Yorkshire. A historic county of Northern England and the largest in the UK. Associated with many pivotal moments in history, including The Norman Conquest and The War of The Roses, Yorkshire has a firm place in history and culture of the UK. As a county, Yorkshire has given us many things; the Bronte sisters, Beowulf, Yorkshire pudding, the worlds first football club, Marks and Spencer’s, Wensleydale cheese, Sean Bean and Judi Dench, and that’s just to name a few. So, what is the most important thing Yorkshire has given me? Well, in the interests of keeping my head, I would have to say my mother. That’s right, my mum is a Yorkshire woman through and through and although she might hate me for betraying it, she is your stereotypical Yorkshire person; headstrong, sassy, stubborn, opinionated, fiercely protective, hilarious and totally mad (sorry mum but you know it’s true). Traits she has successfully managed to pass on to her children.
So! It is safe to say that I am more than proud of my Yorkshire roots on my mums side, and it has always has been one of my favourite places in the world to visit. But what does this have to do with wildlife? Well, as many of you probably know, Yorkshire has often been referred to as ‘Gods Own Country’, with many Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and some of the largest National Parks in the country. However, as the best bits about Yorkshire shine through, there is a dark cloud looming on the horizon that is associated with this county. Some may not even consider it, but there is something that I am less than proud of when it comes to Yorkshire. In fact, it is something all of Yorkshire should be thoroughly ashamed of. Now, I can imagine some things that spring to mind here, but I am going to ignore those, because what I am talking about concerns wildlife. Birds of prey to be precise. Because Yorkshire Ladies and Gentlemen, is the worst county in the UK for illegal raptor persecution.
Shocking? Perhaps. Surprising? Not so much. Not when we consider that the North Yorkshire Moors and the Yorkshire Dales (National Parks) are dominated by heather moorland, and where there is heather moorland, there is red grouse shooting and many a pheasant and partridge shoot. Now the problem becomes clear. Some may deny it, but it is quite simply undeniable that levels of raptor persecution soar in areas where there is red grouse moorland. Unfortunately, the level of raptor persecution that is experienced in Yorkshire has just been reinforced with the news that two Red Kites found dead in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire in 2016, were in fact victims of poison. In this instance it would seem that one poison was not enough for our persecutors, with 8 different poisons being found in the bodies of the birds: alphachloralose, aldicarb, bendiocarb, carbofuran and isofenphos, and three rodenticides (difenacoum, bromadiolone and brodifacoum).
Although there has been a substantial delay between the discovery of the kites and the confirmation of poisoning, the North Yorkshire police are now appealing for information concerning the crimes. Although all forms of raptor persecution are highly illegal, reckless and narrow minded, the use of poison is perhaps the most impetuous. Now, we know that these persecutors do not care for the birds they are targeting, but what about those they do not wish to target? Regardless of the intended victims of poisoned baits, there is the very real and very serious possibility that another animal or human could become an unintended victim. A dog, cat, other wild animal, or even a child could digest the poison that these baits are infected with. To use poison for this purpose is a totally careless and irresponsible risk to take which achieves no real benefit, because even if you should hit your target and kill a raptor or 2 or 3 , you have not only broken the law, but you have just destroyed some of your counties and countries natural heritage. And for what? To protect a few game birds that have been raised entirely for monetary gains.
There were 36 crimes against birds of prey in Yorkshire in 2014 and over 50 in 2015. The Hen Harriers Rowan and Bowland Betty were both killed in Yorkshire and there is now news that another harrier, named ‘Mick’, has disappeared over the Yorkshire Dales. Although Mick has yet to be found and his cause of death is yet to be determined, you would forgive us for being suspicious given Yorkshire’s very poor and totally shameful track record. Come on Yorkshire, it’s time to straighten up, step up and shut up those who are persecuting your birds of prey!
When we are constantly being told that crime rates against birds of prey are falling, occurrences such as these make us dismiss such claims. Even if these reports are in fact the truth, it is still not good enough. We don’t want falling, we want gone. We want such practices ended entirely, confined to the history books as something of a barbaric practice of the past. Bird of prey crime falling? It should be going, going, going…..GONE.
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