Worrying signs that incidents of birds of prey being killed or injured could be on rise.
Cumbria Police is joining with other police forces across the country on today (15 May) in a virtual ‘Operation Owl’ day of action to highlight bird of prey persecution as numbers of reported incidents show no signs of slowing down.
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 and the Nidderdale AONB. 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 last year, Operation Owl was rolled out nationally and the first awareness weekend was held in September 2019 with 26 police forces taking part across the whole of the UK. A second national weekend of action was planned for April 2020 with 36 police forces asking to be involved. But that sadly had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Superintendent Nick Lyall, Chair of the England and Wales Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) said: “We’ve heard from various police forces across the country that they have seen no let-up in incidents of raptor persecution being reported and some areas have seen a significant rise in the past few weeks which is very worrying.
“Whilst it is not possible to hold a weekend of action at this time, we wanted to use social media and online channels to raise awareness of bird of prey persecution and to take a stand against this unacceptable crime.
“The three vital pieces of information we want to make everyone aware of are ‘Recognise, Record and Report’ – how to recognise bird of prey persecution, how to record it and how to report it. If you notice anything suspicious, like a dead or injured bird of prey, or a suspicious trap, call the police on 101. Take pictures on your phone and remember please do not interfere with what could be a crime scene or a lawfully placed trap.
“Please share our messages with your networks online and please be vigilant for signs of raptor persecution when you are out and about taking your daily exercise. Everyone has a part to play in helping put an end to this relentless persecution.”
Cumbria Police Wildlife, Rural and Environmental Crime Co-ordinator, PC Samantha O’Key said: “We hope this day of action will help to raise awareness of this type of crime within Cumbria.
“Along with other forces across the country, in Cumbria we have seen an increase over the last month in the number of reports of birds of prey, other wild birds and their nests being disturbed, injured or killed. All wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law.
“Many people are now taking exercise in rural areas and we would ask members of the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour involving the persecution of our birds of prey and wild birds.
“We would also ask that dogs are kept on leads so as not to disturb ground nesting birds.”
More information at: www.operationowl.com