Grouse shooting may end at Wessenden Head following owl killing

Holmfirth, UK – Yorkshire Water may end its grouse shooting lease at Wessenden Head following the killing of an owl.

Yorkshire Water has confirmed it may end its grouse shooting lease at Wessenden Head & Digley Moor, near Holmfirth, following a tawny owl being shot dead. The bird of prey was discovered with shotgun wounds, inflicted at close range, before being stuffed into a wall near a gamekeeper’s lodge on Springs Road (photos available here).

In a statement issued to Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors (BBYM) on Friday, Yorkshire Water expressed its concern at the owl killing, committed to cooperating with the police’s wildlife crime investigation and confirmed it would take steps to terminate the grouse shooting lease, if evidence shows a link between its shooting tenants and the owl’s death.

BBYM has today released further evidence of wildlife persecution and environmental damage on Yorkshire Water’s land at Wessenden Head, following an investigation by its team over the weekend. Monitors photographed jaw-like traps set to eradicate native stoats and weasels, with one containing the decomposing remains of a targeted wild animal. Gamekeepers routinely kill predators to ensure more red grouse are available for shooting parties.

Heather burning – undertaken to manage the habitat for game birds – has also been performed over watercourses in breach of official regulations; a practice which damages peatland and pollutes catchment water which feeds into nearby reservoirs. Drainage and grouse shooting butts were also documented constructed into rare blanket bog habitat and spent shotgun cartridges were littered on the ground.

Luke Steele, Spokesperson for Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors, says:

“Wildlife persecution uncovered on Wessenden Head & Digley Moor, where a beautiful owl has been gunned down at close range and hidden in a wall, is clearly inexcusable. There is one clear motive for such a barbaric act, with gamekeepers routinely eradicating natural predators of red grouse to increase game bird populations for shooting parties.

“With this being the seventh Yorkshire Water moor leased for grouse shooting where extermination of wildlife and environmental degradation has been documented, it is clear the company must walk the walk and immediately terminate its grouse shooting lease.

“If Yorkshire Water wants to be recognised as taking its environmental responsibilities seriously, then ending grouse shooting is the only course of action that will suffice. By removing the negative impact allowing the practice has on wildlife, habitat and the region’s reputation, Yorkshire Water will truly become the environmental champion it espouses to be.”

Wessenden Head & Digley Moor is the seventh randomly-chosen moor leased of by Yorkshire Water for grouse shooting which has been investigated by BBYM, with systematic wildlife persecution and environmental degradation uncovered on each.

Every local authority in the county, including nearby Peak District National Park Authority, has ended the bloodsport on their uplands estates, having once allowed it, and Yorkshire Water is now being urged to follow their example. Over 16,000 people have signed a petition to Yorkshire Water’s CEO Richard Flint, demanding the utility company brings grouse shooting to an end.


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