A flash of anger and irritation and then a sigh, a yawn and a frustrated sentence, filled with what is inevitably, all bad language. Although it is not the same for everyone, these emotions pretty much sum up my feelings concerning the story I am about to write about. What is it this time? Well, as you have already seen from the title, its about pole traps. As you may have already heard, this particular case involves not one, not two, but three pole traps! All set for one solid illegal reason: to trap birds of prey. Hen harriers to be precise, at least, that’s the assumption and probably a pretty accurate one at that.
This time, the setting for this crime was the Yorkshire Dales National Park, on a driven grouse shooting moorland, named Widdale Fell. What is ‘special’ about this fell, bar these pole traps? Well, a female hen harrier had recently been spotted hunting in the area. What a coincidence. So, pole traps. Outlawed in 1904, they were previously (and currently, apparently) set on perching places to catch birds of prey and are capable of causing serious and horrific injuries to the legs of these magnificent species. So, they’re illegal and they have been for 112 years, so to find a pole trap these days is a rare find, but to find three, should be bordering on impossible. Well, it obviously isn’t and even more obviously, the individual who set these traps was intent on trapping a raptor, or three. Fortunately, the traps were spotted and reported by a member of the public, before they could serve their purpose. Two were sprung by the finder (nice work) and the third was disabled by the RSPB Investigations Team. However, the traps were left in place and cameras set, in the hope of identifying the perpetrator. This proved to be a successful plan as the next day, an armed man arrived and re-set the traps, which were then permanently removed by the police.
So, did they catch the culprit? Indeed they did, with the man being identified from the camera footage. So, what happened? Will he face prosecution for this obvious and determined attempt to injure and kill raptors? Well, no. Sorry? No?! But hang on a minute, don’t judge! After all, he has been given a rather firm, rather serious, slap on the wrist that will be sore and red for some time and he won’t be doing it again! Sorry, forgive the sarcasm, I got carried away again. The individual has received a police caution, the reasons as to why he was not prosecuted, remain unclear. The RSPB Investigation Team has since written to the police as they try to determine why the crime has not proceeded to court.
Unfortunately, this latest incident has done little for the reputation of North Yorkshire when it comes to raptor persecution. In the entirety of England and Wales, North Yorkshire has the worst record of any county for this type crime. In addition, this is only the latest incident of raptor persecution offences that have been carried out in the area, with there being several documented cases of ‘missing’ hen harriers.
Once again, stories like this only show one thing. That raptors and hen harriers in particular, are fighting a losing battle on our lands. The hen harrier is a critically endangered species in the UK and practises such as those outlined above are the very reason why. Individuals intent on raptor persecution continue to break the law and seemingly continue to get away with it. Currently, our laws do little to deter crimes of this nature and individuals committing these offences may lie low for a while, but will only return with new and different ways to kill or injure birds of prey. However, in this case a member of the public took action and should be applauded. By reporting these cases, we can raise everyones awareness of the prevalence of these crimes. Sometimes it feels like we’re banging our heads against a very stubborn brick wall, but us nature lovers and raptor champions are even more stubborn. We’re not going to let up in putting a stop to crimes against nature.
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