MORE than 60 reports of crimes against birds of prey were reported in the North-East and North Yorkshire last year, leading the RSPB to call for more rigorous enforcement of wildlife laws.

Today's Birdcrime 2014 report has found that illegal persecution continues to prevent some of the region's native birds of prey from recovering to their natural levels.

Last year, the RSPB received 36 reports of bird of prey incidents in North Yorkshire, the highest number in any county in the UK.

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Confirmed incidents included three shot buzzards, a shot little owl, and an illegally trapped buzzard .

Additionally, there were 16 reports of incidents in Northumberland and 11 in County Durham, including three poisoned red kites and a shot sparrowhawk.

The Northern Echo:

Buzzard left with horrific injuries after being caught in an illegal trap Picture: J Thorpe

This September, a red kite discovered near a grouse moor near Edmundbyers, County Durham, was found to have died from Carbofuran poisoning, despite the use of the chemical being banned in Britain since 2002.

Two others were found together at High Spen, Gateshead. They died as a result of poisoning by Aldicarb, a widely-used pesticide which has been implicated in deliberate poisonings elsewhere in Britain.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “The problem of illegal persecution has tarnished the UK for decades and continues to do so. Strong action is needed now to deliver the effective protection that our birds of prey so urgently need.”

EU Nature Directives were designed to combat such incidents, he said.

“When applied properly, these laws can help protect our most valuable wildlife and sites," Mr Harper said. "All evidence points to the need for a consistent approach and effort across all four UK countries in protecting our most threatened birds of prey, such as the hen harrier and golden eagle, from illegal persecution.

"In this context, there is a strong case for fully implementing the EU Nature Directives consistently across the UK to protect wildlife from illegal killing.”

The Nature Directives have driven the recovery of many species nationally, such as the white-tailed eagle and the red kite.

This year, white-tailed eagles reached the important milestone of 100 breeding pairs, forty years after they were reintroduced in Scotland. In fact, one was spotted flying over Weardale, County Durham in the early part of this year.

“There is no place in any society for the unjustified and illegal activity that robs many people of the chance to see these beautiful birds flourish," said Mr Harper. "We applaud the efforts of law enforcement officers across the UK who work with statutory agencies, NGOs and the public to prevent, investigate and prosecute wildlife crimes.

"However to support this effort, more effective sanctions and penalties are needed that represent a meaningful deterrent to ensure that no one can profit from wildlife crimes.”