Satellite-tagged Hen Harrier ‘Carroll’ is dead

With depressing predictability, another of the 2016 cohort of young hen harriers has been found dead.

‘Carroll’ hatched in a nest on Forestry Commission land in Northumberland – one of only three nests in England last year. Named after the late raptor worker Mick Carroll, this bird was satellite-tagged as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project.

Her satellite tag revealed that she didn’t wander very far during her short life, spending much of her time within the boundary of the Northumberland National Park. This map of her movements has been provided by the RSPB’s Hen Harrier Life Project:

On 26 January 2017 a local landowner found Carroll’s body and immediately reported it to the authorities. A post mortem revealed she had died with a parasitic infection, but it also revealed two shotgun pellets lodged under healed wounds, one in the leg and one in the throat. Thankfully, the RSPB is handling this case, not Natural England, so the x-ray showing the shotgun pellets in her body has been published. There’s no attempt at obfuscation, no suggestion Carroll was ‘likely to have been shot’, no attempted cover up – the message is clear –  at some point, Carroll had been shot, perhaps when she was in the supposed ‘safety’ of the Northumberland National Park. The RSPB knows very well that publishing this x-ray will not ‘affect the course of justice’ as Natural England has claimed for shot hen harrier Rowan, whose corpse was found in the ‘safety’ of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The RSPB knows it won’t affect the course of justice because they know justice won’t be served – nobody will be prosecuted for shooting this precious, threatened species.

Carroll’s name can now be added to the growing list of young hen harriers that have died or ‘disappeared’ since fledging in 2016:

Hen harrier Elwood – ‘disappeared’ in the Monadhliaths just a few weeks after fledging.

Hen harrier Brian – ‘disappeared’ in the Cairngorms National Park just a few weeks after fledging.

Hen harrier Donald – missing in northern France, presumed dead.

Hen harrier Hermione – found dead on Mull, believed to have died from natural causes.

Hen harrier Rowan – found dead in Yorkshire Dales National Park. He’d been shot.

Hen harrier Tarras – ‘disappeared’ in the Peak District National Park.

Hen harrier Beater – missing in Scottish Borders, presumed dead.

Hen harrier Bonny – ‘disappeared’ in the North Pennines, presumed dead.

Nine down, six to go (Aalin, DeeCee, Finn, Harriet, Wendy, Sorrel).

What an appalling situation. Does anybody (apart from the Hawk & Owl Trust) still believe that the grouse shooting industry has cleaned up its act?

UPDATE 07.30hrs: There’s a very good RSPB Skydancer blog about Carroll’s demise here

13 thoughts on “Satellite-tagged Hen Harrier ‘Carroll’ is dead”

  1. In some ways it seems pointless yet again to be saying how angry this incident makes me, and I feel lots of people must feel similarly. I’ve been studying breeding Hen Harriers on a Scottish SPA for almost twenty years now, and have built up a compilation of data and observations which I would like to publish. However, for reasons entirely unknown to myself and which they are unwilling to reveal, the Raptor Study Group to which I belong is not allowing me to use data from a second SPA in our area for comparative and control purposes. In particular, I have amassed a significant amount of evidence which counters the brood meddling proposal in the crazy Defra Action Plan. To demonstrate certain key points I require two separate samples of data from different sites. I honestly find it hard to believe that a Raptor Study Group, of which I was a founder member some forty years ago, is unwilling to allow their data to be used for genuine conservation reasons. This is despite assurances of confidentiality and no disclosures of nest site locations, as well as peer review of the published results. Sometimes I feel we need to get our own house in order. These internal difficulties have disrupted progress in some very innovative moorland management work which was proposed as a joint exercise between a Regional Park and the Raptor Study Group. Fortunately this seems quite a rare event, and most raptor workers are well aware of who are friends and who are the real enemies of the Hen Harrier. Most importantly we need to work cohesively to change the gamekeepers’ attitude towards these wonderful birds, so many of which don’t survive into their first breeding season. Thank goodness RPUK, Mark Avery et al are taking positive measures, and using science as it should be used, to reveal facts and truth.

    1. The operative words here are ‘Study’ and ‘science’. If an RSG will not allow its data to be used by one of its own members to inform science in a study such as Iain describes, why bother keeping it in the first place?

    2. “Most importantly we need to work cohesively to change the gamekeepers’ attitude towards these wonderful birds…”
      I’m afraid that changing the gamekeepers’ attitudes is not going to happen.
      Just stop believing that killing raptors will ever be a thing of the past whilst gamekeepers are employed.
      Gamekeepers could NEVER see the Hen Harrier as a wonderful bird.
      I imagine that most of them won’t even be aware of wildlife crime because to them it is normal practice to kill everything that could affect a gamebird.
      The ONLY way to stop the killing of raptors is to BAN the shooting of gamebirds; no keepers means no further killing.
      Despite all the efforts by raptor workers, conservationists, in fact everyone concerned with protecting raptors, all it boils down to is an ignorant keeper with a shotgun taking a shot when nobody is there to see it happen, and it probably happens every single day throughout the UK.
      And that is why this blog will continue to provide its viewers with news of persecuted raptors for as long as there are active gamekeepers.

      1. I suppose my comment quoted by Andy Holden could be considered naive. What I really meant was that we need to pull together to FORCE a change in the shooting industry’s attitude. I agree with Andy’s comments wholeheartedly.

  2. I am horrified and depressed to learn of yet another Hen Harrier death which, whilst through a parasitic infection, might have been facilitated by a weakened condition due to shotgun wounds. Thanks to the RSPB for coming out with a clean and swift conclusion regarding this bird’s death.
    I am even more dismayed and disheartened by Iain’s comments regarding the obstruction of data usage by a Raptor Study Group which is, to all intents and purposes, aware of the importance of moorland management in the protection of Hen Harriers and other raptors. Angry is an understatement.

  3. Also Chance (tagged June 2014) “disappeared” in May 2016? How many of the 2016 tagged HH fledglings are left now?

  4. Now, I wonder who the large landowners around there are ? Who organise shoots and have a load of game keepers. Now who springs first to mind?

    Yes, I am a Northumberland resident and worked for years in Alnwick.

    [Ed: Please take note that the person who discovered Carroll’s body and alerted the authorities was a member of an organised pheasant shoot: ]

  5. I presume I am right in thinking that a bird that had previously been shot would be far more likely to succumb to an infection than a fit and healthy individual. That would make the principal cause of death as being shot in my humble opinion.

  6. Yet again game keepers n land owners kill beautiful creatures, so the wealthy can kill more beautiful creatures, for lots of money, who do these idiots think they are, I know what they are, extremely sick sad individuals, who enjoy causing suffering, not just to birds n animals too, nasty mindless soul less greedy people,

  7. enter pheasant shoots into search – horrific to see that the country is smothered with these destructive activities. Like so many of the wildlife killing so called sports, they need ending. the greedy landowners are at fault and the places such as Hartpury College to train the game keepers I loath so very very much. the countryside groans with dullards with gun licences who go out at amy opportunity to shoot anything that moves. Except , that is, they have told me themselves they so politely leave the wonderful fox to be chased and rpped to pieces by the illegal actions of Hunts . Hunts also cover, and over lap in some cases, our countryside. Once you see and know all this the countryside ceases entirely to be beuatiful. Just a place of carnage for those with very few brain cells.

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