The leader of efforts to re-introduce Red Kites in Yorkshire has called on game keepers and wider public to speak up after the most recent discovery of a red kite which had been shot and killed.
North Yorkshire Police reported the dead bird was found near Greenhow, in Nidderdale and is believed to contain lead shot. This is the first found dead this year after numbers hit 10 between 2012 and 2016.
Doug Simpson, awarded an MBE for his work in wildlife conservation, assists police with his group the Yorkshire Red Kites, and believes the numbers of those found dead could just be the tip of the iceberg.
Mr Simpson said: “Part of the problem is that most of the birds are being found on the fringes of grouse moor areas where there are areas containing footpaths. It begs the question how many are not being found, as people out walking or cycling often are the biggest source we have for reporting casualties.
“Between 2012 and 2016 we know there was a combined total of 10 incidents, four were found in Nidderdale and six in the Washburn Valley. But we have to be careful about what we say as there is the possibility that the birds were not poisoned or shot in these areas but died there afterwards.
“What we can say for certain is that these numbers clearly show persecution over the this period. The problem is that the difficulty in finding the bodies of the birds suggests we could just be seeing the tip of the iceberg.”
Frustration is building in Nidderdale after efforts to attract people to the area earned it accolades including one of the best place to live in the country. Keith Tordoff of the Chamber of Commerce is now offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved harming protected birds in the area.
Mr Tordoff said: “We are getting messages from all over the country that are telling people not to go to North Yorkshire because of incidents like this, saying things like “shame on you Nidderdale.”
“It is so frustrating that after all this work to attract people to the area that we then have something like this happen.
“They are beautiful birds to see and they are protected by the law of the land, the shooting and poisoning of them cannot be abided as it is simply not acceptable and we need to send a clear message.
“I am willing to put my head above the parapet to send that message out and make those doing this think twice.
“People in North Yorkshire and certainly Nidderdale are not turning a blind eye to this, it is a tiny minority of people who are deliberately targeting red kites, buzzards and other birds and we need to stop it.
“I am willing to back that up myself as a businessman with £500 of my own money.”
The birds of prey feed mainly on carrion and are believed to pose no major threat to game birds, farmed animals or pets. Despite this carcasses have repeatedly been found that indicate the birds have been shot or poisoned.
“In the cases of shooting it is believed that it is unlikely red kites are targeted accidentally.
Mr Simpson said: “If a kite was shot then it was deliberately targeted, there is no way around it.
“Poisoning is indiscriminate and that is why it it is illegal.”
Only last year one red kite carcass was found to contain eight forms of poison, three of which were discovered to be banned substances.
Mr Simpson: “What we suspect is that there is also an habitual poising routine.
“It is often done by lacing bait, whether it is a small rabbit carcass filled with pesticide. This method has been illegal for at least a 100 years and yet it still goes on.”
Appealing to gamekeepers and the public Mr Simpson called on people to speak up if they see anything suspicious and help prevent further killings of red kites.
“It is clearly random and it is widespread problem but we know there are good people out there who stick by the rules and know who is doing this.
“The problem is that they are not speaking up.
“People going out into the countryside should keep their eyes open for anything, especially if they find big birds like red kites.
“As some people have already done they should report it to the police.
“If they have their phones out with them they can make the call and take a photo to send with the report.
“It is how we keep up the pressure on the people who continue to do it.
Anyone with information should contact the NYP on 101.
Or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800555111 quoting the reference number 12170047155.
For further information on red kites and conservation efforts you can contact Red Kite Yorkshire at www.yorkshireredkites.net