AN initiative to crackdown on the number of illegal attacks on birds of prey has been launched.

Operation Owl has been set up between North Yorkshire Police, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) and the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

The initiative has been designed to raise awareness, encourage members of the public to look out for signs of criminal activity, and increase police surveillance checks at known hot-spots.

Known as ‘raptors’, the county is home to a significant population of birds of prey.

However, it is claimed that North Yorkshire suffers the highest levels of ‘raptor persecution’ in the country.

Inspector Kevin Kelly of North Yorkshire Police said: “Operation Owl is a proud milestone for North Yorkshire Police as it goes national.”

The scheme has also been rolled out across the country.

Insp Kelly, who is the operational lead for wildlife crime at the force, said: “I’m amazed by the commitment and enthusiasm of our staff really driving what’s important to our public and making a measurable difference.

“In countless statements I have said that partnership working is key to success, this shows what can be achieved if you really believe in the work you do.”

Superintendent Nick Lyall, from another police force, said he had been 'grateful' to North Yorkshire Police for developing the scheme.

He said: "We are delighted to be able to launch Operation Owl nationally and the new website will be so important in helping to raise awareness of raptor persecution but also in encouraging the public to be vigilant for any signs of wildlife crime.

"I’m very grateful to Insp Kelly and the North Yorkshire Police Rural Taskforce for allowing me to pick up their great idea and roll it out nationally – it’s a fantastic example which shows just how effective partnership working can be.”