Persecution of wildlife in the Peak District National Park
Updated: Jun 18
During the lockdown, there has been an increase in trapping and killing wild animals. The RSPB have reported a sharp increase in the illegal killing of birds of prey and have involved the police in incidents, including some in the Peak District National Park.
A buzzard and a peregrine found dead at Longnor
A Peregrine killed at Wetton
A buzzard shot and found dying at Diggle.
All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.
Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA)
Under the terms of the Environment Act 1995, National Park Authorities have the responsibility to:
· Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and
· Promote opportunities fo the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of national parks by the public.
Where these two principles conflict the Sandford Principle says that the first should take priority.
The Park's management plan for 2019-2023 sets out the intentions for forward management and include several areas of impact and 31 key performance indicators (KPIs). But only one. KPI 7, focuses specifically on conserving and enhancing:
KPI 7 2024 target: Restore breeding pairs of birds of prey in the moorlands to at least the levels present in the late 1990s 2019/20 target: 17 Peregrine, 25 Short-eared owl, 37 Merlin, 5 Hen harrier This remains not met or on target: 2019/20 target: 17 Peregrine, 25 Shorteared owl, 37 Merlin, 5 Hen harrier Q4 result: 9 Peregrine Short-eared owl numbers could not be accurately determined but 2019 appears to have been a good year in terms of numbers but with poor breeding success 14 Merlin 1 Hen harrier. The actions to address this are: Actions to address: Peak District Birds of Prey Initiative continue to work with moorland owners, managers, game keepers and partners to deliver the target number of breeding birds of prey. The focus is on building good relationships on the ground to achieve a sustained outcome that will last.
It is clear that this is not working by the fact that numbers of birds of prey is still low and tagged birds are still disappearing from the moors. Birds of prey represent a threat to the grouse moor population as they predate young chicks. Gamekeepers are tasked with maximising the grouse population and therefore that means controlling predators. In fact, the RSPB report that more than 80% of the killings of birds of prey have happened on land with a connection to shooting.
Incidents of animal trapping
There have been recent reports of animal traps set in the North Lees Estate (below Stannage Edge and above Hathersage), which is owned and managed by the Peak District National Park Authority. The traps were placed on the PDNPA's land by gamekeepers from the Moscar grouse moor estate, which is owned by the Duke of Rutland (owner of Haddon Hall, Belvoir castle and Belvoir fruit drinks. One of the traps was within woodland where there is an active Badger sett https://huntinvestigationteam.org/moscarntpdnp/
When asked about trapping with in the park, the PDNPA normally respond that they are not the landowners - but in this case they are and though they did not set the traps, they have not spoken out against this action on their land. Is this the expected outcome of the focus on building good relationships?
Snaring of wild animals is heavily regulated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. However, certain kinds of snares, can be used to catch animals, such as foxes that may threaten livestock. Keepers ostensibly set snares to trap foxes from predating young grouse, in reality snares are non-discrimanatory and will catch anything.
It is legal to use “free running snares” in this country. The idea of these is that if the animal stops struggling the snare will relax but if these are not maintained they will still cause injury or death.
To attract animals into the snares, keepers sometimes use “stink pits” essentially holes filled with other dead animals to act as carrion.
Another trap used is a Larsen trap – used for corvids (crows, magpies etc). They use a live bird eg another crow as a decoy and its call attracts other birds to the trap.
DEFRA code of conduct says snares should not be set on runs where there is evidence of regular recent use by non target species, for example, an active sett.
The Peak Park should be calling these crimes out, it is clear that its approach of working with the landowners is not working. Whilst they may not be the landowners in every case they should be informing the public about such incidents that happen in the park and fullfulling their aim of conserving and enhancing wildlife by bringing an end to driven grouse shooting and the culture of estate management it engenders.
The inactivity of the park almost suggests tacit agreement of the actions) Write to the Peak Park at:
DE45 1 AE
Chief Executive = Sarah Fowler
Head of Conservation = John Scott
You can also contact individual members using this link:
It might also be worth contacting the Duke of Rutland, owner of the Moscar estate where many incidents have been reported: