(Another) hen harrier shot on a grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park – police arrest suspect

Just five days ago we blogged about the shooting of a male hen harrier on a grouse moor in the Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, just across the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, that had been witnessed by a member of the public. Impressively, North Yorkshire Police arrested a suspect and he has been released pending further enquiries and forensic testing (see here).

[A male hen harrier, photo by Bill Schofield]

Here we go again.

ANOTHER hen harrier has been shot on ANOTHER grouse moor, this time inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park and again it was witnessed by members of the public and again, North Yorkshire Police have arrested a suspect.

Here’s the police press release, published today (17 March 2020):

Two members of the public witness Hen Harrier being shot near Grassington

North Yorkshire Police are investigating the shooting of another Hen Harrier.

Two members of the public witnessed an incident which they believed was the shooting of a male Hen Harrier.

The incident occurred on Threshfield Moor at approximately 10.45hrs on Monday 27th January 2020.

North Yorkshire Police have been conducting enquiries and a man has been arrested in connection with this investigation.

Anyone with further information about this incident or who may have seen anything in the area shortly before the bird was shot, please call North Yorkshire Police on Tel 101 quoting reference # 12200015792.

If you wish to remain anonymous you can pass information to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

This is the second incident of this type to take place in the last six months, with another hen harrier believed to have been shot in October 2019 near Keasden.


Hang on a minute – Threshfield Moor? That rings a bell.

[RPUK map showing location of Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park]

[Photo of the Threshfield grouse moor by Chris Heaton]

Ah yes, Threshfield Moor was reportedly the last known location of another male hen harrier, called John, who ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in October 2017 – see here.

The people believed to be the owners of Threshfield Moor are interesting and they have interesting connections – see here. Obviously they’ll be devastated to learn about the alleged illegal shooting of a hen harrier on their grouse moor and we’re sure will be doing everything they can to assist the police investigation.

Well done North Yorkshire Police – two arrests for two hen harrier shootings in the space of a few months – that’s really impressive work and the officers involved deserve much credit. There’s clearly some evidence to support reasonable suspicion of involvement because otherwise these arrests wouldn’t have been possible but whether there’s sufficient evidence to proceed to prosecution(s) remains to be seen. Whatever the outcome(s), these latest police investigations in to the alleged shooting of hen harriers on grouse moors expose the shooting industry’s desperate propaganda campaign for what it is and Natural England/DEFRA’s wilful blindness to the bleeding obvious.

So, grouse shooting industry, how’s that professed ‘zero tolerance‘ of illegal raptor persecution going?

So, Natural England /DEFRA, how that’s seriously flawed Hen Harrier (In)Action Plan working out?

Here’s a clue -let’s add the shooting of this latest hen harrier to the ever-expanding list of hen harriers (at least 31 now) believed to have been illegally killed since 2018, the year when grouse shooting industry reps would have us believe that hen harriers were welcomed back on the grouse moors:

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published wholly inaccurate information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false” (here).

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here)

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland (here)

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating death as suspicious (here)

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland (here).

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here)

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lanacashire (here)

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here)

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here). Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap (here).

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB (here). Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot (here).

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site (here)

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 May 2019: A male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive (here)

7 June 2019: A hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot (here)

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here)

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland (here)

18 October 2019: Member of the public reports the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on White Syke Hill in North Yorkshire (here)

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland (here)

January 2020: Members of the public report the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (this post)

There are two more satellite-tagged hen harriers (Tony & Rain) that are reported either confirmed or suspected to have been illegally killed in the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project Report but no further details are available.

And then there were last year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks that have been reported ‘missing’ but as they’re carrying a new type of tag known to be unreliable it’s not known if they’ve been illegally killed or if they’re still ok. For the purposes of this mini-analysis we will discount these birds.

So that makes a total of at least 31 hen harriers that are known to have either ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances or have been witnessed being shot or have been found illegally killed in the last two years. And still we’re expected to believe that everything’s perfect, that the grouse shooting industry is not riddled with armed criminals and that hen harriers are doing just fine, thriving even, according to the shooting industry’s propaganda.

Wilful blindness, writ large.

[This male hen harrier was found with his leg almost severed, trapped in an illegally-set spring trap on Leadhills Estate grouse moor in May 2019. He didn’t survive. Photo by Ruth Tingay]


22 thoughts on “(Another) hen harrier shot on a grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park – police arrest suspect”

  1. I could start this comment with some very bad language, the words I said to myself when reading that yet another harrier was dead at the hands of some selfish effing criminal with a gun on a grouse moor, still makes me incandescent with rage after all these years. Adult males are at a premium in the population and whilst we can ill afford the loss of any birds from the tiny English population males are a loss writ large. At least the police have made an arrest, again one can only hope they have enough to get this man(?) in court and hope yet again that if found guilty that an appropriate sentence will be given– plenty of locked up time.
    This and of course other events kick huge credibility holes in the claims of all shooting organisations that raptor persecution has zero tolerance within their “community” Then we all knew that was a sham hopefully with enough publicity the general public will also understand that this emperor has no clothes.
    No doubt the NP authorities will be as appalled as we are, time they questioned this entire land use but small chance of that with grouse shooting represented on the committee.
    The last time we were all advised to stay at home in 2001 there was an obvious peak in raptors disappearing and nesting pairs failing, there is nothing to stop us as individuals going to these places alone or with a partner we don’t want that to happen again in 2020.

