Eagle Owl Cull- Dismissed by Mr Richard Benyon MP

[singlepic id=247 w=320 h=240 float=left]Ministers decision on the Eagle Owl Cull

You heard it first of the Raptor Politics Web Site

We have just received an e-mail from DEFRA confirming  that the Minister has come to a decision on his policy regarding eagle owls in the wild in England, which is as follows:

‘After considering all the facts on the threat that eagle owls pose to native wildlife I have not been convinced that any immediate action is needed to control them. We will continue to monitor the effect they are having on other species, such as hen harriers, and will reassess the situation if necessary.’

Richard Benyon, MP,  Parliamentary Under Secretary of State.

A reply from the President of the World Owl Trust who’s hard work also went a long way in this sensible decision by Mr.Benyon.



Dear Mr Benyon,

On behalf of the 3,000 members of the World Owl Trust and those of us working in the field with this superb and (wrongly) much maligned species, I would like to thank you for your commonsense decision not to sanction a cull of the birds currently present and breeding in Britain.  We couldn’t agree more that continual monitoring needs to be on-going and you have my word that should any proven detrimental aspects to its presence become obvious through observations of wild birds (i.e. not including conjecture) we will have no hesitation in making this known for further discussion – preferably with those of us working in the field and with first-hand knowledge of the species in Britain rather than ‘experts’ (even professionals from large organisations) relying on the literature – especially that referring to the birds’ behaviour in other continents.  In our next newsletter the World Owl Trust will be delighted to inform our members that at last we seem to have a Minister for the Environment who is willing to consider the true facts rather than exaggerated rhetoric derived from outdated data from other continents.  Thank you again.

Yours sincerely,

 Tony Warburton MBE,

 President, World Owl Trust 

29 comments to Eagle Owl Cull- Dismissed by Mr Richard Benyon MP

  • Chrissie Harper

    The news that Richard Benyon has decided that an Eagle Owl Cull is not necessary is the best news I have had since I started the campaign to help protect and save these wonderful owls, I would like to thank everyone who has supported and helped me, everyone who joined my group and also a very big thank you to the Raptor Politics Web Site who have given the campaign such wonderful support throughout this dreadful and sometimes heartbreaking situation, this site is very valuable and important as without it the public would not be aware of all the dreadful persecution that goes on with regard to birds of prey in this country.

    Without any doubt this is one of the most honest and professional sites that truly benefit all birds of prey in this country and now abroad. We should not forget that it was this site that first highlighted the underhanded way FERA tied to sneak the Eagle Owl Risk Assessment through hoping that it would not come to the public’s attention.
    I now sincerely hope that all of the organisations that have sought to use the Eagle Owl as a scapegoat for the Hen Harrier situation will go back to the drawing board and get it right next time.

  • Mike Price

    Mark Avery’s blog re-enforcing his comments about the RSPB’s stance on the Eagle Owl in the UK.
    Well done that man

  • skydancer

    This excellent news and the correct decision, well done Mr Benyon.
    And a big thank you to Chrissie Harper and the Raptor Politics website for all their hard work and commitment in helping to save the Eagle Owl.

  • paul williams

    What a so very welcome outcome and a personal relief to myself and fellow field workers at North West Raptor Protection Group,the time and effort we put in together to save a young Eagle Owlet from starvation was not in vain. Natural England and RSPB hang your heads in shame

  • Sorry Paul, but without the RSPB coming out against the cull,I fear the outcome would have been very different. Give credit where credit is due – and please folks, remember that UU and the RSPB kept their promise that only the two accredited fieldworkers would monitor the Whitendale nest this year – with the result that 3 owlets fledged successfully; the first full brood since 2007.

  • Mike Price

    Also I think its fair to mention that as a newcomer to this issue I feel part of the problem is the disjointed way that things work.
    We should have no time for in fighting, all efforts MUST be directed towards the protection of the birds, too much time seems to be wasted arguing or slating each other when everyones supposed to be on the same side.

