3rd brood meddled hen harrier ‘disappears’ in suspicious circumstances

Following the news that two of this year’s five brood meddled hen harriers had ‘vanished’ on grouse moors in the north of England in September 2019 (one in County Durham here and one in the Yorkshire Dales National Park here), we now learn that a third harrier has disappeared, also in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

[Hen harrier photo by Laurie Campbell]

Here’s the press release from North Yorkshire Police, published today:

Second satellite-tagged hen harrier goes missing in North Yorkshire

Police appealing for information about whereabouts of hen harrier

North Yorkshire Police is appealing for information after another satellite-tagged hen harrier has gone missing in the region just weeks after another one also stopped transmitting a signal.

The hen harrier is a young female bird tagged at the release site in the Yorkshire Dales on 30 July 2019 as part of the hen harrier brood management scheme. The bird has not been named and is known to the Natural England monitoring team as 183703.

It is known from satellite tag data that the bird had the bird stayed in the Hawes area since her release, with one excursion to the Sedbergh area on 16 September, then south to the West Pennine Moors near Horwich 17-19 September before returning to land near Semerwater where she had remained for at least a fortnight.

The last transmission from the bird’s satellite tag was received on the 29 September on Thornton Rust moor, 3.37km east of Semerwater, but the bird could have flown on for some distance since the last transmission.

Since then no further transmissions have been received from the tag. Natural England field staff have carried out checks with a hand-held scanner and monitored the area with no findings and North Yorkshire Police have also searched the area with colleagues from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Ranger team, as well as making extensive local enquiries.

The bird is a juvenile female, brown in colour and ringed with the BTO ring number FJ48404.

This appeal for information sadly follows the disappearance of another satellite-tagged hen harrier in the area, this one a juvenile male known as 183704 who was last known to be in the area of Askrigg Common on 19 September.

At this time North Yorkshire Police are keen to locate both birds safe and well, but if found deceased the birds can be subject to post mortem to establish if the cause of death was from natural causes or if criminal activity was involved.

If you find the bird or have any information please contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 and quote reference number 12190186540.


Here is an RPUK map showing the approximate last known locations of the three brood meddled satellite-tagged hen harriers that have ‘disappeared’ this year: 1 = the HH that vanished on 9th September; 2 = the HH that vanished on 19th September; 3 = the HH that vanished on 29th September:

Here is an RPUK map showing the approximate last known locations of the two brood meddled hen harriers that have disappeared on moors in the Yorkshire Dales National Park:

So within weeks of those five brood meddled hen harriers being released back in to the uplands of northern England, three of them (60%) have disappeared without a trace.

This isn’t unusual nor is it unexpected – we know from authoritative research published earlier this year that 72% of young satellite-tagged hen harriers will disappear in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors in northern England, probably having been killed illegally.

What this is, though, is a bloody joke. This brood meddling ‘trial’, sanctioned by DEFRA and carried out by Natural England, in cahoots with the very industry responsible for the species’ catastrophic decline in England, is supposed to test whether those people responsible for killing hen harriers illegally would stop if the chicks were brood meddled (removed from the grouse moor in June at the critical grouse-rearing stage and then returned to the wild in August). We all knew this wouldn’t work because we know that young hen harriers are killed routinely during the grouse shooting season, and especially in September and October and yet still DEFRA, Natural England and their grouse shooting mates pressed ahead.

No doubt we’ll now have to endure more bollocks from Natural England, DEFRA, the Moorland Association and all the rest of the persecution deniers, pretending that nothing’s going on, everything’s fine and isn’t the grouse shooting industry doing great things for conservation.

What we will be doing is asking Natural England, again, what its exit strategy is for the hen harrier brood meddling trial and when will it implement it? We’ve asked several times, including at direct face to face meetings with senior staff, most recently last week. We were promised an answer – we haven’t had it yet.

Well done and thank you, North Yorkshire Police, for publishing a relatively swift appeal for information and for including enough detail to make it useful. And also for not including any grouse shooting propaganda in the appeal this time, in contrast to a previous appeal for info.

34 thoughts on “3rd brood meddled hen harrier ‘disappears’ in suspicious circumstances”

  1. 3 own goals, can they make it 5!

    I don’t think Wild Justice will have much to worry about over brood meddling in the future. Clearly the idea will be dropped like a hot coal after this.

