Hen Harrier Rowan ‘likely to have been shot’ in Yorkshire Dales National Park

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.

35 thoughts on “Hen Harrier Rowan ‘likely to have been shot’ in Yorkshire Dales National Park”

  1. Sorry to say this, but if you read the statement, it’s just poorly written in typical “constabulareese”. Look at the media day in, day out and you’ll see this initial “holding statement” language being used. It fills the columns but it doesn’t take the truth forward very far. If there are grounds for doubt as to the cause of death, let’s understand them. Is anyone going to take this further, please? Or are we all going to wait for someone to ring “our Helen”?

  2. Somebody arriving innocent in awareness, of the evil that lies out there, waiting for any Bird of Prey or species of animal classed as vermin, must be shocked by the actions of obvious non=avian serial killers operating throughout the British moorlands. When I was such an innocent, as a mid-teenager and still at school, I would plunk off now and again, to visit the Campsie Fells just outside Glasgow. On one such trip, I found a dead falcon without a mark on it, lying dead. It was such a beautiful bird, and the memory has stuck with me, over all those sixty years. Later, I realised it must have been poisoned. The Sunday Post at that time, had published a couple of articles about gamekeepers leaving chicken eggs laced with poison, out in the open for Crows and other alleged predators on game birds. The outcry was that children and dogs could be affected by such cynical ploys to “manage” the countryside. On another trip, I crossed over the Campsies and found a great hollow in the hils with steep cliffs, and on their ledges, grew Thrift and other plants normally found on our coastal areas. Flying to and fro, were birds that let out screams, and I imagined them as Pterodactyls, as I had read about in the Professor Challenger Conan Doyle story, the Lost World. Later, I learned they could have been Peregrine Falcons.

    Thus began my association with the conservation of the wild natural world, and to be a supporter of animal welfare causes. Hitherto, my only view of wildlife was an occasional Red Admiral flying around the empty sites in wartime Govan, plus Seagulls flying around the ships arriving at the Prince’s Dock. Many conservation-minded people, I am sure, began their awakening to the delights of natural history, in and around the sites of desolation of old industrial and and knocked down housing sites.

    As an old man now, I am in despair over the situation wildlife and their habitats face world wide. The desecration of the world’s marine and terrestrial areas are causing immense concern among that part of the human race, which is humane and scientifically informed about the consequences of mankind’s destructive industrial policies and practices. Nearly every creature and plant is under some form of threat, and many are genetically extinct, being so few in number. Here in Britain, we have a lunatic mob who must obsessionally find a “sport” which has to involve the killing of wildlife, or specially reared birds and animals on moorlands, or in safari parks with canned shooting. Obviously, the enriching mankind has not brought a compassionate way of spending that money for many, but has given them the wherewithal to buy their way to slaughter or have slaughtered for them, the world’s most iconic animals. The recent talk down of Mark Avery’s petition in the Commons, by Tory MPs, is indicative of just who really runs this country, and that is a mob of inculcated to kill from the day they born personalties, who can influence the whole law enforcement structure of this country, and elsewhere in this benighted world. We can win the battle, if we capture the attention of the present and upcoming generations of young people, to inspire them to save the British and world environments, and the wonderful life forms that are now struggling to be left in peace. The sordid and oppressive characters who infest the cockpits of power have to be shot down by showing people the importance of saving the natural world, and thereby saving humanity from a horrible and nightmarish future. Let us get started and begin the Battle for Britain’s wildlife and countryside.

    1. Thank you, Mr Greer Hart Snr. for a sympathetically written post, giving grim witness to the happenings in our countryside. Controlled by so few for their own perverse fun.

      I too have witnessed in my youth the destruction of wild life at the hands of gamekeepers. I wondered over the hills of Bowland, Lancashire and saw only grouse, with pheasants in the lowlands. Little did I know about why the lines outside the gamekeepers lodges were decorated with birds and mammals including owls, kestrels and sparrowhawks. Or what madness created such hate. There they were dead and I wanted to see live birds and animals. The gamekeepers were never pleased to find me and a friend wondering around their fields and moors of death.

      After the very biased debate I am deeply saddened that so few can do so much damage to our countryside. The petition supported by 123,000 people greatly outnumber those that kill on our moors and fields. But the power of the few has over ruled us. And they call it democracy!