  • I agree with you Mike, and thanks for the support that you have given me, I have made some wonderful friends throughout all of this for which I feel my life has been enriched, but we must all work together if we are to achieve our goals, I have been subjected to abuse because I spoke out for what I believe in and have been upset by some peoples attitudes, surely we do this because of our love for these wonderful birds, it is not about who we like or dislike, at the end of the day if we don’t all work together as a team we will not win.
    In answer to tony’s remarks, yes we should give credit to the RSPB for speaking up for the Eagle Owl, I just hope they stick to what has been said, and yes UU, to their credit left the Eagle Owls alone as they promised, they had no choice, after the dreadful outcome of the year before and all the publicity they would not have looked good had they done otherwise.
    Let us now move forward and work for these wonderful birds, after all they deserve it.

  • Most welcome news and an antidote set against the depressing reportage of Hen Harriers earlier. Congratulations to Chrissie and Tony for all the effort put into this issue and to many others who did their bit!! I too think Mark Avery should be thanked for his display of honesty and good sense, not because such assisted our viewpoint, but because conservation needs that approach to avoid a situation where those with the most clout, access or adroit persuasiveness can influence the process.

    This outcome should be an inspiration to those who normally display cynicism towards involvement in lobbying and other similar actions. It can work and must continue to be used to ensure this species receives rightful recognition within our official avifauna, not as a reprieved remnant within an Alien Species list.

    Hen harriers next folks!!

  • paul williams

    Tony, cull or no cull, the RSPB/UU agreed to put rings on 3 healthy owlets, then left 3 additional owlets to die of starvation, yes I agree, credit for Whitendale but sorry Tony, discredit the second site.

  • OK Paul, it’s now November and the Eagle owls will hopefully soon be back on site, ready for the comimg season. The pro’s and con’s of the second (third?) nest are too convoluted to carry on slinging mud backwards and forwards, what is done (or not done) is history and we’ll never get everyone to agree with what actually happened. Just let me make one very important point (and this is for Chrissie too) – we managed to get agreement that there would be no interference with the nests this year apart from the agreed BTO (not RSPB) ringing. UU and the RSPB adhered to that agreement and if individuals or organisations had chosen to break that agreement we could never again have asked for similar agreements in future years. You can’t ask for a rule and then break it yourself, and in the current climate regarding Eagle Owls I’ll continue to regard 50% success as just that -success. Like everyone else I would have preferred 100% success, but dreams don’t always come true. Nobody actually knows whether one of the adults was killed, resulting in the death of two (actually proably all three) of the owlets at the second site, and if any major mistake was made it was that no-one did an overnight watch to see if the nest was being serviced by any adults. We can all learn a lesson from that, including me. We must also learn that 100% success is a rare commodity in wildlife breeding seasons, and some mortality, while upsetting, is normal. If you watch Autumn Watch you will know that the matter of ‘interfering with natural processes’ was discussed at some length (in their case regarding baby seals) and the general consensus was ‘wince, but leave nature to take its course’. If you work in African National Parks and try to rescue animals in trouble, even infants, you get thrown out and your work ends abruptly. Researchers in the UK are taught the same lesson if they are carrying out a behavioural study for their PhD. Are we oblivious to the distress? No, of course we aren’t. When we get things happening like the death of the Eagle Owlets it is extremely upsetting to say the least and the temptation to step in is very strong – as was the failure of the Hen Harrier nest due to Eagle Owl disturbance. But these things happen, and are a natural process. Nature really is ‘red in tooth and claw’, and things often go wrong. Nor is it always pretty. The natural world is all about survival of the fittest, but I am quite ready to agree that when it comes to birds of prey and owls, ‘natural processes’ are all too often compromised by actions of we humans. However, I repeat, so far as I am aware (and I will be quite happy to admit to being wrong if I am wrong), no-one can say with any first-hand knowledge, that at least one adult (probably the female going by what subsequently occurred) was definitely killed by Man at the failed nest. Can anyone say for certain that the second pair were experienced breeders rather than first-time (i.e.) inexperienced) birds which might have been less than efficient at rearing their brood of three? Can anyone definitely discount a natural cause of death if an adult did die or ‘disappear’? Conjecture is fine, but not if it is claimed to be ‘fact’ without firm proof. Nor, I believe, can we say that the third owlet survived to reach independence. Do please correct me if you have definite proof that this assertion is wrong.

