Satellite-tagged hen harrier Mick ‘disappears’ in Yorkshire Dales National Park

mickNatural England has today issued the following press statement:

North Yorkshire Police is appealing for information following the loss of a hen harrier in Upper Swaledale.

Mick, a young male, fledged in Northumberland last summer. He was fitted with a satellite tag in July by a hen harrier expert from Natural England. His tag stopped transmitting on 21 December 2016 in the Thwaite area of North Yorkshire. A search of the area has been carried out but no trace of the bird or equipment has been found.

Natural England reported Mick’s disappearance to North Yorkshire Police and is working closely with wildlife crime officers, local landowners, the Moorland Association and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

The loss of another juvenile hen harrier brings the total to five within four months across northern England – and is a serious blow to the small English hen harrier population. Interference with hen harriers is a criminal offence.

Rob Cooke, a Director at Natural England, said:

The disappearance of a hen harrier is deeply concerning to all who appreciate these rare and impressive birds. Any information that can shed light on what has happened to Mick will be gratefully received by North Yorkshire Police“.

David Butterworth, Chief Executive at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority said:

It’s incredibly disappointing that the Yorkshire Dales’ reputation as a wonderful place to visit is being damaged by incidents like this. We have pledged to provide whatever support we can to help the Police and Natural England find out what happened in this particular case“.

Anyone with any information which could help police with their enquiries should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Please quote reference number 12170014975 when passing information.



Thwaite is an interesting area, dominated by driven grouse moors (the dark brown areas with the patchwork of rectangular burnt heather strips on this map):


The Yorkshire Dales National Park and the neighbouring Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are well-known blackspots for hen harriers (and many other raptors). Hen harriers have not bred successfully in the Yorkshire Dales National Park since 2007. According to 2007-2014 hen harrier satellite data, published by Natural England in 2014, at least nine young sat tagged hen harriers (11 if we include Rowan & Mick) have ‘disappeared’ or been killed within the National Park / AONB area:

Female, tagged N England 26/6/07: last tag signal 5/10/07. Status: missing.

Female, tagged N England 16/7/09: last tag signal 27/9/09. Status: missing.

Male, tagged Bowland 29/6/09: last tag signal 17/8/09. Status: missing.

Female, tagged N England 29/6/10: last tag signal 25/11/10. Status: missing.

Female (Bowland Betty), tagged Bowland 22/6/11: found dead 5/7/12. Status: shot dead.

Female (Kristina), tagged N England 25/6/12: last tag signal 9/10/12. Status: missing.

Male (Thomas), tagged N England 4/9/12: last tag signal 4/9/12. Status: missing.

Male (Sid), tagged Langholm 21/9/14: last tag signal 21/9/14. Status: missing.

Female (Imogen), tagged N England 26/6/14: last tag signal 1/9/14. Status: missing.

Male (Rowan), tagged Langholm 2016: found dead 22/10/16. Status: shot dead.

Male (Mick), tagged Northumberland 2016: last tag signal 21/12/16. Status: missing.

Mick was a Natural England-tagged bird, so he doesn’t appear on the RSPB’s Hen Harrier Life Project website. He does, though, now appear on our ever-lengthening list of 2016-fledged hen harriers that have died and / or ‘disappeared’:

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.

Hen harrier Carroll – found dead in Northumberland, PM revealed a parasitic disease & two shotgun pellets.

Hen harrier Mick – ‘disappeared’ in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, presumed dead.

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

Mick’s last tag signal was received on 21 December 2016. So he ‘disappeared’ before Xmas and yet it’s taken Natural England / North Yorkshire Police almost seven weeks to issue this appeal for information. That’s pretty poor. If you’d prefer not to have to rely upon Government agencies releasing information way too late to help, you might want to consider donating to BAWC’s new raptor satellite-tagging project, where information about tagged birds will be publicised with greater speed and accuracy, and not delayed by wasting time ‘working closely’ with the likes of the Moorland Association. Please visit BAWC’s crowdfunding/donations page HERE

19 thoughts on “Satellite-tagged hen harrier Mick ‘disappears’ in Yorkshire Dales National Park”

  1. Seems to me that the Yorkshire Moors are rapidly beginning to match the Angus Glens and Cairngorm National Park as a prime raptor black hole area. Sickening. I hope Mr Merricks & Co. take note of the increase – not decrease – in Hen Harrier (and Red Kite) persecution and call a halt to their crazy project.

  2. These recent and near recent events are sickening. You really do feel that so many authorities appear complicit in the illegal killing of our raptors. The whole scenario is begging for a different approach that excludes those organisations/departments appearing to ignore (the kindest word I can think of) this tragic and continuing illegal activity.
    Your work at RPUK is amazing and a great source of reference. Thank you for all your efforts.

