Outrage as short-eared owl shot dead in the Peak District

An eyewitness has spoken of his shocking experience seeing an owl shot dead at the Peak District.
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The account has been released by the RSPB following an incident last summer in which the short-eared owl was shot on Broomhead Moor.

The eyewitness, who asked not to be named, said he visited the Moor in the evening and was watching the owl in the distance.

He explained: “It was drifting towards where this guy was positioned in the heather. Whilst I was watching it, the bird burst into a cloud of feathers. I knew what had happened. And then I heard the gunshot, and realised the guy on the moor had fired the shot. I thought, woah, did I just see that happen?

Image of the owl shot deadImage of the owl shot dead
Image of the owl shot dead

“I carried on watching and saw the man jump up and move towards where the owl was. I immediately picked the phone up and started videoing. It was about two and a half miles distant. I watched the man settle back down into the heather and I took a bearing on where he was.”

Police launched a criminal investigation and managed to locate the owl’s body but, after extensive enquiries, were unable to bring a successful prosecution.

The witness continued: “Knowing that this kind of thing goes on does cloud your experience as a birdwatcher. One evening you might stop and watch two owls together, then you go the next day or the day after and you don’t see any. And you think, ah well, they might just not be about.

"Then you go again and you still don’t see them... And at the back of your mind, you’re thinking, those owls might have been shot, and maybe that’s why they’re not there."

A spokesperson for the RSPB said: “We would like to thank South Yorkshire Police for their rapid response and thorough investigation, and of course the witness themselves, who did everything right in reporting this straight away and for his invaluable cooperation in guiding us to the spot where the body was.

"We rely on the eyes of the public, and urge anyone who sees something like this to call the police on 101 in the first instance, then contact the RSPB.”

South Yorkshire Police confirmed a suspect was identified but no charges brought.