A BENTHAM falconer says he is determined to find the culprit who killed his breeding Peregrine falcons and has put up a £5,000 reward to try to get a conviction.

Chris Hodgkinson, of Rapid Raptors, said his eight-year-old son Logan had been left heartbroken after finding almost all their birds dead in their cages and suspects they had been poisoned. The incident occurred between Saturday, January 26 and Sunday, January 27.

“We kept them on a farm near Newby Moor on the Bentham road between Clapham and High Bentham.

“The both of us went to feed them and Logan opened the door to the first cage and one was dead on the floor. We went to the next and it was the same there and the same with the rest apart from one.”

Mr Hodgkinson said because there was a reward involved, he did not want to give too many details about the birds, only that a ‘number’ had died.

“All that was left was one male Peregrine, which is a renowned fussy eater. The others were male and female Peregrines and a little merlin,” he said.

“We are absolutely devastated about it. It would have been bad enough having to explain to Logan that the birds had died of some illness, but for him to know someone has come along and done it deliberately has really affected him.

“Most of these birds we have reared ourselves. Logan has looked after them since they were eggs.

“One of the birds was a Peregrine he flies regularly called Hugo. We didn’t breed Hugo but bought him as a breeding bird. Recently Logan was named top junior falconer at an event at the Station pub, at Ribblehead.”

Mr Hodgkinson said he had been breeding the falcons for more than 20 years and sold them to falcon handlers all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, Italy and Germany. He had bred and trained around 50 during that time.

A statement from North Yorkshire Police read: “Police are investigating reports that falcons were killed at a farm in High Bentham. The owner reported finding the birds, which are valuable and used for breeding, dead.

“Wildlife officers, including from the force’s Rural Taskforce, are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding how the birds died.

“The investigation remains ongoing.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 with incident number 12190018290.