  3. Hi, I follow your reports so am dismayed at all the reports of persecution.
    Have been vegetarian over 40 years but brought up in a home with a gun room as a child- need more kids raised realising killing animals( for meat) not necessary for life.
    Am writing as yesterday went for a walk to St Ninians Cave nr Whithorn, Galloway, as on holiday.Walked down long footpath for about a mile as only access to the beach. Just as we headed to the signposted cave, there was another little small rocky opening in a chance in rock face.i clambered over rocks to get there and there was a large bird body looked very big for a seagull, the head was out of sight, just saw wings and body, but I thought at time it was perhaps a buzzard.looking at the colours and markings of the hen harrier it could have been one.sorry my identification skills not good.
    I didn’t examine body – looked at it from 4 ft away
    Sorry I don’t feel I.could go back to re examine, and a remote spot
    Best wishes
    Caroline Mcmanus

  4. Firstly, how easy would it be for some brain dead idiot / idiots to track the movements of tagged Raptors.
    Secondly, if the idiots can do it with ease , why are the poor birds being tagged ?
    I is my opinion that these are not random killings, but organised by a small group of sxxt bags who are assisting
    the ” management ” of the UK’s independent estates to get rid of Raptors from ” their ” land.
    I recall a time when a person handed over a Foxes tail to a farmer or land owner that person was rewarded .
    I am sure the same thing is happening with Raptors, either by presenting the tag or showing a picture taken
    on a smart phone( the tag then destroyed and the picture deleted ) And am sure some of these idiots keep
    ” trophies ” of their disgusting exploits.
    I feel for all the decent people who are trying to put an end to criminal activities of the sxxts who are getting away with illegally killing wildlife on ” their land ” Yeh they may own the land, they don’t own the Raptors,mammals etc
    that have the misfortune to stray onto their land so they have no Gxd damn right to kill them.

  5. As we head for a near total wipeout of tagged harriers, get ready for the shooting “industry” spin. I predict that they will turn this on its head and say “look, so many people dont want these birds on their land and the police cant catch the killers, so its pointless having harriers – trap any surviving birds and move them”.

    This is a nationwide conspiracy and needs attacked as such…

  6. That is definitely the sort of logic we can expect, Dave. Rob Yorke on Martin Harpers blog is arguing that only co-operation can work – which the RSPB tried by signing up to the Defra Hen Harrier plan. It takes two to tango, Rob, and grouse shooting has made its position clear by preventing even one pair of Harriers to nest on a Grouse moor in England in 2016, and now running through the few that were fledged from legally managed land with a ruthless efficiency. Grouse shooting is making its own case – with an ever extending line of crosses marking the illegal deaths of Harriers leading towards the ‘sports’ inevitable demise. Whatever the disinformation shooting extremists are trying to muddy the waters with, the issues here are quite simple: Harriers are being killed to protect grouse for shooting, and if there was no grouse shooting the problem would disappear instantly.

  7. same old bullshit from the apologists taking home their wage packets whilst turning a blind eye to the organised Crime taking place in the national parks they are responsible for

  8. Have Licences been secured from NE to fit any crowd funded tags on to Hen Harriers? Who will fit the tags if not RSPB/NE?

  9. It certainly seems that raptor persecution has intensified over the past decade or two. This is an unfortunate outcome of greater pressure being put upon the gamekeeper tribe and their employers to get their house in order. It’s a two-pronged approach – they pretend to care about harriers publicly, and condemn “the few idiots” who destroy them, but at the same time carry out a major offensive to wipe out the species from as many grouse moors as possible. Unfortunately Defra and Natural England find themselves drawn into this strategy, to an extent that arouses suspicion that they may even be complicit. Recent FOI requests have certainly produced some rather cosy sounding discussions going on between the regulators and the criminals. The rise and growth of the Countryside Alliance, largely due to the fox hunting ban [sic], has undoubtedly fueled the backlash. Basically the “anti-townie” brigade is taking out its anger on the wildlife, because they might get into a bit of trouble if they started shooting conservationists and those humans they openly despise and like to refer to as “tree-huggers.”

    In my area I make careful observations of all birds and a range of other wildlife, although my main mission right now is to do whatever I can to help end raptor persecution. In the course of my wildlife watching however, I have noticed an enormous change in attitude towards any species that aggressive country types see as the remotest of threats. Nothing is off the agenda. The usual suspects like foxes are targeted more than I can remember in my lifetime (how many times have you been told “the RSPB kills foxes”), and due to my interest in corvids and their breeding status I have recorded a massive decline in the local breeding population of Carrion Crows. Even rookeries have been attacked by farmers and hired guns who shoot the nests while they contain young, and the number and size of rookeries is rapidly diminishing. It is noticeable that many of the perpetrators are, perhaps ironically, “towny” thugs from nearby residential schemes encouraged to shoot by local farmers.

