Yesterday we blogged that a young satellite-tagged hen harrier called ‘River’ had been found dead on a grouse moor on the Swinton Estate in Yorkshire with two pieces of shot in her body (see here).
Surprisingly, the grouse moor owner’s lobby group the Moorland Association has made a statement (more often than not any raptor persecution crimes are simply ignored by this group). Perhaps, with the newly reformed Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), the Moorland Association is feeling under pressure to respond?
However, reading the Moorland Association’s statement is akin to watching a contortionist and wondering how the hell they got themselves in to such a twisted position.
The first we saw of the Moorland Association’s contortion was this, on Twitter, posted by the Moorland Association’s Director, Amanda Anderson, talking about the ‘recent incident in Yorkshire’:
‘The recent incident in Yorkshire’? Good grief. Do you mean ‘the recent illegal shooting of a hen harrier found dead on a Yorkshire grouse moor’, Amanda?
Then we read the actual statement:
Read this statement closely. You will not find the words ‘illegally shot hen harrier’ anywhere. Even the two pieces of lead shot in the bird’s body (as revealed by an x-ray) have been transformed in to “two metallic objects”!
How on earth do you expect an appeal for information about an illegally shot hen harrier to be seen as credible without actually saying it’s been illegally shot?!
There’s also a fascinating claim, attributed to North Yorkshire Police, that the estate has been informed by the police ‘that they are taking the matter no further due to lack of evidence and stressed that there was no suspicion of any wrongdoing by the Swinton Estate or its staff’.
Is that an actual statement from North Yorkshire Police, or is it an interpretation by Swinton Estate and/or the Moorland Association? Of course there’s going to be suspicion – how can there possibly not be when an illegally shot hen harrier has been found on the estate?! That doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone at Swinton Estate was responsible for this crime, of course – there is simply no evidence to identify ANYONE as the culprit, especially when we don’t even know where or when the bird was shot – but to say ‘there was no suspicion of any wrongdoing’ seems to be stretching credulity a little bit too far.
It would be useful to see the x-ray of the dead hen harrier. We’ve been told it showed up two pieces of lead shot but no further detail than that. Had the lead shot smashed the harrier’s wing bones, rendering it unable to fly, then it might suggest the bird was indeed shot close to where its corpse was found. However, had the lead shot simply nicked, say, a leg bone, without breaking or fracturing it, then it would be supportive evidence to a theory that the harrier may have been shot elsewhere and was able to fly several miles before collapsing on this moor. North Yorkshire Police has not published the x-ray as far as we’re aware.
We’re also interested in the claim that the hen harrier’s body was “too decomposed to perform a post mortem“. Really? And who made that decision? Was it a pathologist? If you look at the photograph of the harrier’s body being collected from the moor by North Yorkshire Police, it looks to be in a condition that would permit a post mortem.
And if a post mortem wasn’t carried out, under what circumstances did North Yorkshire Police ‘later retrieve’ one of the two pieces of shot, as mentioned in yesterday’s blog?
There’s a lot about this crime and the subsequent investigation that just doesn’t add up. The situation isn’t helped by the PR contortions of the Moorland Association, whose appalling track record in tackling illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors renders them an organisation with zero integrity or credibility, in our opinion.
Let’s hope Police Superintendent Nick Lyall can use his position as Chair of the RPPDG to investigate the details of this case and report, as much as he is able, to what is fast becoming a disenchanted and angry public.