DEAD animals discovered on land owned by a rural estate were poisoned by rodenticides, an animal welfare group has said.

The Hunt Investigation Team (HIT), which investigates hunting and threats against wild animals, published an investigation revealing the presence of rodenticides on land owned by Allendale Estates, Stocksfield.

The HIT said tip-offs from the public led it to Welton village on the Hadrian's Wall Trail, where a proportion of land is owned by Wentworth Beaumont, Viscount Allendale.

HIT said it found sachets of the rodenticide brodifacoum, an anticoagulant which causes animals that ingest it to bleed internally, sometimes for days, before death.

The poison was legal if used indoors but was banned outdoors until 2016. Now, it can be used outside, near buildings, and gamekeepers and landowners are cautioned to remove dead rodents in areas where the poison has been applied so predators do not eat them.

HIT said it documented five dead buzzards, one dead barn owl, a dying badger and numerous dead corvids, in the immediate area around the chewed brodifacoum sachets and dead rats.

"Testing by WIIS [Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme] confirmed that the rats, the barn owl and the badger all had lethally toxic levels of rodenticide in their bodies," the group said. "The buzzards were too predated to test, but if they too were poisoned, the animals who predated on them would also have ingested poison."

The Health and Safety Executive's Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme enquires into the death or illness of wildlife and also enforces the correct use of pesticides.

An HSE spokesperson said: "We take the safe use of pesticides very seriously and have powers to serve notices, issue cautions and to prosecute. Our enforcement action is proportionate, targeted, consistent, transparent and accountable.

"The source of these rodenticides remains uncertain, although they may be from a rodent control treatment, and so the case has been assigned to unspecified use."

The WIIS' quarterly report for 2023 contained post-mortem results which indicate brodifacoum was 'likely' the cause of death for the barn owl and two rats found on Allendale Estates' land.

WIIS’s report said that “advice [was] given to local landowners” as a result of brodifacoum found in the badger. 

Hexham Courant: WIIS' quarterly report which shows post-mortem results for dead animals found on land owned by Allendale EstatesWIIS' quarterly report which shows post-mortem results for dead animals found on land owned by Allendale Estates (Image: WIIS/Hunt Investigation Team)

HIT said poison was found on land bordering Whittle Dene Nature Reserve, operated by Northumberland Wildlife Trust in partnership with Northumbrian Water. The reserve is open to the public and welcomes dogs onto the site. 

A spokesperson from Northumberland Wildlife Trust said: "Our estates team… [has] not found any evidence of poisoning on the site when they have been out there.

“We’ve also had trail cams up in the wood, which haven’t picked up any suspicious activity.”

Allendale Estates was contacted for comment.