Hen harrier ‘Lad’ found dead on moor in Cairngorms National Park – suspected shot

Lad HHA young satellite tagged hen harrier named ‘Lad’ has been found dead on moorland in the Cairngorms National Park.

He fledged from a nest on an unnamed estate, also within the Park, in 2015, and was sat tagged as part of the RSPB’s Life+ Hen Harrier Project, where his movements were tracked until early September 2015, when he was found dead on moorland ‘near Newtonmore’. Full details can be read here.

The post-mortem results read as follows:

The skin was split open on the left side of the neck parallel with the jugular groove. There was haemorrhage in the subcutaneous tissues in this area and a horizontal split in the trachea. There was damage to three feathers of the right wing consisting of a single groove mark perpendicular to the shaft of each feather.”

It goes on:

Despite the failure to identify metallic fragments within the carcase the appearance of the damage to the wing feathers is consistent with damage caused by shooting. The injury to the neck could be explained by a shot gun pellet passing straight through the soft tissue of the neck. Both injuries could have brought the bird down and proved fatal.”

There’s lots of moorland ‘near Newtonmore’, and lots of it is intensively managed driven grouse moor, as can be seen in this photo taken in the area in July 2015 (photo by Andy Amphlett)

Burning Loch Cuaich 1 - Copy

The name of the estate where Lad’s corpse was discovered has not been given, but if you look at Andy Wightman’s excellent website Who Owns Scotland you’ll see a number of moorland estates that could all be described as being ‘near Newtonmore’. These include:

Pitmain Estate

Glen Banchor & Stone Estate

Cluny Estate

Drumochter & Ralia Estate

Etteridge, Phones & Cuiach Estate

Lynaberack Estate

So, was Lad, a young hen harrier just weeks out of the nest, shot dead on a driven grouse moor within the Cairngorms National Park? The post mortem report suggests he was, although it isn’t wholly conclusive and no doubt, no doubt at all, the grouse-shooting industry will pounce on this as ‘inconclusive evidence’. And if this was the first time it had ever happened to a hen harrier on a grouse moor, we might just give them the benefit of the doubt.

The thing is, as you all know, this isn’t a one-off. This hen harrier is the latest in a long, long miserable history of hen harrier persecution on driven grouse moors. To add further insult to injury, it happened inside the Cairngorms National Park, that so-called ‘jewel’ of Scotland.

In response, you might want to do the following:

  1. Sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting HERE
  2. Email Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod and ask her how the Government intends to respond to this latest crime. She may not be in post after the May election but no matter, if she isn’t, the next Minister will still have to reply. Be in no doubt, your emails to the Minister do have an impact. Emails to: ministerforenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
  3. Email Hamish Trench, Conservation Director of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, and ask him how the CNPA intends to act on this news. Emails to: hamishtrench@cairngorms.co.uk

UPDATE 23rd March 2016: Cairngorms National Park Authority responds here

26 thoughts on “Hen harrier ‘Lad’ found dead on moor in Cairngorms National Park – suspected shot”

  1. With no unsporting shooting until August and very little work to do on these moors you now get the gamekeepers going around mob handed blasting anything under the guise of predator control, paid for with tax payers money in the form of subsidies from the EU. it is nothing more than environmental hooliganism, we need to get these hooligans off the moors! the Cairngorms national park is fast turning into a national disgrace

    1. One of the extra ordinary facts of life that tell us much about the impotence of the nature conservation alliance is that CAP subsidies are not a requirement of the “Financial Register of Interests” of the House of Commons. I find it extra ordinary given a lifetime when reform of the CAP has been “top of the agenda for the likes of RSPB et al; that the first premise of reform of an interest, the definition of its political power and “benefits” by our representatives has not been achieved. The Charities with a membership of neat 5 million and a budget of perhaps 100 million plus is impotent before the Tories. I will rejoin RSPB, my mum has just bought me membership again for Christmas, but I wish to see the end of its charitable status; its impotent. I have raised this matter of the Register of Interests with Kerry McCarthy MP and hope she persues it.

