North Yorkshire Police Sergeant Stuart Grainger is part of the force’s Rural Taskforce and is leading this weekend’s national Operation Owl campaign. He explains why it’s so important that everyone gets involved…
Why is it important that as many people support Operation Owl as possible?
In many parts of the UK, birds of prey have been persecuted repeatedly for years, either by being shot, poisoned, or trapped. In some cases individual birds have been targeted several times, for example in our latest investigation into the death of a red kite. The post mortem revealed that the bird had already been shot on two previous occasions and survived twice, but what finally killed it was not one poison, but a cocktail of three poisons, two of which were illegal.
Even though our countryside has now lost this magnificent bird, it is still able to tell us a very sad story of the harsh reality of bird of prey persecution. This bird is one of many that we are now unable to see enjoying our stunning landscape.
Operation Owl is about raising awareness of these crimes.
We are said to be a nation of animal lovers, but we seem to know more about, for example, rhinos and elephants butchered by poachers for ivory than we do about the persecution of our own wildlife.
How many people have seen a hen harrier, or even know what one is – or a goshawk, or a peregrine, or a short eared owl? We want to make sure that the public knows about bird of prey persecution – how to recognise it, how to record it and how to report it.
Typically, bird of prey crime is carried out in remote locations, far from any witnesses, and the perpetrator will then bury or remove any evidence. By showing the public what to look for we are increasing the numbers of eyes and ears out there, so that everyone can support the police in putting a stop to this, everyone becomes a potential witness.
Bird of prey persecution is not only illegal but it robs everyone of our natural heritage. It makes me very sad to think that future generations might not have the chance to see these amazing birds that are so much a part of our landscape.
How can members of the public get involved with Operation Owl?
Everyone can be a part of Operation Owl.
It is about raising awareness of these crimes and knowing what to look out for in the countryside.
It is about letting the public know that the police care about wildlife and feel empowered to ring us with any information or if they see anything suspicious.
If you come across something, photograph it, don’t touch it, and ring the police as soon as you possibly can. We will check it out and either investigate it and deal with it appropriately, or reassure you if it was legal.
How important is this first Operation Owl national awareness weekend?
Operation Owl has become a nationwide initiative, led by Superintendent Nick Lyall and it’s fantastic to see it gathering so much momentum from its roots when it was launched in North Yorkshire in February 2018.
Nick has seemingly endless energy to tackle bird of prey crime and it is brilliant to have that national focus, taking the Operation Owl ‘brand’ to another level. It is sad that there is even a need for it, but also it has been incredible to see the number of forces coming forward wanting to be a part of tackling this crime.
The national commitment has been heart-warming to see. Within an hour of sending the invite out nationwide, colleagues from other forces were even messaging back on their days off saying they wanted to join in.
Operation Owl will run indefinitely until this criminal activity is stopped. Things need to change and we will make sure they do.
Find out more at: www.operationowl.comLast modified: July 13, 2020