Another hen harrier shot dead

Heather_dead_(Barry_ODonoghue_NPWS)With depressing familiarity, news has emerged of the illegal killing of yet another hen harrier.

The corpse of the latest victim was found in January at an established roost site in Co. Kerry. The young female, named Heather by local schoolchildren, had been satellite-tracked since 2013 and her progress followed by hundreds of thousands who regularly logged on to the Hen Harrier Ireland blog where movement maps had been posted.

A post mortem has revealed that Heather had been shot.

There’s been plenty of news coverage about this latest crime:

Irish Times here

BBC news here

BirdWatch Ireland here

Irish Independent here

Heather’s fate is really no surprise. Had she been allowed to reach an age to begin her first breeding attempt without being gunned down would have been the real surprise.

For context, it’s worth reading about a disturbing incident from 2003, where a shot hen harrier was mailed to a local newspaper in Co. Kerry as a sinister message for those considering designating Special Protection Areas for hen harriers – see here.

Hen harriers, as you all know, are in serious trouble throughout these isles, whether it be in England, Scotland or the RoI. Those vilifying this species may have different agendas (i.e. in England & Scotland the threat is from the grouse-shooting industry; in the RoI it’s more complex and is based on afforestation and farming issues, not helped by the mysterious disappearance of millions of Euros that should have been given to support farmers working in designated conservation areas e.g. read our recent guest blog here) but the outcome for this species (and certain other raptor species) is always the same – certain death at the hands of those who think they’re above the law. Or, more to the point, at the hands of those who know very well that the chances of them being brought to justice are slim to non-existent.

Heather was an Irish bird. She hatched there, she lived her short life there, and she was killed there. But it’s important to recognise that she was part of a wider population whose range includes England, Wales, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland & Scotland. Some Scottish hen harriers travel to England, Ireland, Northern Ireland etc, just as some Irish harriers travel to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, just as some English harriers travel to Scotland, RoI, Wales etc etc. If there are persecution issues in any part of the range, the impact will eventually affect the population in every other part of the range. Heather’s pitiful death should be felt just as keenly by those of us in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland etc as it is by those in the Irish Republic who today are mourning her loss. Political boundary lines on a map mean nothing to these hen harriers and they should mean nothing to those of us fighting to protect them.

You might think the campaign to end illegal raptor persecution is futile. You might think it’s too big of an issue and too geographically widespread for any of us to tackle it effectively. You’d be wrong. Over the last few years, thanks to the efforts of many organisations, large and small, as well as the efforts of ‘ordinary’ members of the public using social media, illegal raptor persecution has never had such a high media and political profile. There’s still a long long way to go, and the image of Heather’s wretched corpse is a miserable, poignant reminder of the work ahead of us, but we’ve only just got started.

Hen Harrier Day 2015 (Sunday 9th August) is an opportunity for us all, no matter in which part of the harrier’s range we live, to show our unity and intent. More news on that later this spring.

Heather HH shot Kerry Jan 2015


8 Responses to “Another hen harrier shot dead”

  1. February 2, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    A sick and sad crowd have nothing better to do than pursue their insane prejudice against these magnificent birds.

    I feel despair about what can be done to stop the massacre of birds of prey. I am sure that I will see the extinction of HH’s in England, thanks to the rich and noble that see them as a pest.

    A strange irony that they want to protect a few grouse in order to shoot a few more grouse.

  2. 2 Chris Roberts
    February 2, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    So very sad. As far as I am concerned, this one birds life was more valuable than all the wildlife killing criminals put together.

    Everyone of them when caught should have their guns, poisons, traps etc. confiscated and imprisoned for as long as the law allows. Maybe then other like minded criminals will get the message, all decent law-abiding citizens have had enough of this needless slaughter.

  3. 3 nirofo
    February 2, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    What it really needs to bring it home to the Raptor persecutors is the imprisonment of one or more of the top shooting estate owners, the higher the prestige or status of the owner the better. perhaps if this ever happens it may make the rest of them sit up and take notice.

    Are you listening UK’s police constables, sheriffs, magistrates and judges, stop being afraid to do what you should be doing it’s your job, it’s time you did what you are paid for, it’s the public purse that pays you. Lock these habitual criminals up !!!

  4. 4 Een Historicus
    February 2, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    Heather, rest in peace. Hope you didn´t suffer and that it was at least a good shot… I wrote a fantasybook in Dutch (translation in English will take a while) part 1 lies with the publisher now. In each book a whole chapter is dedicated to raptor persecution. Part 1: Chapter with a hawk trapped, part 2 begins with a red kite poisoned, part 3: crow persecution. I hope I can wake up the public by describing this criminal activities. Heather, I´ll give you a part too.

  5. 5 Jack Orchel
    February 3, 2015 at 1:33 am

    ” Heather was an Irish bird. She hatched there, she lived her short life there, and she was killed there….. Heather’s pitiful death should be felt just as keenly by those of us in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland etc as it is by those in the Irish Republic who today are mourning her loss.”

    A wildlife crime was certainly committed but to claim that there are” those in the Irish Republic mourning her loss” beggars belief. It devalues the experince of “mourning” as a profound human reaction to loss.

    This sort of linguistic sentimentality does not advance the protectionist cause but undermines it.

    • 6 Chris Roberts
      February 3, 2015 at 10:33 am

      I don’t necessarily agree. I am sure that there are 1’000,s who will mourn her – those that have been following her every move. Over the years when one of my 4-legged companions has died, I have mourned their death in a similar way to a family member (which they were).

      Also mourning isn’t just a human reaction, there are untold instances where an animal has mourned its owner, as well as the loss of its own kind.

  6. February 3, 2015 at 10:59 am

    Phillip Merricks of the Hawk and Owl Trust please take note: This was a satelite tagged hen harrier. Tags offer no protection to the bird whatsoever.

  7. 8 Me
    February 3, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    A satellite tagged Hen Harrier shot and left where it died.The freak didn’t bother to retrieve her or the tag so they could be discarded and not found.I think they wanted Heather to be found just to pxxx off decent ,good minded people.Its like spaying the wall of a local Police Office with the words ” try and arrest me ” cause they couldn’t care less about what they did or the concequences of their low life actions.Shame on you,you sad freak.

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