    People like Dave Dick, who formerly worked for RSPB as their Scottish Investigations Officer, and myself who worked in a rural occupation, are only too aware of the mindset and mind games played by the country sect (I won’t use the alternative abbreviation which might offend). It is difficult to convince some people who keep their distance as to the levels of depravity and questionable ethics to which many hunting and shooting people stoop. There is just no point in “working together” as suggested by Government agencies and others, because the shooting set are too articulate in the art of lies and deception. The Defra plan is an obvious ploy to implement harsh control of the harrier population under the utterly dishonest guise of “saving” the birds. It is fundamentally flawed and overflowing with inconsistencies and scientific falsehoods. To be honest I sometimes feel that even RPUK is not presenting the arguments against as fully as they might (maybe my honesty is too blunt), but the RSPB verges on the pale, seeming to shamelessly avoid controversy as much as possible (their staff are urged by HR to be “non-confrontational”). We need to do something to shake off the widespread apathy, by conservationists and other caring members of the public, who feel hapless in opposing the powerful game shooting lobby. Only the death of grouse shooting will lead to the demise of harrier killing.

    1. ‘It certainly seems that raptor persecution has intensified over the past decade or two’
      What evidence do you have for that? Surely it is just that tagging is exposing what was before hidden.
      The RSPB crime reports doesn’t show an increase, in fact the long term reports showed quite a large decline a couple of decades ago (sorry haven’t got time to be more precise) which has since plateaued out. It is that decline a long time ago which the grousers keep repeating endlessly.
      The recent report shows a year on year slight decline in poisoning. I know that the detected numbers are not enough to show a clear trend especially when the police are withholding some crimes but it does seem like a real decline. I want a real zero tolerance approach because as the Red Kite and Brecon Beacons massacres show, even one crime can be catastrophic. It is only matter of time before a child is killed.
      It is very possible that the criminals are getting more careful, they are certainly clever at killing. Others have pointed out the use of night vision equipment.

      I had a hilarious conversation on this subject with Andrew Gilruth (of many hats) a couple of years ago. I wrote about it at the time but for those with as bad a memory as me i will repeat it.
      There may have been an insignificant drop in reported crime that year so he was claiming it as a great success story, as they do every year. I said that it was only by studying populations that a true picture could be seen. He replied that that wasn’t the case as there were other factors which could be effecting population levels. That is the standard argument of all pseudo-sceptics and conspirational theorists, as if scientists studying that particular field haven’t thought of that. Of course there are numerous other factors effecting Hen Harriers just funny that the declines are strongly associated with driven grouse moors! A walking advert for the Dunning-Krugger effect.
      But it gets better. The example that Gilruth gave for ‘other factors’ was an obscure paper on the effect of sheep on Hen Harriers on Mull (you would have to write to SNH to get a copy). His example was a gem. Sheep, as would be expected, have a negative effect on Hen Harriers but Mull has a very healthy population of Hen Harriers and the island is almost entirely managed for sheep and forestry. An own goal you would think but Gilruth couldn’t see it so hopefully he keeps telling the same joke again and again.

      But sorry i have to disagree with your criticism of RPUK. They are doing their absolute utmost! They are true heroes.

      1. Oh and forgot to add the obvious.
        Even though sheep have an adverse effect on Hen Harriers:
        Mull with high numbers of sheep has high number of Hen Harriers.
        Driven Grouse Moors have very low sheep numbers and no Hen Harriers.
        Thank Gilruth for pointing out that persecution outweighs sheep manyfold.

  10. The area in question is well known locally as being bereft of raptors and owls. The grouse shooting around the area is controlled by a massive Estate owned by one of the richest men in the world (in the top 10 at one stage apparently) with celebs, MP’s and royalty frequent visitors in the season.
    Don’t expect anything to come of this.

  11. The concept of a “National Park” in the UK is rapidly becoming a joke when it comes to the activities of the criminal shooting fraternity. What other country would tolerate this carry on in what is mean’t to be areas set-aside for nature??

    1. National Parks are still all privately owned land yes they have criteria for nature, but not set aside for it and peoples enjoyment but Parks have almost no control over things like grouse shooting. much of their work is done through planning consents and the like. A total weakness in the UK is you do not need planning or any other consent to use land to shoot “game” or anything else for that matter.

  12. Still think the plight of the harrier needs much more publicity- Joe Public just doesn’t care enough and so the nasty brigade continue to hold forth in the. Uplands…

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