Wildlife campaigners are calling on the government to introduce mandatory licensing of grouse moors to eradicate illegal bird of prey persecution.

It follows the grouse shooting season being overshadowed by a wave of wildlife crime as it opens today on the ‘Glorious Twelfth’. Birds of prey have been shot, poisoned and trapped on northern England’s iconic heather hills to ensure red grouse are in plentiful supply to be killed for sport.

Footage of one incident has been released by Wild Moors showing the trapping and killing of a rare goshawk in May, on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire that is leased out to a commercial shoot by the Queen.

Three gamekeepers have since been suspended and a police investigation launched, but campaigners say this is not enough and that the Government needs to step in to halt the widespread lawbreaking.

Luke Steele, Director of Wild Moors, said:

“For many grouse moors it would seem that the illegal killing of birds of prey remains a price worth paying to produce large numbers of game birds for shooting. But crime should not pay and grouse shoots implicated in wildlife persecution should not be allowed to continue operating.

“We need a new approach to protect and restore birds of prey on northern England’s iconic heather hills. That is why we’re calling on the Government to urgently introduce grouse moor licensing to end the wave of wildlife crime.

The illegal persecution of birds of prey on moorland managed for grouse shooting continues to be a serious issue more than sixty years after laws were passed making the practice illegal.

Despite the game shooting industry pledging in January to exercise better self-regulation, a salvo of bird of prey killings associated with grouse moors have been reported over the spring and summer by police forces across northern England.

This includes five dead buzzards—four of which had been shot—discovered hidden in a hole in the North York Moors in April, a poisoned buzzard in Nidderdale in March, and a buzzard found shot in the Peak District in May.

In one shocking incident, a family’s pet spaniel called ‘Molly’ died tragically after ingesting bait laced with four deadly poisons, believed by police to have been put out to target birds of prey, when walking on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire.

Luke Steele adds:

“Pressure is brewing for England and Wales to follow Scotland’s commitment to introduce mandatory licensing for grouse moors. Now is the time to significantly reform the country’s ecologically-restrictive and outdated grouse moors to restore the full suite of wildlife and habitats in our uplands.”

– ENDS –

  • Wild Moors campaigns to free up moorland for conservation from exploitation for grouse shooting. By working with society, companies and government to create change, we secure effective protection for wildlife, habitats and local communities.
  • Killing a bird of prey is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, although it has been illegal to target or kill a bird of prey for over sixty five years since the passing of the Protection of Birds Act 1954.
  • An undercover investigation into goshawk killing was performed by BBYM on the Duchy of Lancaster’s Goathland Moor over six days between 27 April and 2 May 2020 following a tip off.
  • The Duchy of Lancaster has leased it on a 25 year term to W&G LLP, a commercial grouse shoot, through its sporting agent, BH Sporting Ltd (Source: Land Registry Title Deeds NYK363068 and NYK373909).


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