Wildlife crime officers are investigating the illegal disturbance of a nesting ground in North Yorkshire after a covert camera caught two men apparently trying to scare off birds of prey.
The camera was first trained on a goshawk nest near Helmsley in spring 2017 in the hope that it would explain why the location had such poor breeding success.
North Yorkshire Police and the RSPB today released images captured in April that year which show two men visiting the site before one repeatedly hits the nest tree with a large stick.
On two occasions the following month, a man was seen and the sound of gunshots was heard, along with the repeated alarm calls of the parent birds on one of the occasions.
RSPB investigations officer Howard Jones said: “We are very concerned that this was an attempt to shoot the goshawks or disturb the adults to make them desert the nest site.
"Goshawks are magnificent birds and should be widespread throughout North Yorkshire. The idea that people are deliberately trying to destroy nests and prevent them from raising chicks is beyond belief.”
It is not known if any birds were shot, however the nesting attempt failed and this may have been a result of the repeated disturbance at the site.
Police later recovered four cold eggs, including one which had a fully formed chick inside.
A force spokesman said: "A number of technical enquiries are underway by North Yorkshire Police’s specialist Wildlife Crime Officers, and one suspect has been interviewed under caution in connection with the incident.
"Police are now asking the public for assistance to identify two men who may have important information that could assist the investigation."
Anyone who recognises either of the men pictured, or has any information about the incident, is asked to email email@example.com or call 101, quoting reference number 12170103211.