10
Feb
15

Hen harrier: ’cause of death withheld’

hh LAURIE CAMPBELLLast June we blogged about an illegally-killed hen harrier that had been found dead on moorland near Muirkirk in south west Scotland. The adult female’s corpse was discovered close to a nest containing two live chicks (see here).

At the time, Police Scotland refused to reveal the cause of death. Det. Inspector Graham Duncan of Kilmarnock CID was quoted as follows:

Whilst at this time we cannot divulge how the bird was killed, we do believe it was the result of a criminal act and we need to establish why this has happened“.

Pretty much everyone  in the country will know exactly ‘why this has happened’ – well, everyone it seems except Kilmarnock CID.

We suggested the harrier had probably been shot, although one of our readers commented that it could also have been clubbed to death – as has happened previously to hen harriers at Muirkirk.

Eight months on and the cause of death is still being withheld. Here’s what the latest SASA report says about this case:

Cause of death withheld due to specialist knowledge‘.

Marvellous.

It’s also interesting to note that SNH has not enforced a General Licence restriction on the land where this bird was found. Just as we discussed yesterday with the case of the poisoned red kite (see here), the illegal killing of this harrier seems to meet all the criteria needed for immediate enforcement action:

This hen harrier is not the first to be illegally-killed in the Muirkirk area – it’s one of many in a long, long line – read this article from 2008(!) detailing what was going on in this so-called Hen Harrier Special Protection Area; the conservation impact of killing a hen harrier is obvious; and the evidence [her carcass] was fresh.

So why the delay in enforcement?

Why is it so difficult to get the police (and in this case, SNH) to do their jobs properly?

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9 Responses to “Hen harrier: ’cause of death withheld’”


  1. February 10, 2015 at 8:43 am

    What is “due to specialist knowledge” supposed to mean?! Could you try sending in a ‘Freedom of Information’ request?

  2. 4 Paul Seligman
    February 10, 2015 at 8:55 am

    There can be a legitimate reason for not divulging all the details of a crime until the investigation is complete and case was closed. I can’t say if that applies in this case, of course.

  3. 5 Chris Roberts
    February 10, 2015 at 10:08 am

    I don’t think police Scotland are particularly interested in tackling wildlife crime, at least it doesn’t appear so.

  4. 6 crypticmirror
    February 10, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Am I being overly cynical when I say this sounds more like they dare not release the information, because then they’d be forced to arrest the person that done it? If you can’t cover it up, hush it up, after all.

  5. 7 Toni Whyte
    February 10, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    chris

    i agree with your feelings and sadly that may be the case however the police do seem very interested in suppressing the incidents involving wildlife crime and this takes effort and negative PR from the public.

    Why would they adopt this attitude if they weren’t interested perhaps its not that they are not interested in tackling the issue its more complex and often involves areas where they are not comfortable with ie landowners and their employees continually killing rare birds and animals.

  6. 8 nirofo
    February 10, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    It probably depends on who is the owner of the land where it was found whether the police take any real action or more likely, no action at all. Where wildlife crime is involved the police are afraid to upset the powerful landowners in case it comes back to bite them on the arse, best to do nothing or as little as you can get away with is the motto !!!

    You could be forgiven for believing that SNH / NE operate under the same principle, that’s if they have any principles that is?

  7. February 11, 2015 at 12:14 am

    Maybe more of a public outcry would ’embarrass’ the police/authorities into doing more about this e.g. Hen Harrier Day for Scotland, RSPB ‘Skydancer’ project. Although I remember the publicity surrounding the Black Isle Red Kites, for all the good that did ? Depressing, when we know the ‘power behind the trigger’ and the reluctance therefore of anyone to put their neck on the line to push for answers or accountability. We need a team of volunteers and hidden webcams across the moors. There are so few bloody Hen Harriers left, each could be provided with their own little webcam !


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