A young hen harrier named Mary that hatched on the Isle of Man in 2019 and had been satellite-tagged by the RSPB’s LIFE Project was found poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Co Meath in Ireland in November 2019. Tests revealed she had consumed the banned poison Carbofuran which was found on a pigeon bait and on other meat baits next to her corpse.
[Hen harrier Mary found dead on a pheasant shoot. Photo by BirdWatch Ireland]
There’s also a video documenting the discovery of Mary’s corpse:
Reading between the lines of both media releases there appears to be concern that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Gardai (Irish Police) could be doing more in terms of investigation, enforcement and liaison. Without knowing the details of this case it’s difficult to comment further but the pointed commentary in both press releases seems quite deliberate.
In recent years the NPWS has instigated a new monitoring and recording scheme for raptor persecution in Ireland, to which BirdWatch Ireland’s John Lusby alludes in his press quote. It’s worth having a look at the most recent monitoring report (2018) and particularly the long table in Appendix 1 (pages 21-28) documenting the number of recorded persecution incidents between 2007 – 2018; there is clearly a massive persecution issue in the Irish Republic.
This ongoing and relentless persecution affects not only local and regional raptors but, as we have seen with hen harrier Mary, raptors from across our isles that travel without political boundaries. Likewise, a white-tailed eagle from Ireland has recently spent several months in temporary residence in Scotland, the north of England and the Isle of Man, as revealed by his satellite tag data. Amazingly he survived but he could so easily have been unlawfully killed over this side of the water given the extent of the persecution here.
There’s been increasing public pressure on the authorities here to crack down on the illegal killing; let’s hope the same pressure is being felt in Ireland and that the NPWS and Gardai conduct a thorough investigation in to the poisoning of this young hen harrier.
UPDATE 9 JUNE 2020: Poisoned hen harrier ‘Mary’ – open letter calls for action (here)