52 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018

For anyone who still wants to pretend that the grouse shooting industry isn’t responsible for the systematic extermination of hen harriers on grouse moors across the UK, here’s the latest catalogue of crime that suggests otherwise.

[This male hen harrier died in 2019 after his leg was almost severed in an illegally set trap that had been placed next to his nest on a Scottish grouse moor (see here). Photo by Ruth Tingay]

In January 2021, this list totalled 51 hen harriers, all either confirmed to have been illegally killed or to have ‘disappeared’, most of them on or next to driven grouse moors.

They disappear in the same way political dissidents in authoritarian dictatorships have disappeared” (Stephen Barlow, 22 January 2021).

Today the list has been updated to include the latest victim, Tarras, hatched in 2020, gone by 24th February 2021 (see here).

This disgraceful catalogue will continue to grow – I know of at least one more on-going police investigation which has yet to be publicised and I suspect there’s one other, although I’m still waiting for clarification on that one.

I’ve been compiling this list only since 2018 because that is the year that the grouse shooting industry ‘leaders’ would have us believe that the criminal persecution of hen harriers had stopped and that these birds were being welcomed back on to the UK’s grouse moors (see here).

This assertion was made shortly before the publication of a devastating new scientific paper that demonstrated that 72% of satellite-tagged hen harriers were confirmed or considered likely to have been illegally killed, and this was ten times more likely to occur over areas of land managed for grouse shooting relative to other land uses (see here).

2018 was also the year that Natural England issued itself with a licence to begin a hen harrier brood meddling trial on grouse moors in northern England. For new blog readers, hen harrier brood meddling is a conservation sham sanctioned by DEFRA as part of its ludicrous ‘Hen Harrier Action Plan‘ and carried out by Natural England (NE), in cahoots with the very industry responsible for the species’ catastrophic decline in England. For more background see here.

Brood meddling has been described as a sort of ‘gentleman’s agreement’ by commentator Stephen Welch:

I don’t get it, I thought the idea of that scheme was some kind of trade off – a gentleman’s agreement that the birds would be left in peace if they were moved from grouse moors at a certain density. It seems that one party is not keeping their side of the bargain“.

With 52 hen harriers gone since 2018, I think it’s fair to say that the grouse shooting industry is simply taking the piss. Meanwhile, Natural England pretends that ‘partnership working’ is the way to go.

‘Partnership working’ appears to include authorising the removal of hen harrier chicks from a grouse moor already under investigation by the police for suspected raptor persecution (here) and accepting a £10K bung from representatives of the grouse shooting industry that prevents Natural England from criticising them (see here).

[Cartoon by Gill Lewis]

So here’s the latest gruesome list:

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published wholly inaccurate information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false” (here).

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here)

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland (here)

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating death as suspicious (here)

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland (here).

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here)

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lanacashire (here)

23 October 2018: Hen harrier Tom ‘disappeared’ in South Wales (here)

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here)

1 November 2018: Hen harrier Barney ‘disappeared’ on Bodmin Moor (here)

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here). Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap (here).

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB (here). Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot (here).

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site (here)

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

26 April 2019: Hen harrier Rain ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Nairnshire (here)

11 May 2019: An untagged male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive (here)

7 June 2019: An untagged hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot (here)

5 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 1 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor nr Dalnaspidal on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

14 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183704) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

23 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #55149) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

24 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 2 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor at Invercauld in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

24 September 2019: Hen harrier Bronwyn ‘disappeared’ near a grouse moor in North Wales (here)

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here)

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland (here)

18 October 2019: Member of the public reports the witnessed shooting of an untagged male hen harrier on White Syke Hill in North Yorkshire (here)

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland (here)

January 2020: Members of the public report the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

23 March 2020: Hen harrier Rosie ‘disappeared’ at an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland (here)

1 April 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183703) ‘disappeared’ in unnamed location, tag intermittent (here)

5 April 2020: Hen harrier Hoolie ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

8 April 2020: Hen harrier Marlin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

19 May 2020: Hen harrier Fingal ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Lowther Hills, Scotland (here)

21 May 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183701) ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Cumbria shortly after returning from wintering in France (here)

27 May 2020: Hen harrier Silver ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on Leadhills Estate, Scotland (here)

9 July 2020: Unnamed female hen harrier (#201118) ‘disappeared’ from an undisclosed site in Northumberland (here).

25 July 2020: Hen harrier Harriet ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

14 August 2020: Hen harrier Solo ‘disappeared’ in confidential nest area in Lancashire (here)

7 September 2020: Hen harrier Dryad ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

16 September 2020: Hen harrier Fortune ‘disappeared’ from an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland (here)

19 September 2020: Hen harrier Harold ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

20 September 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2020, #55152) ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in North Yorkshire (here)

24 February 2021: Hen harrier Tarras ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Northumberland (here)

To be continued……..

9 Responses to “52 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018”

  1. 1 Anon
    March 16, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    I know that you know this Ruth, but can I just point out that the 52 birds that have disappeared were all tagged birds.

    How many untagged birds have disappeared? Less than a half of the juveniles in England are tagged each year, so the number could be scarily high, and is a good illustration of why there are still so few harriers nesting in areas in Britain that are managed for driven grouse shooting.

    It would be worth inserting tagged into “disappeared birds” every time to emphasise that this just is a sample of British hen harriers that we are talking about.

    [Thanks, Anon. It’s a good point – although four of these 52 were untagged]

  2. 2 Paul V Irving
    March 16, 2021 at 3:20 pm

    And so it goes on with seemingly complete disinterest from DEFRA after all they have a “plan” in place so that’s OK then, along with all those fine shooting organisations and pressure groups allegedly signed up to a zero tolerance of raptor persecution. Really time they started to get their heads out of the sand then because currently they both have less than zero credibility on this issue and their current silence actually shouts volumes. However they are probably not listening, a bit like the 3 wise monkeys despite their complete lack of wisdom. If they had acted sooner about this they might have had a future as it is this almost guarantees they haven’t.

  3. 3 Paul
    March 16, 2021 at 8:44 pm

    52 under three-year-olds missing on the moors.

    If these were children, there would be a national inquiry.

  4. 4 keen birder
    March 17, 2021 at 6:59 am

    The main spokes people about shooting should say ,:now, stop this buzzard shooting and harrier killing boys, we are digging our own graves, enough is enough, just give them a chance to recover, or we will out o a job, .
    Come on xxxxxxxxx ,speak , xxxxxx xxxxxxxx theres plenty on facebook that could influence others attitudes.
    BASC come on speak out.

    Maybe the tags have all failed, maybe not as well, how come Cuckoos can be tracked to Africa by the BTO, Woodcock tracked to Russia by the GWCT, and Ospreys tagged and tracked to Africa by RSPB, this is a sad state for many people, gamekeepers constantly under attack, and people who want Harriers constantly being upset by their disappearance, it feels like some sort of war.

  5. 5 John L
    March 17, 2021 at 9:04 am

    I wish the illegal killing of birds of prey and the disappearance of Hen Harriers could generate as much public outrage and media interest as the recent incidents regarding women’s safety, or the issues about racism within our society.
    These are all serious matters, which need urgently addressing.
    What message would a vigil for the missing birds of prey send to the shooting industry?
    Those in the shooting industry who could be taking proper and effective action to rid themselves of the criminals who operate within the industry are basically doing nothing.
    By failing to take effective action they are complicit in the crimes being committed against birds of prey.
    Enough is enough.
    It’s time a very clear message was sent to all those who engage in game shooting- eradicate the criminality or your shooting activities will no longer be tolerated and banned.
    Maybe it’s time the mantra “safe skies” was added to “safe streets” ????

  6. 6 slithy2021
    March 17, 2021 at 9:52 am

    It’s no good just going after the gamekeepers, fine for a first occurrence on an estate, but if it happens again then the landowner should also be prosecuted, because quite obviously he either isn’t making it clear to his staff not to kill raptors, or he’s actively encouraging them to do so, so should be held equally liable.

    • 7 Jonathan Wallace
      March 17, 2021 at 3:24 pm

      Yes. A one off incident could be credibly attributed to a ‘rogue’ gamekeeper but repeated incidents on the same moors and a pattern of loss across the grouse shooting areas of the country mean that the connivance of land owners or shoot managers in the persecution is undeniable. It may be via nods and winks and nothing too explicitly stated but the gamekeepers doing this clearly feel encouraged to continue.

  7. 8 Secret Squirrel
    March 17, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    Systematic and systemic

  8. 9 Sally Blair
    April 9, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    This company Starscope appears to be an absolute scam, read the reviews, I have lost over £70 .I think you should be careful what you advertise on here and maybe warn people. Sally Blair

    [Ed: Sally, the adverts on this blog are not under my control. They are the price to be paid for having a free website. The specific adverts that each individual reader is exposed to are a reflection of each reader’s own browsing history (that’s what cookies do)]

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