On 28 October 2016 we learned that one of this year’s young hen harriers had been found dead in Cumbria in suspicious circumstances (see blog here).
This was a hen harrier called Rowan, who had hatched at Langholm this summer and was one of two hen harriers being satellite-tracked by the Hawk & Owl Trust.
The press release from the Hawk & Owl Trust and Natural England had just said Rowan’s body had been found in Cumbria on 22 October 2016, and following a post mortem, details had been passed to the police.
Today, Cumbria Police have issued a press statement as follows:
Cumbria Police have opened an investigation into the death of a hen harrier.
The body of a male Hen Harrier was found in the Ravenstonedale area of the county on 22nd October 2016. A post-mortem examination funded by Natural England and carried out by the Zoological Society of London has established that the bird was likely to have been shot.
The hen harrier, called Rowan, was satellite tagged at the Langholm Project as part of a joint venture between Natural England and the Hawk and Owl Trust. The bird had recently flown in the Cumbria and North Yorkshire Dales area before being found at Ravenstonedale.
Hen Harriers are specially protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and the Government has set raptor persecution as one of their wildlife crime action priorities.
There is huge pressure on the survival of the hen harrier in England particularly and projects such as this are working hard to assist with the bird’s survival. Cumbria Police are working alongside such organisations to progress this investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 and ask to speak to PC 2059 Helen Branthwaite.
Ravenstonedale lies within the Yorkshire Dales National Park (the bit that was recently added in August 2016).
The statement that Rowan “was likely to have been shot” is a bit odd. It would have been useful for Cumbria Police to release a copy of the x-ray, as other police forces often do when appealing for information about shot birds. Perhaps there is justification for the vague statement about the cause of death, but then again, perhaps there isn’t. Did the post mortem report use the words ‘likely shot’? That would be an unusual phrase. Usually they say something like ‘injuries consistent with’ (being shot). There’s a big difference in interpretation. There’s a faint whiff of a cover up here. Not an overpowering stench, but definitely an aroma of something….
The reputation of the Yorkshire Dales National Park as a hell hole for hen harriers (and most other raptors) continues to grow. Hen harriers haven’t bred in this National Park since 2007 and young birds that visit don’t last very long either. Here are some YDNP hen harrier data (2007-2014) from Natural England we’ve blogged about before:
Female, tagged N England 26/6/07: last known location YDNP 5/10/07. Status: missing.
Female, tagged N England 16/7/09: last known location YDNP 27/9/09. Status: missing.
Male, tagged Bowland 29/6/09: last known location YDNP 17/8/09. Status: missing.
Female, tagged N England 29/6/10: last known location YDNP 25/11/10. Status: missing.
Female (Bowland Betty), tagged Bowland 22/6/11: last known location YDNP 5/7/12. Status: shot dead.
Female (Kristina), tagged N England 25/6/12: last known location YDNP 9/10/12. Status: missing.
Male (Thomas), tagged N England 4/9/12: last known location YDNP 4/9/12. Status: missing.
Male (Sid), tagged Langholm 21/9/14: last known location YDNP 21/9/14. Status: missing.
Female (Imogen), tagged N England 26/6/14: last known location YDNP 1/9/14. Status: missing.