Over the weekend of 21-22 September, the RSPB joined up with police around the country to promote the initiative ‘Operation Owl’. The weekend was designed to raise raptor persecution awareness, encourage people to report potential raptor crimes, and to speak up if they have information about people in their communities killing birds of prey.

In the UK all wild birds, their nests and their eggs are protected by law. Offences can carry a prison sentence of up to six months. Despite this, birds like peregrines, buzzards, red kites, golden eagles and hen harriers are being shot, trapped and poisoned. The problem is particularly concentrated on land managed for driven grouse shooting, where birds of prey are seen by many as a threat to grouse stocks. The RSPB’s Investigations Team works with police to try and end this. 

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

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

In 2018, North Yorkshire Police launched the first Operation Owl with great success.

This year, Investigations staff and police teamed up at several locations UK-wide, including Grassington National Park Visitor Centre in North Yorkshire, RSPB Bempton Cliffs in East Yorkshire, the Derwent Valley in the Peak District and the Pentland Regional Park, Edinburgh.

Jenny Shelton, RSPB Investigations Liaison Officer, said:

“We handed out posters to local businesses, spoke to walkers and visitors, and handed out beer mats to local pubs displaying a hotline number for people to ring, in confidence, if they have information to share.

“Last year I was surprised how few people were aware that birds of prey are being killed right on their doorsteps. But this year it was heartening how many people were aware of the issue.”

Many RSPB teams and reserves across the UK also supported #OpOwlUK, by displaying posters in visitor centres or sharing the Operation Owl promo video on twitter accounts.

You can watch the video here:

Guy Shorrock, RSPB Senior Investigations Officer, summed up:

“It was great to see Operation Owl being rolled out nationwide. Huge thanks to all the police forces who participated and helped make the day a success, in particular WCO Sgt Stuart Grainger from North Yorkshire. I had two lovely days in North Yorkshire speaking with members of the public – everyone was unanimous in their condemnation of the raptors killers. There is no place for these people in our society or our countryside. This has gone on far too long, it is time for the government to step and get tough with these people. Enough is enough.”

For more information visit www.operationowl.com