  2. Yet more wildlife crime takes place in our National Park. ALL grouse moors within the park should be returned to a far more natural state ( as per Glen Feshie) , so as all wildlife can flourish in a natural environment. After all isn’t that the main purpose of national parks?

  3. There is no proof this bird was shot, it was more than likely killed by another bird of prey that would explain the damage even more so then being shot,

    Those who say gamekeepers do nothing apart from going round like thugs killing things, you are deluded, and have no idea of all the good work gamekeepers do how do I know this I’m a gamekeeper and I have never killed any protected animals and all the gamekeepers I know and speak to don’t either,

    Times have changed from Victorian times and gamekeepers act with in the law, with out gamekeepers you would not have any raptors in this country as the raptors rely on all the game we produce and with out shooting there wouldn’t be any food for these birds and the country would be Barron, look at rspb owned ground, no hares, no grouse, no ground nesting birds no predators expect crows and foxes, gamekeepers keep the countryside in balance and manage the land in a way that benefits a whole range of wildlife not just game but raptors and other birds alike, yet most of you can not get over your prejudices against shooting and have deluded veiws over what actually happens,

    You can hate me for what I do and what I stand for but, I’m right, and gamekeepers benefit the countryside how many hours of conservation work do you do how much money do you spend in the countryside, how many animals have you helped and made homes and food for, I can bet that one gamekeeper will do more for countryside in his life then all of you put together yet you chastise them,

    Now you want the truth speak to gamekeepers they will tell you how it’s is and not hide behind lies

    1. The expert staff at the SRUC laboratory have concluded that “the appearance of the damage to the wing feathers is consistent with damage caused by shooting”. They have NOT concluded that the damage is consistent with the scenario you paint and, unlike you, they have examined the corpse, not simply read a brief description of the damage. I’m sure that you’re right that many, even most, gamekeepers observe the law, but the reported incidences of trapping, poisoning etc., etc. on game estates (cf the Powys case) clearly demonstrates that there’s a continuing problem. It’s simply a fanciful exaggeration to suggest that “with out gamekeepers you would not have any raptors in this country”. As for the claim that ‘one gamekeeper will do more for countryside in his life then all of you put together”, I guess you wouldn’t be thinking of the likes of Allen Lambert (of Stody Estate infamy) …… to pretend that there isn’t a problem is part of the problem. And what lies are we all supposed to be hiding behind?

    2. There are still too many gamekeepers and estates that encourage the killing of any predators, protected or not. All under the guise of profit, greed and supreme control.
      If they are so few, why are there so many raptors found poisoned, trapped or shot. This is only the tip of the iceberg many corpses,I suspect, are never found having been removed, buried or destroyed by the thugs that kill them.
      I don’t think much has changed from Victorian ideals.
      To put it simply, if nature is left to manage itself the predators will reduce prey but when the prey gets hard to find they starve. The prey will then breed and increase rapidly. The predators, unlike man, will not exterminate a whole population of prey.
      But of course, if something eats a grouse or pheasant or partridge, it is the gamekeepers enemy.
      You “The Truth” may not kill protected predators but there are too many that do.

    3. The gamekeepers from Raeshaw Estate and Burnfoot estates were so busy they had time to go on the neighbouring estates of Corsehope and Wester Cringate and carry out pest controls there, resulting in all four estates being given general license restrictions, make your own minds up about that and I do plenty to help wildlife thank you without being paid for what I do and without pretending I do it purposely and not as a by product of what I’m paid to do which is to produce wildlife to be shot at by others

