A SECRET war is being waged against a large bird of prey that has experienced a dramatic resurgence in northern upland areas, according to the RSPB.

The charity’s North England investigators believe scores of buzzards are being shot, poisoned and trapped often near pheasant release pens.

RSPB officers have called for courts to impose custodial sentences on people caught flouting the Wildlife and Countryside Act, after the discovery of a dead buzzard in Richmondshire on Easter Sunday.

The raptor, killed with a shotgun, was found near Scar Spring Wood, near Reeth.

Due to the extent and nature of the injuries it is not believed the bird travelled far from where it was shot.

North Yorkshire Police described the crime as shocking in a county which consistently has the worst record in England for bird of prey persecution.

PC Julian Sutcliffe said: “I believe that someone in the local area will know who is responsible for this wholly unnecessary act of cruelty.”

The RSPB has described areas of the Yorkshire Dales as a “no fly zone” for birds of prey.

Investigations officer Alan Firth said he believed it remained socially acceptable in some parts of the county to kill birds of prey.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said it is committed to the ending the persecution of birds of prey.

A BASC spokesman said it would expel any of its members found to have persecuted protected birds, but disputed the RSPB’s claims about the number of buzzards being persecuted, saying only two buzzards had been shot in North Yorkshire in 2012.