Above: It is key for the success of the bird-of-prey scheme that landowners and their managers engage with it. Photo: North Yorkshire Police

 

AN INITIATIVE TO protect birds of prey from persecution, which has been trialled in North Yorkshire for 18 months, is now being rolled out nationwide.

Operation Owl was launched by North Yorkshire Police (NYP) to combat the shooting, poisoning and trapping of raptors – an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act that is especially prevalent in areas used for driven grouse shooting.

The county has the highest number of confirmed incidents of raptor persecution of any in England, so its police have joined forces with the RSPB and RSPCA, working alongside the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, to stamp out this crime.

Now Superintendent Nick Lyall of Bedfordshire Police and National Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group is leading the nationwide campaign, in partnership with the NYP Rural Taskforce.

NYP’s operational lead for wildlife crime, Inspector Kevin Kelly, said: “Today is a proud milestone as Operation Owl goes national. I’m amazed by the commitment and enthusiasm of our staff, really driving what’s important to our public and making a measurable difference.”

A new website has been launched to raise awareness of raptor persecution but also to encourage public involvement in looking out for signs of wildlife crime.

Superintendent Lyall said that bringing together partnership agencies with members of the public would help “to tackle head-on the persecution issue so that we can effectively work together to make sure there are more birds in our skies.”

The initial work by the NYP has created a blueprint for others to follow, including:

  • Carrying out surveillance checks on known raptor persecution hotspots
  • Making local landowners aware of the legal position on raptor persecution
  • Training national park volunteers to identify the signs of raptor persecution
  • Raising public awareness by distributing information
  • Encouraging the public to lookout for dead or injured birds, poisoned bait and pole traps, and report these to the police on 101.

For more information on Operation Owl, visit: www.operationowl.com

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