Derbyshire Constabulary and the RSPB are appealing for information following the discovery, on the Chatsworth Estate, of a dead female goshawk with two broken legs.
The bird of prey was discovered at the Derbyshire estate on 2 April by a member of the public who then alerted the RSPB. The charity’s investigations team recovered the bird and sent it for a post mortem examination by an expert avian pathologist working for the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratory Agency (AHVLA) in Scotland.
Post mortem analysis revealed that both of the goshawk’s legs had been broken in the same place - injuries that are consistent with being caught in a spring trap. With the evidence suggesting an unnatural death, the RSPB passed the matter on to Derbyshire police.
Spring traps are only lawful if placed in accordance with guidance for their use; for example in tunnels to catch stoats and weasels, or in situations where they cannot trap non target species.
Historically birds of prey have been deliberately targeted by the placing of spring traps on poles or stumps. This practice has been illegal since 1904 and carries a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine and or six months imprisonment.
Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: “If misused spring traps are the bird equivalent of landmines, totally indiscriminate and lethal.”
The dead goshawk was fitted with an ID ring, which revealed that it had been born into 2003, in the Peak District National Park, 15km to the north of the Chatsworth Estate.
Goshawks have been subjected to a high level of illegal persecution in the northern Peak District where they are now teetering on the brink of extinction.
Alan Charles, Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “It is extremely disappointing that another healthy goshawk has been killed in Derbyshire through what appears to be persecution.
“These birds of prey are now almost extinct over the grouse moors in the Peak District thanks to unscrupulous people trying to eliminate them due to their misguided view that they interfere with grouse shoots. Derbyshire residents and visitors have told me of their outrage at this wilful abuse of our wildlife and that is why I am intent on stopping these criminals.
“I will soon be launching a publicity campaign asking visitors and local communities to be our ‘eyes and ears’ and report any suspicious activities.”
Sergeant Darren Belfield, Derbyshire Constabulary’s Wildlife Crime Officer, said: “We are appealing to anyone who may have information about this incident, or any other wildlife persecution incident to come forward and speak to the police in confidence.
“The misuse of spring traps where they are deliberately set to catch birds of prey is a barbaric act of cruelty which shows a clear disregard for the law and the conservation status of this protected species.
“The county of Derbyshire and the Peak District National Park should be a haven for wildlife species, and one where visitors to the area can expect to come and experience our natural diversity at its best.
“Activity like this is a blight on our county and countryside and we are keen to pursue and prosecute the perpetrators of such offences, anyone involved in this type of criminal activity can expect proactive enforcement action.”
Nicholas Wood, Land Agent for the Chatsworth Estate commented: “The estate is helping Derbyshire police with its enquiries following the finding of a dead goshawk on land in the Estate’s ownership. The Estate owners condemn the illegal control of raptors, and work closely with external organisations such as the South Peak Raptor Study Group to ensure raptors continue to nest successfully on the estate.”