SHOOTING leases will be ripped up in Barnsley’s most picturesque beauty spots if bird of prey persecution continues to rise, a landowner has revealed.

Lax restrictions on grouse-shooting moorland in locations such as Range Moor, Langsett, have resulted in dozens of fiercely protected birds of prey being killed, according to a new report.

Self-regulation from within the grouse community has failed and urgent action is needed to prevent protected birds of prey being illegally killed, members of the RSPB believe, who revealed buzzards, red kites and hen harriers have been shot, trapped and poisoned.

Shooting leases - granted on Yorkshire Water-controlled land such as Range Moor - have led to a ‘wildlife crisis’, according to campaigners.

It’s been alleged birds of prey have been eradicated by gamekeepers due to their predatory instincts, which leads to a reduction in grouse stock and less attractive sport.

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RSPB spokesman Mark Thomas said: “Once again protected birds of prey are being relentlessly persecuted, particularly in areas dominated by driven grouse shooting.

“The illegal killing of birds of prey is just one of the symptoms of a wholly unsustainable industry.

“At a time when the world - and the UK in particular - is seeing catastrophic declines in wildlife populations, the destruction of rare wildlife looks like the opposite of progress.

“Healthy bird of prey populations are key indicators of the health of our environment, yet hen harriers are just a few bad breeding seasons away from disappearing as a direct result of illegal persecution on grouse moors.

“The shooting community has had decades to get its house in order, but it is abundantly clear that they cannot control the criminals within their ranks.

“The government must implement tougher legislation to bring the driven grouse shooting industry in line with the law, stamp out environmentally damaging practices, and deliver on the UK’s nature recovery targets.”

Figures obtained from the latest conservation surveys, performed by Natural England, show a decline in Langsett’s population of specialist breeding bird species.

There are no breeding pairs of ring ouzel, while other species which form part of a healthy upland habitat - including hen harrier, merlin, short-eared owl and dunlin - are completely absent.

As well as illegal killing, a growing number of satellite-tagged birds of prey are vanishing in ‘suspicious circumstances’ over grouse moors in Barnsley.

Since the start of 2018, 45 tagged hen harriers - a rare and heavily persecuted bird of prey - are known to have been illegally killed or disappeared in suspicious circumstances.

A spokesman from Yorkshire Water confirmed a review into its tenancies has been completed and changes are being implemented as a result of shooting concerns.

“When an existing shooting lease comes up for renewal, we will undertake a thorough review to assess the best option to deliver the required land management for the future,” they added.

“Our tenancy agreements already include a clause which automatically terminates the lease of anyone convicted of a wildlife crime.

“However, we have reviewed this to make them as robust as possible to ensure a zero-tolerance approach to wildlife crime.”