    Anyway, this will be my last tirade on this subject for this year, so let us all work together to ensure that 2011 will bring us the 100% success we all crave.

    In the meantime, go out and celebrate the rejection for a cull!

  • Well said, Tony! And Paul, I sense how you feel, but it’s imperative the whole issue is kept moving forward , whatever the sometime requirements that catch in the throat.

    There are a couple of fundamental points contained in your posting, Tony, that are nothing to do with Eagle Owls in a specific sense, but very important in a general context. We all have strong opinions, passion, commitment etc but there are times when we all need to toe the party line for the betterment of the subject we’re addressing. If we are to win the “war” over raptor persecution it needs to be via co-rdinated effort. I’m afraid , Paul, that unilateral action , or even expressed opinion condemning actions of those on the same side, is pointless, points to rifts existing within the ranks and just awards opportunity to the other side. It’s no better than the behaviour that the perpetrators of raptor killing who, arrogantly , set themselves above the law for selfish ends. The need for maturity, being able to take regulation on the chin, however illogical and unfair it might seem, is an eventual strength. Spending time criticising agreements because they fall short of expectations is wasted time in my book…..there are bigger goals to aim for.

    As we all know playing with building blocks when we were kids could sometimes be frustrating when everything fell down. Conseravtion campaigning can be like that at times!!

    However rocky the route, the outcome of the Eagle Owl saga so far is positive, moving forward and a cause for celebration. Were that there was a pair on Islay…..

    • Admin

      The real problem now facing the Bowland Eagle Owl is one of persecution. Let no one be under any illusions not much chance for any pair should they choose to settle on any of the private shooting estates, as clearly demonstrated by the third nesting pair where the abandoned nest was found containing a single egg in April.

      Yes most definitely, credit where credit is due, there would be no Eagle Owls at all in Bowland had they not settled on the UU estate initially where their presence is tolerated. This spring it appears a fourth calling pair disappeared from a third estate where coincidentally the resident pair of peregrines also vanished last year under very mysterious circumstances after a residency of more that 15 years.

      One additional distinct possibility is that more dead harriers may in furure begin turning up in close proximity of Eagle Owl nests, thus providing an illusion these birds had been predated by an Eagle Owl and by so doing killing two birds with one stone.

  • paul williams

    Tony, yes the owlet did fledge and was seen with an adult EO with my night vision binoculars, also an adult EO did service the owlet, I witnessed that along with my colleague. I may or may not have broken man’s rule but I did not break GOD’S rule.

  • Mike Groves

    Having limited knowledge of Eagle Owl could someone please educate me on the size of breeding territory taken up by a pair? Can their territories overlap as with hen harriers?
    Playing devils advocate if say 2 or 3 harrier nest’s were visited by an Eagle Owl next breeding season and adults deserted would a change of policy ensue?

    • Andrew

      Dear raptor politics, I have recently learned about the decision not to cull eagle owls and now feel I need some professional advice from someone who can be trusted. I live in a remote area in Bowland and this year two eagle owls moved onto my property taking advantage of an abundance of rabbits. I do not permit shooting or trespassers and from what I have gathered I think the location is suitable for breeding. The pair appear to have settled as I have heard them calling most evenings recently. I realise it is important to stay well away from the area where both birds are roosting. Can you please put me in touch with someone who most importantly can be trusted and second offer advise to make sure the birds come to no harm?


      • admin

        Hi Andrew, we recommend you use the contact form on this web site (top of page, centre right, ‘Contact Us’) to send us your phone number, and we’ll make arrangements to visit the location at a time and date to suit you, in order to assess the situation.

