This is what grouse shooting has brought us to: the burning of rare habitats, massive use of bird and mammal traps, illegal persecution of birds of prey, and now a spaniel killed by a mix of illegal poisons with its own nickname derived from the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a raptor crime hot spot so notorious it is undermining all confidence in one our flagship ‘national parks’ which borders it. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the ‘Nidderdale Cocktail’, “a deadly mixture of chemicals including bendiocarb, alphachloralose and the banned pesticides carbofuran and isofenphos“. Whilst Chloralose is licenced for use in England in a low concentration as a rodenticide, Bendiocarb, Isofenphos and Carbofuran are all banned from use in the UK. None of these chemicals should ever be used in an environment where domestic animals and/or wildlife could come into contact with them.
How proud this must make the apologists for grouse shooting, the lobbyists for the ‘Inglorious Twelfth’, the government ministers who have resisted reining in estate owners, the organisations that say that without blasting grouse out of the sky there’d be no landscape worth protecting.
The RSPB reported this latest blow to the already awful image of grouse shooting yesterday:
One dog has died and another became ill after consuming a ‘cocktail of poisons’ in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire – a known blackspot for bird of prey persecution.
Molly, a springer spaniel, and Poppy, a cocker spaniel, took ill suddenly after going for a walk on 23 April 2020 south of Pateley Bridge, within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding National Beauty.
They were taken to a local vet but sadly Molly died soon after. Poppy has since recovered.
Test results have now revealed that Molly had consumed a deadly mixture of chemicals including bendiocarb, alphachloralose and the banned pesticides carbofuran and isofenphos, and that this was the likely cause of death. This unusual combination of substances has been seen before in the area, causing the death of two red kites and a buzzard since 2016. There are fears that both dogs had inadvertently come across a poison bait which may have been placed illegally in the countryside to target birds of prey. North Yorkshire Police issued warnings to other dog owners.
North Yorkshire has the highest rate of crimes against birds of prey in the UK, clocking up more incidents in the past seven years than any other county involving the shooting, trapping and poisoning of protected species such as red kites, buzzards, goshawks and hen harriers. Within North Yorkshire, Nidderdale is one of the worst blackspots.
On 3 March 2020 a buzzard was found poisoned in Pateley Bridge having ingested chunks of meat laced with the same deadly combination of pesticides found in Molly the dog. This followed the discovery by police of the remains of a red kite in February 2020 near Ramsgill, which was later found to contain traces of carbofuran.
Following these incidents North Yorkshire Police executed searches at a number of properties in the area on 17 July with staff from Natural England and RSPB. Investigations are ongoing and officers are now appealing for information from the public.
Inspector Matt Hagen of North Yorkshire Police said: “The fact we have seen this same combination of chemicals, the ‘Nidderdale cocktail’ as it is sometimes known, also cause the death of birds of prey in this same location would indicate that the poisons have been deliberately left in a place where they could be found by wildlife and unfortunately in this case, domestic pets.
“Pesticide abuse of any kind will not be tolerated and we are doing everything we can to try and find those responsible.”
Molly and Poppy’s family said: “It’s been soul-destroying. We miss Molly every day. She was a lovely dog, daft as a brush, and she loved everything and everybody. One minute she was a lovely, bubbly spaniel and then she was gone, in a heartbeat.
“We took the dogs for a walk up to Two Stoops and on the way home Poppy started being sick. Then we got down the garden path and Molly started twitching… We thought it must have been something they’d eaten so we took them straight to the vets. About an hour later we got the call to say that Molly had died. We couldn’t believe it. She’s buried up on a hill on a farm, but she shouldn’t be there, she should be here on the sofa now, with us. Our other dog Alfie wandered round the house for days looking for her. No-one should have to go through what we’ve gone through.
“It’s bad enough losing an old dog, but Molly was only three and half, she was fit and healthy, and she should still be here, she didn’t need to die. We’re so angry that some people think it’s alright to put out poison like that. I’d love to ask them why? And what if it had been someone’s child?”
Mark Thomas, Head of Investigations at the RSPB, said: “Nidderdale is surrounded by grouse moors and sadly we know from experience, and from the government’s own data, that there is a strong correlation between raptor persecution and driven grouse shooting. Carbofuran is one of the most commonly-abused substances in the poisoning of birds of prey. It is a highly toxic, banned substance, putting wildlife, pets and people at risk. This is not the first time harmful substances have been found left out in the open and sadly is unlikely to be the last. This reckless and irresponsible behavior, which had led to the death of a beloved family pet, cannot be allowed to continue. The RSPB is calling for the immediate licensing of grouse moors, to bring this industry back in line with the law.”
If you have any information relating to this incident, call North Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting reference: 12200068444.
If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB Investigations at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the online form. Or get in touch anonymously on the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101.
Signs of poison may include a dead bird of prey, crow or raven (or several) lying close to a poison bait – typically a pheasant or rabbit carcass or chunks of meat. Take photos, note the day, time and location, but please do not touch anything.RSPB, 29 July 2020
What next? Poisoning the now famous young Bearded Vulture that’s settled in the Peak District ‘national park’ in what the RSPB’s Mark Thomas describes as “one of the worst 10km squares for raptor persecution in the UK”? The death of a young child from some other version of the ‘Nidderdale Cocktail’ picked up from a bait left out in the open? Who knows, but this is an industry incapable of self-restraint, dismissive of legislation, and obsessed with money and killing. It needs to be shut down.
Header image from Birds of Prey in Nidderdale AONB Evidence Report | 2019