POLICE have launched a joint investigation with the RSPB into the suspicious death of a pair of red kites.

The wild birds of prey, along with the bodies of a crow and a fox, were found by a walker on on open land on the North Yorkshire-West Yorkshire boundary near Otley.

Close by the bodies was a rabbit carcass that was covered in dead bluebottle flies - an indication that the carcass had been laced with poison as a form of pest control.

The walker initially reported the discovery to the Upland Raptor Group who in turn contacted Natural England, the RSPB and PC Gareth Jones, the Harrogate and District Wildlife Crime Officer.

PC Jones said: "A joint investigation has started and the carcasses are currently being examined by the Central Science Laboratories in Thirsk.

"We suspect that the rabbit was being used as bait to attract pests and had been contaminated with poison to kill these pests. If this turns out to be the case, it will be yet another example of the indiscriminate nature of poisons as a method of pest control.

"And because this happened on open land it is therefore an illegal use of poison, as is the killing of red kites which are protected by Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

"This is a summary offence which carries a maximum fine of £5,000 or six months in prison."

The birds were found on Saturday, September 29.

Anyone with information should call PC Gareth Jones via on 0845 60 60 24 7 or call the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme free phone number 0800 321 600.