The publication of the hen harrier satellite tag paper on Tuesday (here) that provided compelling evidence to highlight, yet again, the link between grouse moors and the illegal killing of hen harriers, has resulted in a flurry of responses from various individuals and organisations.
We’ve be looking at these responses in turn.
So far we’ve discussed the responses of Supt Nick Lyall (Chair, RPPDG) (here), BASC (here), Dr Therese Coffey (DEFRA Wildlife Minister) (here), Northern England Raptor Forum (here) and the Moorland Association (here).
This time we’re examining the response of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), a supposedly ‘independent’ charity that seems to attract a good deal of funding from, er, the grouse shooting industry.
GWCT posted a statement on its website in response to the devastating findings of the hen harrier satellite tag paper. Here it is:
You’ll notice that this GWCT response carefully avoids mentioning the headline figures from the paper – hen harriers are ten times more likely to be killed on grouse moors than any other habitat, and at least 72% of the hen harriers tagged by Natural England between 2006 – 2017 have either been confirmed to have been illegally killed on grouse moors or are highly likely to have been killed on grouse moors, with the researchers saying they can find no alternative, plausible, explanation.
We’re then told by GWCT that the illegal killing of hen harriers on grouse moors is “a diminishing problem” based on last year’s breeding results. Let’s just remind ourselves of those 2018 breeding results – only nine successful nests in England (where there is suitable habitat to support over 300 nests) and not one of those nine nests was situated on a privately-owned grouse moor (see here).
And what happened to the hen harrier chicks that did manage to fledge in 2018? A lot of them ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on, er, grouse moors:
The final paragraph of GWCT’s statement implies that habitat condition, weather, food supply and disturbance may explain the pattern of hen harriers deaths and disappearances on grouse moors. You’ll note that criminal gamekeepers armed with shotguns and illegal traps are not mentioned.
There was a time, long ago, when the GWCT was a respected, credible, science-based organisation. What happened?