Goshawk found dead with both legs broken on the Chatsworth estate in the Peak District.

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 goshawk was discovered on the Chatsworth 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.


X-Ray showing the goshawk with both legs broken

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.

Fen Trap

Spring Trap often placed on the top of a pole to trap Goshawks

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.

The RSPB is offering a reward of £1,000 for information that leads to a conviction.

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.”


We are well aware of efforts made by the Chatsworth estate to conserve and protect goshawks through their estate. Gamekeepers employed on the estate have been warned on no account must they ever interfere with protected birds of prey that breed on the estate. Chatsworth has the highest number of breeding pairs of resident goshawks anywhere in Derbyshire.

goshawk legs

Female Goshawk-Both legs broken

We are now being advised by raptor experts that it is most unlikely that a female goshawk would be trapped by both legs at the same time within a  spring trap. More importantly, if a goshawk had been trapped by  a spring trap crushing a leg, the bird would still have been attached to the trap. That is of course unless the bird has been released by a human hand.

It may be significant to this particular inquiry to bear in mind the bird was found dead below over head power lines.

5 comments to Goshawk found dead with both legs broken on the Chatsworth estate in the Peak District.

  • T Reid

    A mark 6 spring trap is more than capable size wise of catching and holding a female Goshawks legs, a mark 6 being considerably larger than the 4. Then if human hands where to intervene, the Gos would be released and fly away, to die a hideous death and possibly never be found…

    Editor’s Comment, Point accepted, so if the goshawk was trapped in a mark 6 trap it would be reasonable to assume someone must have released the bird from the trap allowing it to fly free. This seems to be the most logical conclusion. Bearing this in mind, it would also be reasonable to assume the goshawk could have been trapped many miles away from where it was found dead??

  • victor

    im so discusted by the trapping and killing of goshawkes are the landowners so strapped for cash that they have to kill these birds of prey or any others because of a few grouse or pheasant they make me sick and if these gamekeepers have to have a licence for there job the and they are caught doing these horrendous things then take away there licence to work they are not fit for purpose. and must make a comment to regarding the national trust who alow there there heather moors to be burnt back for grouse and pheasant shooting this also stops ground birds from nesting and breeding so please everyone stop supporting the national trust until they stop doing this.

  • robin gissing snr

    i live in the moss valley and is also a place that raptors should be thriving but they do not it is also an area that game birds are reared,strange that.
    landowners tell their staff not to discourage raptors but what they actually tell them is to not get caught i have no evidence other than when i look skyward and nothing to see

  • Badleg

    Mr Gissing thank you for showing interest in this item . I can assure you the death of this bird was not as straightforward as some would have you believe . I have been employed on the Chatsworth estate for many years,mostly as a gamekeeper ,
    and throughout this time as a schedule one licence holder l have studied raptors there.
    When I wished to publish my opinion of events for the benefit of local birdwatchers ,the RSPB species protection dept: put pressure on the Derbyshire Ornithological Society,claiming this could prejudice their investigation.
    I find it rather strange that far more serious and delicate matters can be aired in the national press, by members of the public,without this ridiculous claim being made .
    I am unable to speak for the Moss valley,however I can assure you that raptors are thriving on the chatsworth estate,with Goshawk especially living at a high density.

  • Lord Goodshot

    What possible reason could make theRSPB take such action?. Surely all opinions and points of view are of value in getting to the truth.This is supposed to be a nation of free speech.