of prey and owls is a particular problem.  There is robust evidence that, for species such as hen harrier and peregrine, this illegal activity is limiting the status of the species in the uplands.

Dead raptor and poison laced rabbit

Animal carcases laced with poison are sometimes deliberately used to kill other wildlife, particularly birds of prey. This is cruel and illegal, and such poisoned bait is also a serious risk to the health of members of the public and their children or pets, should they come in to contact with it.

Please be aware that not all trapping methods are illegal, and that many responsible land managers will use legal methods to control certain species of birds and mammals. However, some methods, such as the pole traps shown in the first video below, are illegal and should be reported to the police immediately.

Who to Contact:

If you witness a suspected wildlife crime in action call 999 immediately and ask for the police.

If you are unsure or have a concern about a wildlife crime call your local Police on 101 and ask that the details are passed on to a Wildlife Crime Officer.  Alternatively, contact North Yorkshire Police.

If you want to speak in confidence about raptor persecution you can contact the RSPB hotline on 0300 9990101.

You can find out more information here on how North Yorkshire Police are tackling rural crime.

The UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) was established to assist in the prevention and detection of wildlife crime. More details of their work can be found on their website.

The RSPB Investigations Team also has many years of experience of investigating and combatting wildlife crime.  There is further information on the Investigations Team, and advice on what to do if you come across an incident, on their website.

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