North Yorkshire to lead national campaign tackling bird of prey persecution

Operation Owl, which takes place this weekend (September 21-22) will show people how to spot the signs, record any instances and report it to the police.

By Louise Perrin
Friday, 20th September 2019, 9:52 am
Operation Owl takes place in North Yorkshire this weekend
Operation Owl takes place in North Yorkshire this weekend

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 this year, Operation Owl was rolled out nationally and this awareness weekend will be the first event of its kind outside of North Yorkshire.

More than 25 police forces across the length and breadth of the UK are currently signed up to take part in awareness raising activity, joining with North Yorkshire to take a stand against bird of prey persecution.

North Yorkshire is home to a diverse population of birds of prey (also known as raptors) and sadly suffers the highest levels of raptor persecution in the country – something which Operation Owl sets out to tackle.

North Yorkshire Police officers will be out in force over the weekend with two ‘hubs’ set up at Grassington National Park Centre on Saturday and Sutton Bank Visitor Centre on Sunday between 9:30am and 3:00pm.

Officers will be handing out leaflets on how to spot signs of bird of prey persecution and will also be out and about across the region to put up posters at as many popular visitor and tourist spots as possible.

Representatives from the RSPB, RSPCA, Moorland groups, Nidderdale AONB, and both National Parks will be taking part in the weekend, whilst across the country police forces will running a variety of local initiatives together with Wildlife Trusts, RSPB reserves, and other organisations.

North Yorkshire Police Sergeant Stuart Grainger is leading on the initiative. He said:

“It’s really positive to see so many police forces and organisations across the country committing to support Operation Owl both this weekend and moving forward – sending a clear message that bird of prey persecution will not be tolerated.

“Here in North Yorkshire, we are determined to put a stop to this unacceptable crime and to ensure our beautiful county is the haven it should be for so many birds of prey. The public’s support can make a huge difference, keeping their eyes and ears open for signs of persecution which can then be reported to us to investigate.

“We look forward to meeting and engaging with many members of the public this weekend and showing them just how important their role is in helping end bird of prey persecution for good.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Rural Crime, Chief Constable Darren Martland said:

“Disturbing our natural environment by shooting, trapping and poisoning birds of prey is a criminal offence. I therefore welcome the work of forces across the country via Operation Owl, to increase awareness of birds of prey persecution, and to engage with our rural communities and partners in addressing these crimes.

“Our ask of the public is simple: if you come across a wildlife crime scene, for example seeing a dead bird or objects that may be related to a wildlife crime, accurately record what you find and report it to police. The more information available to law enforcement, the greater chance we have of prosecuting offenders.”

Superintendent Nick Lyall, Chair of the England and Wales Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) said:

“Killing birds of prey is against the law. You can help us root out the culprits by sharing information or reporting crimes. If you notice anything suspicious, like a dead or injured bird of prey, or a trap, call the police on 101. Take pictures on your phone, and remember not to interfere with what could be a crime scene. Thank you.”

Head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, Chief Inspector Lou Hubble OBE, said:

"Tackling Raptor Persecution is a UK Wildlife Crime Priority. I am deeply frustrated that we continue to see some of our most iconic birds being persecuted including Golden eagles, Red kites, Buzzards and Goshawks. It's 2019 and here in the UK Hen Harriers are close to extinction through continued persecution. We need to make these crimes socially unacceptable in all communities. Please be our eyes and ears on the ground and report anything suspicious to the Police."

For more information about Operation Owl, and what to look out for in identifying bird of prey persecution, please visit