FOR the seventh year North Yorkshire has been named the worst place in the UK for bird crime.

The RSPB’s 2020 Birdcrime report says that much of the persecution is linked directly to driven grouse shooting and has called for the industry to be regulated. But the Moorland Association say a more coordinated approach is needed and a huge amount of work is being undertaken by grouse moor owners and managers to help eradicate raptor persecution.

The latest deaths are the highest recorded since 1990 with 26 of the 137 confirmed cases happening in North Yorkshire. The RSPB say two thirds were directly related to grouse shooting and a further four incidents to other types of shooting. Victims in the county included 16 buzzards, two peregrine falcons, two red kites and one goshawk.

In April 2020 police found five dead buzzards on a grouse moor at Bransdale, near Bilsdale, four were confirmed shot. The RSPB say based on population studies for significant species, it’s believed the true number of raptors killed is far greater, with many crimes going undetected and unreported and raptors in particular targeted with poisons, which can also kill or injure other animals.

RSPB investigations officer Mark Thomas said: "We are calling on the governments of the UK to act now and implement a system of licensing for driven grouse shooting. Although we have become used to the illegal killing of birds of prey, the figure for 2020 is truly shocking.

"We are in a climate and nature emergency. All land must be managed legally and sustainably for people and for nature, and not accelerate the worrying loss of UK wildlife we are already experiencing."

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association warned they do not believe the RSPB's calls for licensing of grouse moors would be effective. She added: "Instead we agree with Ch Insp Kevin Kelly of the National Wildlife Crime Unit who says the Raptor Persecution Priority Deliver Group which includes organisations committed to tackling this issue is key to addressing the problem. We are wholly committed to sustainable game management supporting net biodiversity gain.

"It should be noted the UK’s bird of prey population is now well in excess of 250,000 adults, the highest level for a hundred years. Anyone with knowledge of rural crime should contact the police. All incidents are intolerable."