    4. Er, where do start with that one ‘The Truth’? No ground nesting birds on RSPB land. What? No hares? What? Raptors eat nothing but game. What? No predators but crows and foxes. What? And the absolute classic ‘gamekeepers act with in the law, with out gamekeepers you would not have any raptors in this country’. So no Buzzards, no Kestrels, no Sparrowhawks, no Hobbies, no Marsh Harriers etc?. I really hadn’t realised that it was gamekeepers that laid raptor eggs, please squeeze a few more out if you can TT. If I were you i’d get a campaign together, because, if you are right, there seem to be a lot miscarriages of justice happening involving gamekeepers in the courts. But (genuine) congratulations on not killing any protected species. I certainly am not going to tar all gamekeepers with the same brush, I certainly know a peasant shooting estate local to me with an impeccable record. However when it comes to grousemoor keepers, can anyone come up with a name for any they don’t think are criminals?

    5. The truth? That’s the funniest thing I have read in a while. In reply and with apologies to cheerful policemen everywhere….

      I know a fat old gamekeeper, he’s always on his beat
      Fat jolly red-faced man, he really is a treat
      He’s too kind for a keeper, he’s never known to frown
      And everybody says he is the happiest man in town.

      Go on …we all know the chorus.

      He laughs upon snare duty, he laughs upon his beat
      He laughs at everybody while he’s walking down the street
      He never can stop laughing, he says he never tried
      Well, once he did shoot a duck, and laughed until he cried

      He jolly face it wrinkled and then he shut his eyes
      He opened his great mouth it was a wondrous size
      He said I must kill things, but he didn’t know what for
      And then he started laughing until he cracked his jaw

      So if you chance to meet him, when walking round the town
      Just shake him by his fat old hand and give him half a crown
      His eyes will beam and sparkle, he’ll gurgle wth delight
      And he’ll start in laughing with all his blessed might.

    6. ‘ with out gamekeepers you would not have any raptors in this country’
      Strange then that people go to Mull to see birds of prey and yet there are no grouse estates.
      It must be because of all the predator control that happens in eastern and southern Scotland then?
      You live and learn.

    7. I’m not going to be as harsh as others, I acknowledge that for a lot of young keepers in particular this can be very frustrating because there are pockets of good keeper practices and some of the junior keepers who have come up through the colleges in the last few years are very conservation minded, so being tarred with the same brush hurts. However, you are the few good apples in a very rotten barrel. I will say, assuming you are one of these young keepers with good practice, to keep on doing that, to keep on with good practice and to advocate it strongly and confront those in your industry who do not adhere to that good practice because they are still in the majority and they are the ones ruining your image.

      Maybe even suggest keeping the moor and estate for the tourist money rather than shooting money, that way you can produce game primarily for raptors without having to worry about overstocking and surplus for the guns. You can even look at enriching the moor’s biodiversity with less burning and more tree planting in order to support pine marten, beaver, boar, lynx, and one day even wolf, too. But keep on pushing back against the poisoners, cullers, and nest burners in your industry and in those who are not directly in it but support the old Edwardian practices. Think about how to report those who let you down, but you must realise that your industry does have real problems in it and just getting angry with those who point it out won’t work.

      Also, general tip for internet use. If your user handle for the comments section contains a political point or is a direct message (like “The Truth”) then you have lost half the battle there and then. A proselytizing user name puts people’s back up right from the start because it seems like you are spoiling for a fight or just turning up to throw your weight around. I suggest something less direct instead, I got mine half from a book title and that there was a mirror on my desk way back when I first went online many, many years ago and it has stood me in good stead ever since (although I see current fashion is just your real name, I’m not a fan of that though). You could have used “Keeper of Good Practice” or something like that, and your post would have come across as less confrontational and more collaborative. Just a general suggestion there. Again, best of luck in your continuing work to change your industry for the better.

    8. ‘Those who say gamekeepers do nothing apart from going round like thugs killing things, you are deluded’
      Agreed, but i don’t know any such people, certainly not on this blog. It is a straw man fallacy.

