Satellite-tagged hen harrier found poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland

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 are a few press releases doing the rounds about this latest killing, one from BirdWatch Ireland (here) and one from the RSPB (here).

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.

Raptor Persecution Ireland 2018 report

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)

13 thoughts on “Satellite-tagged hen harrier found poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland”

  1. Illegal persecution of raptors around pheasant shoots will be the next big scandal to be uncovered. As there is no effective system to identify, prosecute and jail those who persecute birds of prey the criminals will simply view this as a “game” with few, if any, penalties awaiting them.
    I’ll not mince my words here. I now see commercial shoots as the enemy of all birds of prey and some corvids and seagulls too, though the latter two species have no real protection and their deaths are largely passed bye unnoticed. I also view commercial shoots as the enemy of rewilding due to the unbalanced ecology they rely on creating in order to increase their profits.
    it might be time to develop a strategy designed to bring these crimes to the notice of the wider public in ways that cannot be ignored.

    1. I was speaking to someone from Dumfriesshire last week who mentioned they lived in the country and since the local pheasant shoot started bumping up the numbers of birds it released the wildlife seems to have disappeared. I know that goshawk numbers are supposed to be slowly increasing (very slowly), but given that we have about 500 pairs when we should have approx 10,000 isn’t there a case for saying that it’s affected as much by pheasant shoots as hen harriers are by grouse moors (the latter are lethal for goshawk too though)? I don’t know the practicalities, but is it maybe about time we started doing some sat tagging with gos? The people who are so vociferous about the supposed need to kill corvids for ‘conservation’ purposes become silent pretty quick when it gets pointed out if there is actually any imbalance in their numbers the best way to address it is allowing one of their key predators to return. Goshawk also like grey squirrel and wood pigeon of course. One of a very long list of points that you can put on a MA, BASC, GW’C’T, SGA or Moorland Forum FB page and they will almost always pretend it doesn’t exist by completely ignoring it. A shame our conservation organisations don’t make these points frequently and publicly.

  2. ..and lest anyone forget..a pinch of carbofuran is enough to kill a man – and these criminals leave that out in the open…I hope the Gardai are considering that?

  3. I know from experience in other areas that wildlfie crime, and animal welfare crime in a broader sense. does not have as high a profile in Ireland as it does in the UK. You only need to look at the ISPCA to see that.

  4. Both sad and angry to hear another Hen Harrier has been criminally killed. I strongly hope the NPWS and the Gardai see fit to investigate this persecution promptly and with some vigour .

  5. The Irish lag behind on animal welfare and wildlife issues. They still have legalised hare coursing, for example, while the e-petition to ban it has fewer than 20,000 signatures.

  6. It is relatively unusual to actually trace and confirm a poisoned bait. It looks as though there were several confirmed items here. Moreover, they were close to the body of the bird, so negating any possible suggestion that the harrier might have carried the poison to the location whee it was found. Let’s hope that the authorities are making the most of this fortuitous evidence.

  7. “Let’s hope that the authorities are making the most of this fortuitous evidence.”

    You seem to have missed the point that the Irish authorities appear ‘reluctant’ to investigate.

  8. It is quite apparent that the shooting community has no intention of abiding by the law of the land and as it seems to be difficult to prove many of the crimes committed and possibly local police are too close to the community to do their jobs then the only solution is fast becoming a total ban on grouse and pheasant shots and the shooting community have only their arrogant selves to blame.

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