        Many thanks for your message.

  • Mike Price

    Hi Mike,

    I believe the home ranges of Eagle Owls can overlap, but I haven’t got any more information in the books I own than that, (no info on nearest breeding neighbours)

    Such a small population (particually with a limited breeding area) of any species is really walking the tight rope of survival and this would go for both the EEO and the Hen Harrier’s in the England.

    Personally I have to wonder if the Eagle Owls being on Bowland hasn’t in some ways helped the hen harriers (due to the additional interest in the area).

    Eagle owls do live alongside other raptors on the continent, they also make up a part of its diet (buzzards in particular in one area if I remember rightly from the program Roy Dennis produced).

    The solution of course is not to have all your eggs in one basket, but it appears that there is little chance of the range expanding in the near future without a real change of attitude towards the hen harriers.

    Should EEO be considered differently than another reintroduced species (Goshawk/Sea Eagle) causing desertion of nests?

    • Mike Groves

      Many thanks for feedback Mike. Hope my scenario dosen’t ever come to fruition although my main concern was that potentially in a few years time you could see Bowland as a stronghold for Eagle Owl and the odd pair of harriers!!!!
      (Notice that another pair of Eagle Owl in Bowland has been identified).
      Million dollar question – how do we change attitudes towards the hen harrier?

  • Mike Price

    It would appear there are two ways, a bigger stick as the little stick isn’t working, or working together to find a resolution.

    Education, peer pressure, embarrassment (both of landowners, the government and the general public).

    I think at least 50% of the problem is that its so hard to show HARD facts of the level of persecution that is being leveled at birds of prey in the UK, indeed Dr. John Edwards a retired government research biochemist and chairman of the Hawk and Owl trust speaking at the NERF conference said that the issues were down to a few rogues giving the rest a bad name, without data to back up the level of the problem how else can you ensure that your arguement is not just seen as mud flinging?

    I should probably mention the talk later in the day that was about research done on peregrine persecution on managed heather moors, using data from BTO and raptor groups, they modeled the habitat of the breeding peregrines (at and away from grouse moors) they measured the amount of management of the nesting area using google maps to measure the level of heather burning in the vicinity, they looked into the effects of the weather.

    The summary was that peregrines were 50% less likely to breed successfully on the managed heather moor than off it, it went further to show that without the birds that bred away from the heather moors the population on the moors would not be capable of sustaining itself.

    There was a clear increase of success as the level of management level decreased.

    The main reason I mention this is that, this study was possible because of the data collected by raptor workers and birders, it is so important that people make this data available it makes it possible to prove without doubt that a) the habitat is ideal for the birds, thats why they keep coming.
    b) that there is a clear link to reasons for their demise .

    I can only imagine that strength such studies when put infront of the right government agencies and the general public can add to the fight against thes people.

    The public need to be made more aware of the issues, 12 months ago I had no idea that this area suffered from such problems (let alone that the problems where so widespread) and I would of struggled to find a single person I knew who would of been aware.

    Theres a lot of work to do and it needs to be done by everyone who can

  • Mike Price

    I have asked for a copy of the paper about the peregrines but unfortunately the results are still being written up and it will then be sent for peer review, we can expect to see it in about 4 months.

    I personally can’t wait, from what I have seen it will disprove the addage that its a few rotten apples spoiling the barrel and will concentrate people minds on just how badly some species of raptors are fairing on managed heather moors.

  • John Miles

    It is sad that there are more Peregrines nesting in the centre of London than in the North Pennines. Researchers stop going to the nest sites after a while because they know they will find nothing. Is it not the national 10 year peregrine survey in 2011?

  • D. McLeod

    To Mike Price – John Edwards needs to improve his research efforts before he gives his next presentation about raptors. Just because he hasn’t bothered to look for the evidence of widespread criminal activity by gamekeepers doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist! He doesn’t have to look very far – try the Raptor Persecution Scotland website. It lists 95 estates where allegations of wildlife crime have been reported. This might be what John Edwards calls “a few rogue gamekeepers” but 95 (and counting) is not what I’d call a ‘few rogues’.

