By Dave Barry
The police are urging visitors to Scarborough’s countryside to get involved with Operation Owl.
This new initiative aim to reduce the number of illegal attacks on birds of prey.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds.
Nevertheless, birds of prey are still shot, poisoned and trapped – especially in areas where the land is managed for driven grouse shooting.
North Yorkshire has more incidents of raptor persecution than any other county in England.
Operation Owl is a joint initiative by the police, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the RSPCA, together with the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales national parks.
The police will carry out surveillance checks on known raptor persecution hot-spots at random times to disrupt offender activity and work with local landowners to make them aware of the legal position on raptor persecution.
National park volunteers will be trained to spot poisoned bait and illegal traps.
The police are calling on the public to be the eyes and ears of the police when out in the countryside.
North Yorkshire Police has what is believed to be the largest dedicated rural taskforce in the country; Chief Constable Dave Jones is the national lead on wildlife and rural crime.
Sergeant Kevin Kelly of the taskforce says: “Our wonderful countryside is host to many specially protected birds of prey such as peregrine falcons, red kites, buzzards and owls.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that people think they can ignore the law and subject these birds to poisonings, shootings, nest destruction and the illegal use of spring traps without consequence. We will be doing everything in our power to catch offenders, supported by our colleagues in the RSPB and volunteers in the national parks. But the area is huge, so the more eyes and ears we have on the ground the better. That’s why we’re asking the public to help”.
In particular, the police are asking the public to spot pole traps.
Sergeant Kelly explained: “Trappers are using spring-loaded traps on top of posts to capture birds of prey that land on top of the post. The bird can struggle for hours before the trapper returns to kill them. These pole traps, as they are called, are illegal. We’re advising that anyone who sees a pole trap should ‘spring’ it if they can do so safely, note the location, take a photo, and call the police on 101 to report it. Our wildlife officers will take it from there”.