North Yorkshire Police is calling for the public to take part in Operation Owl, a national initiative to prevent the persecution of birds of prey in our countryside.
North Yorkshire is known for its wonderful countryside, which is home to many species of birds – including protected birds of prey (also known as raptors).
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 our upland areas. Sadly, as a county, North Yorkshire has more confirmed incidents of raptor persecution than any other county in England – a situation we are determined to tackle.
How you can help
By participating in Op Owl, the public can help to bring those who illegal harm wild birds to justice.
Operation Owl might be primarily a policing operation but there are many ways that you can get involved by helping to spread awareness of bird of prey persecution, understanding how to recognise the signs, how to record anything you do find and finally how to report this to the police so that we can investigate.
Recognise – what to look out for
Dead birds of prey lying next to dead pigeons, rabbits, pheasants, or other poisoned baits. DO NOT TOUCH.
Live birds of prey caught in any trap.
Any spring traps set out in the open that are not within a cage tunnel or other enclosed tunnel structure.
Any spring traps set out on top of a post – known as ‘pole traps’.
Record – what to you do if you spot signs of bird of prey persecution
If you come across a dead bird or suspicious object, this could be a wildlife crime scene. Every piece of information may be crucial in prosecuting an offender.
Don’t disturb the scene by walking around it unnecessarily and trampling possible evidence.
Don’t move anything.
Don’t touch any traps, dead birds, or suspected poison baits. Many poisons (e.g. carbuforan) are extremely dangerous even in very small amounts and can be absorbed through the skin.
Don’t approach anyone you suspect of committing crime, as they may become violent or aggressive.
Do take photographs if you can, or make a sketch as soon as possible.
Also take photographs of the surroundings and any landmarks to help officers relocate the crime scene.
If photographing an object try to use a coin or notebook for scale – providing it won’t disturb anything.
Note the location as accurately as possible by grid reference, GPS, or what3words.
Note a description of any suspect(s) and any vehicle numbers.
Note the time and date and what happened.
Report – what to you do with the information you have collected
If you spot something illegal or suspicious, report it to the police.
If the crime or suspected crime is still taking place right now, call 999 immediately. Never approach suspects yourself as they may react violently. If the crime or suspected crime is no longer taking place, please use the national police non-emergency number 101.
When you are connected to the police, ask to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer and make sure you get an ‘incident report number’.
You can also:
Give information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Report suspected pesticides and poisoning incidents to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) hotline number 0800 321600.
Call the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.
Leaflets and posters
Could you help by sharing our information leaflets or putting up posters in your local area?
You can download them at the bottom of this page.
Please ask permission before putting up posters if the location is not your private address.
Launched in February 2018, Operation Owl is a joint initiative by North Yorkshire Police, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), together with the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks. The initiative set out to raise awareness of raptor persecution, encouraging the public to be vigilant for signs of this criminal activity, and to report suspicious activity to the police.
In June 2019, Operation Owl was rolled out nationally and in September 2019, the first national awareness weekend took place with 25 police forces across the country taking part and standing against bird of prey persecution.
In North Yorkshire, we tackle bird of prey persecution through:
thorough and persistent investigation
raising awareness of the issue by creating more ‘eyes and ears’ in our countryside.