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Operation Owl

North Yorkshire Police is calling for the public to take part in Operation Owl - a new initiative to prevent the persecution of birds of prey in our countryside.

Picture of a peregrine falcon trapped in an illegal pole trapNorth Yorkshire is known for its wonderful countryside, which is home to many species of birds – including protected birds of prey (also known as raptors).

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds.  Nevertheless birds of prey are still shot, poisoned and trapped – especially in areas where the land is managed for driven grouse shooting.  Sadly, as a county, North Yorkshire has more confirmed incidents of raptor persecution than any other county in England – a situation we are determined to tackle.

With that in mind, North Yorkshire Police launched Operation Owl in February 2018.  Op Owl is an ongoing joint initiative by ourselves, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the RSPCA, working together with the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.  We hope that this initiative will become a blueprint that will, in time, be rolled out in other parts of the country where there is an issue with raptor persecution.

Through Op Owl:

  • We carry out surveillance checks on known raptor persecution hot-spots at random times to disrupt offender activity
  • We work with local landowners to make them aware of the legal position on raptor persecution
  • National Park volunteers are trained to identify the signs of raptor persecution across the national parks
  • We raise public awareness of raptor persecution by distributing information at country fairs, tourist venues, vets surgeries, animal marts and local community venues
  • We encourage the public to be our eyes and ears, keep a look out for dead or injured birds, poisoned bait and pole traps, and report these to the police on 101
Group shot of Sergeant Kelly with gamekeepers at the launch of Op Owl
A key part of Op Owl is to engage with land owners and land managers

By participating in Op Owl, the public can help to bring those who illegal harm wild birds to justice – particularly by spotting so-called pole traps.  Trappers use spring-loaded traps on top of posts to capture birds of prey that land on top of the post.  The bird can struggle for many hours before the trapper returns to kill them.  Anyone who sees a pole trap should “spring” it if they can do so safely, note the location, take a photo, and call the police on 101 to report it so wildlife officers can investigate.

Watch the RSPB/North Yorkshire Police video.



Operation Owl public awareness leaflet[pdf]