  2. The petition to ban this evil ‘sport’ and make more meddling unnecessary is standing at 111022. Added to the ‘bollocks’ you so rightly say they will come out with over this further disappearance, they will now be able to say that interest is waning for a ban and point to the lower figure than last time. Of course, not mentioning the fact that it still has much time to run.
    Is it not time for a further big push on this petition to get beyond the last total?( if I knew how to include a link myself I would do so). Only another 17000 needed.

  3. A few weeks ago I was walking in Yorkshire following a country lane which led through a small forest unexpectedly opening onto a hill side with a grouse moor. What struck me was the complete absence of any visible bird life except grouse. No crows, rooks, buzzards, wood pigeons, kestrels etc. I think, sad and expected as it is, three hen harriers are the tip of the iceberg.

  4. I wonder if Party-Jones will still link herself with this circus ( no pun intended). I would be shocked if she still links yhe NCBP with this farce.

    1. Me too. Hawk and Owl Trust have gone into hiding but she is so involved she has to get off the fence. Same goes for Tony Juniper. They really have little to lose in this battle but their reputations so why would they risk that.

      I also can’t imagine any other estates volunteering for this scheme even if it did get the go ahead for next year, which look extremely unlikely, because it has drawn attention to hot spots. All eyes are now on that area around Askrigg. I am sure the estates in that area are squirming. I would be very surprised if they didn’t share that unease with other estates.

      1. If she does get off the fence she could do so very loudly. She has a reputation for plain speaking..which is putting it mildly, and I was surprised at her involvement in the first place, but she may have genuinely thought BM was worth a go. I remember her on a children’s programme way back in 1985 pointing out that we couldn’t do things like buy tropical hardwood front doors and save wildlife. She also said she didn’t have many bins at her Newent falconry centre because she wanted to make people aware of how much we consume and waste by having to hold on to their ‘waste’. That type of joined up thinking is still little practiced today.

  5. Surely now it’s a clear indicator of just how much a misguided, ill-informed decision brood meddling has turned out to be.
    Let’s be clear though – what it has done is to publicise just how tragic the situation is – that the prospects of a “protected” species to survive in the wild for more than a few weeks in certain areas are close to nil.

    1. As project sponsor, Tony Juniper is too quiet on this subject.

      What ever happened to “Satellite data reveals Hen Harriers soaring over England” reported only a couple of weeks ago by one of his brood meddling project partners.

      Defra, NE, Moorland Assoc, NCBP and the Hawk and Owl Trust are jointly answerable for this whole mess. It brings added focus to Mark Avery’s and the RSPB’s legal appeal which questions the legality of this whole enterprise. I wish them well and will continue to help fund and support their initiative.

      I am absolutely sick and tired of this very high level of criminality carried out in my own county.

  6. I hope RPUK will update their map of the crimes and suspicious activity in this area..
    Just from looking at this map from a year ago there seems to be a Hen Harrier found dead & confirmed illegally killed (red star) incredibly close to this latest ‘missing’ last known position and slightly less close to another ‘missing’ Hen Harrier (orange star).
    I can’t find the red star incident on the RSPB hub but it may be Bowland Betty which RSPB has a little to SE (see below).

    From RSPB hub
    SD99 where the ‘missing’ Hen Harrier (2 on today’s map) last transmitted:
    Illegal Pole/Spring of Kestrel in 2016

    SE17 a little to the south-east the RSPB hub has 7 crime incidents including 3 involving Hen Harriers!!!
    How many estates can there be in a 10km square?
    River shot in Nov 2018
    Bowland Betty in 2012
    Highly suspicious activity by man with guns and dog at Hen Harrier roost site at dusk in Nov 2018

  7. It has already been shown that this is not just a few bad apples carrying out the criminality, it is a whole industry happy to benefit while standing by, voicing concern, yet doing nothing. Now, let us be clear, N.E., DEFRA, MA, HOT, and NCBP are as complicit in this criminality by not simply being wilfully blind but denying what was so painfully obvious from the outset and they should hang their collective heads in shame and suffer the humiliation and loss of reputation which follows such a folly.
    Annoyed – certainly, angry – you bet!

  8. So, that’s three out of five trackable birds missing from one brood. Such a high strike-rate begs the question how many non-trackable ones from elsewhere have met the same fate?

