Dorset Police has been working alongside Natural England and the RSPB following two raptor persecution incidents in North and East Dorset.
Raptor persecution – which is one of the UK wildlife crime priorities and involves birds of prey – includes poisoning, shooting, trapping, habitat destruction and nest destruction or disturbance.
The laying of poisoned bait is illegal. All birds are protected by law in the UK, with the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 being the primary legislation protecting the wildlife and their environment.
In April 2020 it was reported that several buzzards were found dead within close proximity to each other in the Ashmore Wood area near Blandford. These birds were sent for testing and enquiries remain ongoing.
The birds were found near to public access routes on land owned by more than one landowner.
In August 2020 officers received a report from an animal rescue centre that a number of dead and sick animals from the Verwood area were bought in to them. The animals included buzzards, an owl and a rabbit. These animals were all sent for testing.
Two of the buzzards involved in the Verwood incident survived and have been tended back to health by staff at the rescue centre.
Police Constable Rob Hammond, of North Dorset police, said: ‘It is very concerning to see these harrowing incidents occurring in our area and an investigation is underway into each of the reports.
‘I would like to warn members of the public that this poison could be harmful to anything or anyone that comes into contact with it.
‘There is a real danger that persecution can affect any kind of bird. More common species such as kites, which have recently returned to our area and are making good progress, and buzzards can come to harm. Tragically it will also have an impact on rarer birds of prey such as ospreys, which have recently been reintroduced to the Poole harbour area and roam for miles, and hen harriers, which are almost extinct in this country.
‘Always be careful if you see a dead bird of prey or a group of them together – do not touch them, especially if it can be clearly seen that they have white or blue matter in any open wound.’
Members of the public who come across a dead raptor, or group of dead raptors, are asked to report this to Dorset Police by taking a photograph and marking the location of the incident using a grid reference or an app, such as What3words. They are also asked to report this to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) hotline on 0800 321600.
The RSPB can be contacted for advice or information, but the police say that the matter must be reported to Dorset Police and the WIIS for an investigation to be carried out.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Dorset Police at www.dorset.police.uk, via email [email protected] or by calling 101, quoting occurrence number 55200052754 for the Ashmore Wood incident and 55200131382 for the Verwood incident. Alternatively, to stay 100 per cent anonymous, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or call Freephone 0800 555 111.