      Sometimes, I think revolution is the only way to eradicate the kind of power ruling us but as so often happens in revolution, another power takes over. We merely move from frying pan to fire.

      Sad world, where so few believe in nature and that it does not need meddling of any sort, criminal or bad management.


    2. A beautiful piece of writing. I remember in 1990 first hearing of your work with the Scottish Tree Trust which was inspiring and quite famous which is why your name stood out when I first encountered this site. Well done you.

  3. Maybe a piece of shot has passed straight through the bird causing an injury from which it later died, hence the absence of xrays and the initial uncertainty on the cause of death.

    I’d assume the bird didn’t fall where it was shot, otherwise it, and the tag, would have been disposed of.

    Either way I suppose it’s too much to hope that this might cause the H&OT to rethink their brood meddling plan.

  4. This is the same force and officers who were recently involved with the Mossdale estate gamekeepers and Garsdale residents complaints about wildlife and gun offences. The officers did nothing but bolster the estates view that they could continue to act in a way that totally disrespects human life and wildlife in the dale leaving residents claims totally dismissed and people feeling really angry and unsupported. Don’t hold your breath that this police force will achieve anything.

    1. I believe that Mossdale in YDNP is North Yorkshire Police whereas Ravenstonedale is Cumbria Police, with a very good W.C.Officer so we could ease up a little and await further details

      1. Mossdale spans the boundaries where both North Yorkshire and Cumbria police operate. I live in the area

        1. My point was that N.Yorkshire police seemed to make a mess of the Mossdale incident whereas this one is being handled by the Cumbria force so ought to have free reign to make their own mess of it, or otherwise, and we ought to let them have the freedom from criticism until they do.
          If you live in the area you may have considerable insight to share with all of us rather than us having to speculate.

  5. Another sorry statistic for the area I love , bastards. Sorry to say some of these lost ahrriers were not in YDNP but the Nidderdale AONB ( Betty for example) The AONB is bloody awful for raptors at least if not worse that the NP. The big estate we filmed on together is all in the AONB.

  6. Yes it all begs the question how will HOT react, they should do what RSPB did and walk from this sham of a n agreed process the grouse lobby say the right things but have absolutely never delivered and seem to have no intention in doing so.

  7. There has just been a report on BBC North West breakfast news about this. They stated that a hen harrier had been shot (not likely to have been!) in Ravonstonedale, Cumbria. A first for me to see this on the televised news

  8. I posted this link on Mark Avery’s site:


    Looks like a bit of a coincidence?

    Ravenstonedale is at the north side of the grassy Howgills (no grouse here). Nearest grouse moors about 10 miles north (north of the A66), around Cross Fell etc (upper Teesdale).

    But looks like pheasant rearing/shooting just where the Harrier was found.

  9. …and just like I posted on Mark’s blog there’s a grouse moor extremely close to Ravenstonedale, if you check it out on google maps – satellite! Make of itmwhat you will.

    1. Yes Mike you are quite right, Smardale does look like a grouse moor.

      Not sure where the pheasant pens are, company address in Kendal.

      But the important thing is a bird was killed here and we have been given scant details and we are unlikely to find the culprit.

      1. Bob – be careful. Rowan wasn’t necessarily “killed here”. The fact that he was found, along with his satellite tag, suggests that he wasn’t shot here, but was more likely shot elsewhere and this is where he managed to get to until he succumbed to his injuries. However, this is mere speculation. Without seeing his x-ray (and thus the position and extent of his injuries) it’s impossible to know how far he might have been able to fly. We’re not going to see his x-ray because Cumbria Police have decided it should be kept secret.

  10. Martin Harper (RSPB) has blogged today and asked for ideas re uplands management and the way forward. It is worth a few of us getting on there to make our case, before the usual suspects from the other camp take it over.

    1. I will gladly contribute from a personal perspective with the Mossdale estate backed up by Howard Jones (RSPB Senior Investigation) who attended the pole trapping incident.

  11. I see its on the 1st page,2nd section of the local paper,Cumberland and Westmorland Herald,tonight, says its likely to have been shot, theres nothing safe anywhere.

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