    1. John, satellite tagged birds are but a representative sample of the whole population whatever proportion of tagged birds are killed/disappeared its that same proportion of untagged birds. We might not know where and when but statistically we as sure as hell know what is happening and the likely hotspots too.

  9. As far as I am aware Thornton Rust Moor is not a grouse moor but of course a bird in that area doesn’t have to go far ( 5-10 minutes flying) to be in real bandit country, especially to the north, north west or south east. Its ironic really that Anand writes of Bowland Betty, River and the man in a harrier roost complete with dogs and a gun in SE17, all the same estate and the same estate(Swinton) that these young harriers were removed from under this ludicrous and pointless scheme . Thought by Mark Avery, RSPB and many of the rest of us to be illegal anyway. I had heard a whisper that many in the grouse shooting cabal thoroughly dislike brood meddling as it means they have to accept more harriers on the ground, perhaps they are making their views plain with this continuing relentless persecution. One can only hope that all the other parties to this ridiculous scheme come to their senses quickly and consign it to the scrap heap where it belongs.
    It also demonstrates why anyone finding a nesting or displaying pair of Hen Harriers on a grouse moor should immediately inform RSPB investigations rather than NE. Indeed I’d personally not tell NE anything other than how I feel about BM, they have shot themselves in both feet siding with the bad guys in this scheme and what little credibility they had left has well and truly gone.

    1. Gobsmacked about Swinton Estate, thanks Paul. Truly astonishing that this was allowed.
      Also find your ‘whisper’ believable. It is easy to imagine that these three missing, presumed killed, Hen Harriers are going to make estates even more opposed to brood meddling. It draws even more attention to their crimes. All three last transmitted fairly close to their release sites. I looks very bad. A huge PR backfire.

      1. Of course Swinton allegedly refused to have the chicks back for release! the nest within 10km that made BM possible was also on Swinton, shame they weren’t all satellite tagged too, ( only one of the four adults had been previously tagged) one wonders how many of them all are still alive. According to MA the remaining nest was fed presumably to stop them ( one nest in the heart of tens of thousands of acres of grouse moor!) eating too many grouse. the whole thing is a complete crock of shit with NE (thus government compliance).
        The only ones to emerge with any credit at all are the estate that hosted the rearing and release site. Hope they are as pissed off as the rest of us.

    2. It should probably lead to questions being asked about whether released birds are more likely than normal to remain in (or move on from) the area chosen for release, leaving them more susceptible to persecution, if released in the “wrong area”. Is brood meddling a compromise then on the part of the owner – where a nest isn’t destroyed – their concession being that, if the nest is reported, it can be removed – on condition that the birds on fledging aren’t re-introduced to their land. A willing participant isn’t a willing participant if they refuse to accept the birds back – but then why would they ?

  10. It is almost as though the scheme was implemented entirely to provide HH target practice for the criminals. Worth listening to the conversations in the local hostelries to see if anyone’s boasting?

  11. So sickening. And sickening to think of any untagged fledglings (and adults) out there meeting similar fates which we’ll never know about. This will never end until gamekeeping psychopaths are no longer paid to live in remote areas obliterating our wildlife. No one is regulating them.

    1. Gamekeepers do not operate in a vacuum, an ex-keeper told me (and many others at a conference) that in his long experience no keeper persecutes without instruction. Agents and owners demand this, keepers are their instrument.

  12. Well all this would probably never have come to light if it was not for brood medling, as access to the nests and tagging would not have been done, so they are in fact digging their own graves, carry on, tag a few more, they would have been killed anyway, the harrier chicks wouldn’t even have been there if it wasn’t for this agreement, they would never even been allowed to hatch, so bring it on tag and tag again, and the proof is now there for all to see, they cannot argue against the facts, its just a matter of time, idiots, they just will not tolerate Harriers what so ever.

    1. Totally agree with this. I suppose the gamekeepers will claim entrapment next. It’s a Coolen Rooney type sting.

  13. I have a proposition: for every satellite-tagged HH that disappears over a grouse shooting estate and whose tag is not recovered attached to a corpse and if it is recovered, the bird is subsequently shown to have died from shooting/poisoning, that estate forfeits one week of business. The grouse shooting industry would have nothing to fear because, obviously, they are not causing these birds to disappear in suspicious circumstances. If rouge game-keepers are to blame then the estate is in the best position to root them out themselves. This would run for one year as an experiment to see the effect on the percentage loss of satellite-tagged HH. I wonder what the results would show?

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