Press release from Police Scotland, 20 December 2017:
Police Scotland and RSPB Scotland are issuing a joint appeal for information after a young hen harrier was discovered dead with unexplained injuries on an estate near Dunoon.
“Kathy”, a female bird, was satellite tagged as a chick on the Cowal Peninsula in August this year (2017) as part of the RSPB’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project.
After fledging in late August, Kathy remained in the vicinity of the nest she hatched in for the next month. RSPB Scotland staff monitoring her tracking device became concerned when data suggested she hadn’t moved on October 3.
A search was carried out on October 5 when Kathy’s body was discovered.
The post-mortem results indicated that the bird had unexplained injuries which may be the result of criminality.
PC Donald Mackay from Police Scotland, said: “I appeal for anyone who knows what happened to Kathy to contact Police Scotland so that we can establish how she may have died. Although this would be an isolated incident in my area, it is concerning that a raptor may have been deliberately killed in Argyll. Hen harriers are a particularly fragile bird of prey in terms of their numbers in the UK, and Police Scotland will work with its partners to thoroughly investigate this incident and robustly deal with any person who may have been involved.”
Will Hayward, Investigations Officer for RSPB Scotland, said: “We are advised that this hen harrier has died from unexplained injuries that may be the result of criminality. If criminal cause of death is confirmed, this incident will sadly be another statistic to add to a catalogue of hen harriers that meet their end in this way. Only through the use of satellite technology are we finally getting an accurate picture of the true scale of a human persecution problem that has been denied by some parties for decades. We look forward to hearing the results of the police investigation into this hen harrier death in due course.”
Hen harriers are one of the country’s most threatened birds of prey with the latest national survey recording only 460 breeding pairs in Scotland, a drop of 27% since 2004. Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 and ask to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer.
Two and a half months to make an appeal for information? Even allowing for the time it takes to conduct a post mortem and interview estate employees, that’s nowhere near good enough.
A photograph of Kathy has not been made available so here’s a photo of another dead satellite-tagged hen harrier (Caroll) found earlier this year. Photo by Northumberland Police.
UPDATE 24 December 2017: MSP urges closer cooperation to protect hen harriers – a futile request while illegal raptor killing continues (here).