      I doubt there is any commenter of this blog who would disagree that more enlightened game-keeping in the lowlands has allowed the spread of the Buzzard. If it applies anywhere, the ‘few rotten apples’ analogy might be appropriate there. Regarding the driven grouse moors, which is the subject of this blog post, the exact opposite must be the case. Two recent studies highlighted on RPS have shown that Hen Harriers have been virtually eradicated from eastern Scotland

      Are you sure you are watching your lead intake? As a countermeasure you could try using those little grey cells. You say ‘raptors rely on all the game we produce.’ This claim is nonsense and makes a mockery of your user-name but we can surely agree that gamekeepers on grouse moors do produce a surplus of game which is a significant prey item of Hen Harriers, Peregrines and Golden Eagles. So why are there no Hen Harriers breeding in eastern Scotland? This logic also holds true for Golden eagles and Peregrines.

      The funny thing is that the gamekeeper press agencies (i give you the benefit of the doubt that you aren’t a PR shill) think that scientists are as thick as they are although i admit the press lap it up. Scientists have facts that show that productivity of the raptors mentioned are high on driven grouse moors, in the rare cases where they succeed in breeding. You have also made this claim yourself in the above quote. So why aren’t these species flourishing where food is abundant?

      Research paper after research paper, too many to reference* but which are found on RPS, show that raptor persecution by gamekeepers is a limiting factor for raptors on driven grouse moors. Perhaps you could cite one source that backs up your claims that ‘gamekeepers act with in the law’.
      ‘The law’ seems to differ.

      * Although this is the latest.
      Environmental impacts of high-output driven shooting of Red Grouse
      ‘Pine Martens Martes martes and even domestic cats are regularly killed illegally (Harris & Yalden 2008, RSPB 2015). The impacts on raptors have received the most attention. For example,
      (1) illegal use of poisons to kill predators is associated with land actively managed for grouse shooting
      (Whitfield et al. 2003);
      (2) Hen Harriers are almost entirely absent from driven grouse moors across the UK, yet estimates
      based on habitat area indicated there was sufficient habitat to support almost 500 pairs on driven grouse moors (Redpath et al. 2010);
      (3) illegal killing of Golden Eagles Aquila chrysaetos and Red Kites Milvus milvus in Scotland, predominantly in areas managed for grouse shooting, has prevented populations achieving favourable condition (Whitfield et al. 2006, 2007, Smart et al. 2010);
      (4) breeding performance of Peregrines Falco peregrinus is lower on grouse moors than other habitats, with
      only one-third of pairs on grouse moor territories producing any young, even though clutch and brood sizes of successful nests do not differ between grouse moor and other habitats (Amar et al. 2012).’
      Read in full with references

  4. Stomach-churningly angry!!!
    Devastated that yet another wildlife crime has been committed and will, in all probability, go unsolved.
    I have emailed McLeod and Trench …… and will endeavour to do all I can to publicise the Ban DGS petition and the atrocities being committed by the so-called sporting fraternity …..

  5. Merlin writes re The Truth’s message : … “what I’m paid to do which is to produce wildlife to be shot at by others” – exactly right.

    And as Doug Malpus says above that, this is indeed a Victorian practice – surely we can consign such futile savagery to the unenlightened past.

  6. “The Truth”, the sad thing is I think you really believe this hilarious rant , we no longer live in Victorian times, we are literate and intelligent nowadays , we know fine what is going on ,we don’t swallow that crap anymore. Try and catch up!

  7. It’s a bad time for raptors and a bad month for the Cairngorms National Park. It’s a bad time to be an Environment Minister too!

  8. ‘Suspected shot’ a likely scenario for a long shot – an almost out of range shot, but good enough if you’re desperate to have a go at all costs! A fatal shot but probably not a drop dead on the spot shot, which would account for the body not being found and disposed of. So this is likely to be one of a minority that are shot and then found as opposed to bulk that never come to light! At least satellite tagging proves an expensive way of documenting more cases like this, but just how far would Lad have flown before succumbing?

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