ILLEGAL persecution of birds of prey is preventing their spread in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, a report has concluded.

The damning report, published last week by the national park authority, concludes there is 'compelling evidence' to show illegal persecution is limiting the populations of both the hen harrier and the peregrine falcon.

The report further concludes that persecution is preventing the area from being colonised by red kite.

Presented to a wildlife crime summit at the authority's offices in Bainbridge, the report assesses the populations of a number of key upland raptor species nationally and in the park and quantifies the confirmed incidents of persecution.

It shows there has not been a single hen harrier nesting in the park since 2007 and that a significant number of tagged birds have gone missing in the area.

The report says: “There has not been a successful peregrine nesting attempt on any of the monitored grouse moor sites since 1997, with birds now absent from the majority of sites that were occupied in the 1990s. This is in stark contrast to the success of nest sites away from grouse moors. There is no natural explanation for this difference."

It adds: “Despite large areas of potentially suitable nesting habitat, there has not been a successful hen harrier nesting attempt in the National Park since 2007. In addition, 11 -19 per cent - of the 59 hen harriers that were satellite tagged by Natural England at sites across northern England and Scotland between 2002 and 2017 are classed as ‘missing, fate unknown’ in the Yorkshire Dales.”

More than 50 people attended the wildlife summit,including police officers from the North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire forces.

David Butterworth, chief executive of the national park, said while the persecution of birds of prey was a criminal offence, and anyone who witnessed or had suspicions should contact the police, it was also a matter for the national park.

"It is also is a matter for us, as the authority exists to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and wildlife of the national park.During the coming weeks, the training that staff have received will also be handed on to our dales volunteers. They will be briefed on how to spot and report suspected wildlife crime incidents," he said.

He said the national park had gained an "unenviable reputation as England’s bird of prey persecution hotspot."

"The problems are well documented but, as yet, there are no widely accepted solutions to the conflict between some land management practices and bird of prey populations. People need to be clear that the national park authority does not own the land, and that there are no legislative powers to regulate game shooting.

“This does not mean that we are sitting idly by doing nothing. We are helping North Yorkshire Police with Operation Owl – a scheme to get people who are out and about enjoying the magnificent countryside to look out for and report suspected wildlife crime. With the help of residents and visitors we can make a difference. We want birds of prey back in this iconic National Park.”

To read the full report go to: