18
May
21

56 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]

Just 19 days ago, this list totalled 53 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 most recently reported three victims: one male hen harrier that vanished from its breeding attempt on the RSPB’s Geltsdale Reserve in 2020 and two more from the same site that yesterday the police reported as ‘missing in suspicious circumstances’ (see here).

The RSPB’s Geltsdale Reserve is located in close proximity to a large area managed for driven grouse shooting and breeding males have disappeared from here prior to 2020 and 2021. In fact, raptor persecution incidents in this area, both on and off the reserve, have been reported by the RSPB since at least the mid 1990s and have included the confirmed shooting of a number of hen harriers (i.e. their corpses were found), witnessed reports of attempted hen harrier shootings, including a gamekeeper from a neighbouring estate filmed with a gun stalking a hen harrier on the reserve, at least one confirmed poisoning of a hen harrier and a wide array of other victims including buzzards, peregrines and ravens either shot or poisoned.

The disgraceful national catalogue of illegally killed and ‘missing’ hen harriers will continue to grow – I know of at least one more on-going police investigation which has yet to be publicised.

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 at least 56 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)

day/month unknown: Unnamed male hen harrier breeding on RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria ‘disappears’ while away hunting (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)

12th April 2021: Hen harrier Yarrow ‘disappeared’ near Stockton, County Durham (here)

18 May 2021: Adult male hen harrier ‘disappears’ from its breeding attempt on RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria whilst away hunting (here)

18 May 2021: Another adult male hen harrier ‘disappears’ from its breeding attempt on RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria whilst away hunting (here)

To be continued……..


12 Responses to “56 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018”


  1. 1 Gerard
    May 19, 2021 at 5:34 am

    Are all these birds tagged and if so what percentage of the total number of tags fitted end up dissapearing? Also what percentage of the total population are fitted with tags? I am looking for a ball park figure that accounts for dwindling populations, especially in England.

  2. 2 steve macsweeney
    May 19, 2021 at 6:42 am

    Will the Green Party influence the future of the Scottish grouse moors now they are political partners with the SNP?

  3. 3 Paul V Irving
    May 19, 2021 at 7:54 am

    And so it goes on without penalty without condemnation from the grouse cabal ( zero tolerance of persecution my arse they never condemn individual events) The worst of it is they will say RSPB are poor at managing harrier nests and it will go on regardless, the next will be soon. Sickening truly sickening.

  4. 4 John L
    May 19, 2021 at 8:53 am

    Sickening.
    There has to be a solution to this.
    One possible way forward might be to tighten up considerably firearms legislation.
    The majority of grouse moors are on areas which are open access land under the CROW legislation. This effectively makes these places public places.
    It is already an offence under the Firearms Act to posses a loaded firearm in a public place, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.
    Those who manage the grouse moors will no doubt claim some form of “reasonable excuse” for being in possession of a firearm when out working.
    However firearms by their very nature are dangerous. It is illegal to posses a shotgun or Sect 1 firearm without a licence. There is a risk they can be stolen and fall into the wrong hands.
    Modern satellite devices are now so small they could easily be fitted into the stock of a gun.
    In the interests of public safety, it should not be unreasonable for those in possession of a firearm to also have to have the movements of that weapon monitored by a satellite tagging device- which would show the exact location of the firearm at any time when out in a public place.
    Data from this device could also be required to be kept for 6 months.
    Legislation could make it an absolute offence not to be in possession of a satellite tagging device fitted to a firearm, or failing to allow inspection of a such a device if required to do so by the police. Equally it could be made an absolute offence not to keep or produce data from these satellite tagging devices to the police when required to do so.
    This would effectively mean anyone out in a public place and in possession of a firearm would leave a trace of the movements of their weapon.
    It should also allow investigation of that firearms movements if the user was suspected to be involved in other criminal offences.
    It is worth noting that many haulage firms monitor and track their vehicles, and record data such as speed and fuel consumption.
    Most modern cars are also fitted with GPS technology and other data recoding devices which can be interrogated by the police during collision investigations.
    This is not deemed to be a breach of a drivers Human Rights.
    It could also be argued that such changes to firearms legislation would be in the interests of estates and land managers, as they would be able to know the location of any firearms on their estates or land. Such information could potentially negate any allegations made against employees about the misuse of firearms.
    If such a proposal or something similar became law, then it could potentially greatly assist the police when conducting enquiries into illegal wildlife persecution incidents, as it would help show which weapons were in the vicinity of such incidents.
    The current situation can not be allowed to continue, and one way or another a solution has to be found so that those responsible for wildlife crimes are brought to justice.
    At the moment there is very little control regarding who is wandering about the countryside in possession of firearms, and nothing to help the police when a firearm is used illegally to kill endangered species. This has to change.

  5. 5 Dougie
    May 19, 2021 at 9:37 am

    steve macsweeney wrote:-

    “Will the Green Party influence the future of the Scottish grouse moors now they are political partners with the SNP?”

    The Green Party were political partners with the SNP during the last parliament too.
    There were great advances in the war against the wildlife criminals then ……….. I don’t think !

    Holyrood will continue to fail to address the problem.

    Then again, perhaps the Holyrood mob see the problem to be all the people who want wildlife protected. They sure are puting up an Oscar winning performance of being on the side of the wildlife killers.

    • May 19, 2021 at 10:54 am

      Gamekeepers are known for their bullying, blustering and lying. We have seen this mirrored in the Scottish government but at long last this looks to have come to an end. The blockage may well have been pushed around the u-bend. Fingers crossed.


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