Hawk & Owl Trust still refusing to admit Hen Harrier Rowan was shot

This is hilarious.

In the latest edition of the Hawk & Owl Trust’s members magazine (Peregrine, No 106, Spring/Summer 2017) there’s an article entitled ‘The Hen Harrier – A Controversial Bird‘.

There’s a bit about their 2016 satellite-tagged hen harrier, Rowan:

“Three months after being tagged, Rowan’s satellite data indicated that something was awry. Stephen Murphy, Natural England’s authorised investigator, headed out to ascertain what was wrong. Rowan was dead and in circumstances that justified an autopsy. The findings were passed on to the police. The Hawk & Owl Trust has refrained from any further comment for fear of prejudicing the ongoing investigation”.

What nonsense.

As you’ll recall, Rowan was satellite-tagged by the Hawk & Owl Trust / Natural England at Langholm in 2016. His corpse was discovered, in suspicious circumstances, in Cumbria /Yorkshire Dales National Park in October 2016, shortly before the Westminster debate on banning driven grouse shooting.

press release issued by Cumbria Police (after consultation with Natural England and possibly the Hawk & Owl Trust) stated he was ‘likely to have been shot‘. We questioned that phrasing and a series of FoIs revealed that Cumbria Police had changed their statement from ‘was shot‘ to ‘was likely to have been shot‘. Why did they introduce an element of doubt? Was this a political move?

We asked Cumbria Police and Natural England to publish the post mortem report and the x-ray of Rowan’s corpse – they refused, saying it ‘might affect the course of justice‘. This made us even more suspicious as police forces routinely publish x-rays of shot birds as part of their appeals for information. By not publishing Rowan’s x-ray, it was almost as though they had something to hide.

Then on 3 February 2017, the RSPB published an image of Rowan’s x-ray on their blog. The image was clear: Rowan had suffered gun shot injuries to the leg and metal shot fragments were visible at the fracture site.

Later that day, the Hawk & Owl Trust issued a statement saying ‘the initial post mortem results were not wholly conclusive and further metallurgical tests were required‘.

We asked the Hawk & Owl Trust, several times, who had decided the post mortem results were inconclusive, who had decided that further metallurgical tests were required, had those tests been done, and if so, what were the findings?

The Hawk & Owl Trust did not respond.

So we submitted an FoI to Natural England, who confirmed that further metallurgical tests were not being undertaken.

Meanwhile, in the March edition of the RSPB’s Legal Eagle newsletter, it was stated that ‘the Zoological Society of London post mortem examination, including a radiograph of its fractured left leg, showed the bird’s injuries were entirely consistent with it having been shot‘.

You got that, Hawk & Owl Trust? Rowan was shot and this has been well publicised. This information will in no way ‘prejudice the ongoing investigation‘ because the investigation into this shot raptor, just like pretty much every other investigation in to a shot raptor, is going nowhere, thanks to a wall of silence from the grouse-shooting industry and organisations like the Hawk & Owl Trust propping up that industry with unwarranted encouragement.

28 thoughts on “Hawk & Owl Trust still refusing to admit Hen Harrier Rowan was shot”

  1. Its quite clear that Rowan, like a number of other recovered dead raptors, was shot. I’m not sure why HOT have taken the position it has as it helps nobody, indeed it damages what little credibility that they might have left.
    Also it totally galls me to constantly here (or read) that the Hen Harrier is a controversial bird, it isn’t controversial at all! What is undoubtedly controversial is the treatment it receives at the hands of wildlife criminals, most, if not all of whom appear to be associated with driven grouse shooting and mealy mouthed statements from HOT do not help.

  2. Why have the HOT chosen to adopt this stance it appears contradictory to their proposed aims? Any answers most welcome

    1. I reckon there is huge ego investment by Merricks. He obviously thinks it will work. He is of the landowner class and that appears to come with a large dose of denial. Redpath is very keen on conflict resolution which explains his involvement even though Hen Harrier persecution has about as much in common with conflict as badger bating. No one has yet explained how introducing Hen Harriers to the lowlands and brood persecuting Hen Harriers in the uplands is going to stop the killing of Golden Eagles, Red Kites, Buzzards etc.on driven grouse moors
      So none of it makes any sense.

  3. It’s clear to all but the stupid or blind that something is clearly amiss with the HOT. One has to ask why they are taking such a stance and how do they benefit from it. This would lead to further questions regarding their management and any links they may have with the shooting industry.

    We’ve already seen wildlife trusts infiltrated at the highest level by pro-hunt types (check out Kent WT and Mike Bax) perhaps the same is happening with the HOT.