  • John Miles

    I have seen this John Edwards in action. As a scientist working with poison he still thinks that rat poison does not effect Barn owls, Kestrels and Polecats!! A great ambassador for the Hawk and Owl Trust [Joke].

  • raptorman

    just because John Edwards was wrong on one point, as he certainly was does not invalidate the other things he said at the NERF conference.

    • admin

      – or validate them either, for that matter.

      Regrettably, Mr Irving, you’re no longer welcome on this site, for reasons that will be published here in a few weeks time.

    • Mike Price

      I wasn’t inferring that what he said was not of value just that I personally didn’t agree with his view that raptor persecution is something that occurs occassionally because there is only a small amount of data available, which from his scientific point of view was all that counted.

      It’s easy to see that its more widespread than some people are willing to admit, but without the information being made freely available its hard to build the real picture that can prove or disprove the suspected levels of persecution.

      The later peregrine talk proved just how valuable that information can prove to be.

      What I was trying to say was that it’s vital that the people involved in raptor conservation are sharing their findings and other information to ensure that more studies are possible, as well as making the general public aware of the importance of reporting suspicious behaviour.

  • Mike, once again I agree with what you say but I would urge you not to enter into a dispute with Raptorman, a few weeks ago he was accusing me of something I knew nothing about and mentioning my name to people which upset me greatly, so much so that I had to e-mail him and ask why he was using me to cause trouble between people I didn’t even know. In the end he rang me and admitted that he now realised I knew nothing about the subject and apologised grudgingly. Whatever I have and will do in the future is due to my genuine love of owls and birds of prey, I do want to be used in someones petty politics and the whole thing upset me very badly although I have now put it behind me.
    We all have to work together if we are to succeed and try and prevent some of this dreadful persecution, there is no room for back stabbing and causing ill feeling, it does none of us any credit, most of the people I know have a reallove and passion for these birds which shines through, they go about the job quietly and ask for nothing but the satisfaction of doing their very best for the creatures they care for and seek no glory or reward, they are the true un-named heroes of this whole situation and I salute them all.
    After walking up to the Eagle Owl nest site on Monday which was a very moving experience for me I am all the more determined to do my best for these amazing birds and I seek nothing in return.

  • Mike Price

    An abridged version of Dr Edwards presentation at NERF.


  • robroy

    I was absolutely delighted to read here that the decision NOT to cull the Eagle Owls has been made.Congratulations to everyone involved in achieving this result.Personally I found the whole idea of culling the Owls unbelievable.Whether they have ever been a breeding bird in the UK before or not doesn’t seem to be a good reason to kill them off.

    Much of our familiar fauna and flora which we take for granted was introduced,Fallow Deer,Rabbits,Grey Squirrels,Pheasants;even Grass!Others like Egrets or Collared Doves gradually found their way to our shores or like Muntjac Deer or Parakeets have escaped from zoos and become naturalised.Why shouldn’t the Eagle Owl be allowed to enthrall us with its success story;after all it’s not like we’re talking about someone dumping a load of Piranha in the Thames or discovering a group of Crocodiles in Romney Marsh!With regards to the alleged incident of an Owl lunching on a Harrier I would like to suggest that it seems hysterical to then kill allthe Owls,( themselves a rare bird of great beauty ).Towards the end of last year I was driving through Hampshire and only by braking hard just managed to avoid hitting a Buzzard as it slowly took off from where it had been feeding on something on the road that had been killed previously by a car.If the bird in question had been a Harrier and I’d killed it would we be hearing the clamour of voices demanding a total ban on all vehicles on roads in that vicinity,or even complete closure of the roads??? Cars are responsible for more deaths,including people than all the other culprits put together I shouldn’t wonder.Anyway,today the Eagle Owl wins and so do we,thanks again to Chrissie Harper and friends.