Police are appealing for help to find the person who shot dead a “majestic” red kite near Harewood.
Officers were first alerted to the crime – it is an offence to take, injure, kill or disturb the species – last autumn, after the shot bird had been taken to the Harewood House Bird Garden.
But the police are still searching for the perpetrator, and this week renewed their appeal for anyone with information to come forward.
North East Leeds Wildlife Crime Officer PC Andy Katkowski, a member of the Wetherby and Harewood Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We were called to reports of a dead red kite that had been found in Carthick Woods, next to the River Wharfe between Harewood and Collingham.
“It had been handed it at the Harewood House Bird Garden and officers attended on November 7 last year.
“Tests established that the bird had been shot – which is a crime – and an enquiry was launched. Despite a high-profile media appeal, we have so far been unable to establish who shot this majestic creature, and I would again appeal for anyone with any information about this to come forward by calling the police on 101.”
Red kites were reintroduced to Yorkshire at Harewood in 1999, and have gone on to become a major conservation success story, growing quickly in both population and distribution.
But Doug Simpson, the project officer involved in releasing the first kites, said the latest incident proved there was still a “hard core” of people who were determined to flaunt the law and harm the birds.
He said: “Since 1999 we have lost around 30 birds as a direct result of illegal activities such as poisoning and shooting.
“However, this is the first confirmed instance of a red kite persecution victim having been found in West Yorkshire.
“It highlights the fact that there is a widespread, hard core of people out there who are prepared to break the law.
“Kites which have been poisoned may have fed on illegal poison baits intended for other species – a method of attempted pest control which was outlawed more than 100 years ago.
“However, where a kite has been shot, there can be no doubt whatsoever that it was the intended target.
“The area in which this bird was found is close to the south bank of the River Wharfe and it is possible it was shot from the north bank of the river – which would actually place the offence in North Yorkshire.”
Red kites are afforded the highest degree of legal protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and anyone found guilty of deliberately disturbing or injuring the birds can receive fines of up to £5,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to six months.