    1. Infiltration?? Yes, I believe it has happened with HOT already. Amongst the HOT governance are the following.
      Chair: Philip Merricks – President Kent CLA
      Hon Treasurer: David Missen – Commercial farmer
      Henry Shaw – Chairman CLA Bucks
      Henry Robinson – ex-President CLA – Farmer
      Vice President:- Col. Robin Rees-Webbe, ex- Director, CLA Game Fair
      Mark Thomas-Foster, ex-Chairman (1995-99) of CLA. BSc. Agric. Owns 2 large farms.

  4. I guess it is predictable than when you jump into bed with criminals and liars one group has to adjust to fit with other. We can see quite clearly which way this relationship is working, so sorry to see HOT degenerate into apologists for the criminal element of the shooting fraternity.
    We are no nearer to seeing a reduction in raptor persecution than we have been since the current intensification began around 2000. The criminals supported by the shooting organisations (through their denials, muddying of the water and flat out lies) will cause their own demise and it can’t come quickly enough.

    1. When one of the participants like the Hawk and Owl Trust are evasive and clearly are allowing themselves to be influenced to downplay or neutralise the efforts of others who simply want to get to the facts, there is a problem. Could there be a conflict of interest or just conflict here ?

  5. the change of direction from the HOT appeared to come with the change in CE. In my opinion the recent pandering to the shooting industry can only be one of two things. Infiltration and/or utter incompetence and naivety. a friend of mine who was a member showed me the HOT magazine Hen Harrier article a few months back and asked if he was getting the wrong end of the stick as he couldnt believe what garbage he was reading. he has since cancelled his membership. The HOT only have themselves to blame, they had a chance to step up but now have shot their bolt and have lost all credibility as a conservation organisation. I could see this pisspot charity disappearing into oblivion if it continues to support wildlife criminals. Hawks and owls certainly cant trust this lot. Im waiting for Botham to go for CE next time there is a shake up

  6. any one with half a brain cell can see there was never a need for further tests. An x-ray showing a fracture and shot gun pellet embedded in there is pretty much all that is needed to arrive at a cause of death. Im waiting for some halfwit from the tweed brigade to claim chris packham shot it to discredit the law abiding gamekeepers

  7. Not good is it? Their website doesn’t inspire confidence either. I just had a look at what they say about the Hen Harrier. It includes this; “The Hen Harrier has been relentlessly persecuted ever since and in 2012 just one pair attempted to breed in the whole of the UK.” What??? My copy of the Orkney Bird Report for 2012 tells me that there were 103 occupied sites that year and 37 successful nests. I’m fairly sure I live in the UK…

  8. It is sad as the HOT were ok (ish!) at one time. We can only vote with our funds and support, but the worry then is that becomes the plan of the shooters to try and gain influence by infiltrating.Hopefully, if enough of the members desert I guess eventually they will not survive.

  9. How can anyone seriously suggest the Hawk & Owl Trust is in danger of losing its credibility? What credibility?

    1. Well said, John! This is the underlying problem here. With ‘allies’ like the Hawk & Owl ‘Trust’, who needs enemies?

  10. I believe that the primary problem in HOT has been previously well set out in RPUK blogs. It is for the members to decide whether to continue under the present regime or get rid. Another option is to vote with their wallets.

    1. But therein lies the rub – the more right-thinking people leave, the more the HOT is left in the hands of those who pander to the shooters. It needs a concerted move to either resign, or alternatively to stay in and vote against the current regime. Doing a little bit of both is ineffectual. And I’m not sure which is the better option!

  11. HOT thinking…

    1.There is a litany of evidence linking grouse moor managers to the ONGOING persecution of harriers, but the moorland managers deny this…. therefore we must trust the good word of the moorland managers.

    2. There are bits of shot in the bloody x-ray… that’s a bit dubious/ inconclusive.

    HOT…there’s your credibility gap.

  12. Carry on with the good work.
    How is it the grouse murderers can burn groundnesting bird habitat inside the nesting season. Surely the law should prevent this.

    1. Actually, there is a heather burning season but even within that period they are supposed to ensure that they do not disturb birds or nests or protected plants or protected animals. There are a range of crimes under the Wildlife and Countryside Act that, in theory, can be committed.


      Personally it always amazes me that they claim to create wildlife havens yet, strangely, the presence of these protected plants, animals and birds is always absent when they need to burn the moors!

      1. The absence of many plants and animals on grouse moors is largely due to burning in the first place, along with drainage of blanket bog, swamp, and in many cases overgrazing by sheep. We keep hearing about flooding issues, carbon release and various other environmental impacts of grouse moor management, but we rarely hear what plants and animals have been lost. The problem being that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, but on grouse shooting moors most of it was destroyed in the days before biological recording was commonplace.

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