  2. In the last few months, that’s two Hen harriers, virtually on my doorstep, that I’m not going to be able to enjoy seeing this spring.
    For crying out loud – BAN DRIVEN GROUSE SHOOTING!

    [Ed: Thanks Andy – a section of your comment has been removed as its libellous (in relation to this specific incident) but yes, you’re right, it is literally sickening]

  3. Oh those few rotten apples….very difficult for this rotten industry to even open it’s mouth on the subject any more.
    The outcomes in these cases will be very interesting and hopefully will encourage people out on the moors to covertly observe, as we have every right to be there.
    As the birds are now moving to breeding grounds, they are at great risk and the year’s destruction will ramp up.

    Keep up the pressure !

  4. it certainly looks like your Blog is stimulating the public to put aside their fears and report these incidents to the police. The more incidents reported the harder it will be for any of the authorities involved not to take serious actions against these estates and individuals involved as. The authorities, from investigating officer to procurator fiscal know that these cases will now be publicised from the beginning to the end of the process and any shortcomings highlighted.
    It heartening to see so much more activity surrounding these incidents now and even a cynic like myself is beginning to hope that a corner has been turned. In light of the current pandemic I hope those in self isolation take to the hills as both sunlight and fresh air help fight this type of virus as the more bodies on the moors the less opportunity these individuals have to decimate our birds … and .. you never know .. more of them might be caught in the act.
    I second Sennen : KEEP UP THE PRESSURE!

    1. “The more incidents reported the harder it will be for any of the authorities involved not to take serious actions against these estates and individuals involved as. The authorities, from investigating officer to procurator fiscal know that these cases will now be publicised from the beginning to the end of the process and any shortcomings highlighted.”

      That is the key. Everyone involved needs to be kept under the spotlight of publicity.

  5. Looks very like there is very a concerted effort being made to destroy raptors.
    Without knowing the specific circumstances one has to wonder how this event came to be witnessed by members of the public. Were the witnesses deliberately in concealment (I like the thought of that) or was the shooter just downright blatant (above the law brigade) and not bothered who saw him. Then again, perhaps the event was witnessed from a distance without the person being identified and a suspect has been arrested on suspicion.
    Hopefully a prosecution will follow. There will be many hurdles ahead.

    1. From my own experience walking the hills of Britain, in the past I would have assumed that gamekeepers are ‘guardians of the countryside’ and the moorlands are a magnificently natural landscape. After reading this blog for a number of years I can now see what is not there.

      Last year I popped up Stac Pollaidh, this climb starts of in a fenced off area full of young birch alive with willow warblers, you then pass a gate onto open deer mown moor. At the top you can look north across all the knoc and lochan, and in the middle of the main loch is an island full of Scots pine showing what the rest of the landscape should be like.

      They say ignorance is bliss and I must admit my enjoyment of the hills of Britain is tainted now that I can see what is missing.

  6. And now Mrs Hancock is no longer Chair of the Food Standards Agency and is Master of St. John’s College, Cambridge. Allegedly this moor is owned by her husband . [Ed: rest of this comment deleted as defamatory]

  7. It is simple to deter some of these idiots that shoot any raptor. Fines and prison sentences are seen as an hinderance to “their job” with a guess that fines will be paid by xxxxxxxxxxx However a life time ban of owning a firearm may get them to think twice. As the use of an unlicensed shotgun or any fireman has very very serious consequences in terms of the law outside the persecution of raptors.

    1. First of all the principle deterrent to committing any crime is getting caught and not the sentence.
      The chances of getting caught committing wildlife crime are very slim. In fact, the chances of detecting the crime in the first place is very slim.
      You can change the law to anything you like, but if you cannot get the crooks convicted the law means nothing.

      Also there are ways to use a shotgun without a certificate.
      From Shooting UK June 6, 2017:-
      “The principle exemption for shooters without certificates states that a person may, without holding a shotgun certificate, borrow a shotgun from the occupier of a private premises and use it on those premises in the occupier?s presence. There is no definition in law of what exactly an occupier is.”

    2. Andie in many cases where firearms and shotgun certificates have been removed or suspended post conviction the guilty keeper goes back to court to appeal this under a claim it restricts his ability to conduct his trade. Most have had their certificates returned. I must say that I agree with you on this one, violent criminals are not allowed shotgun/firearms certificates and what is not violent about shooting protected wildlife.
      The other problem here in England is there is still no vicarious liability so the potential commissioners of the crime or failed supervisors of any convicted wildlife criminal get away without sanction.

  8. I looked in vain on the websites of GWCT, BASC, Moorland Association and Countryside Alliance for condemnation or even a mention of these Hen Harrier killings. Seems like they haven’t heard yet (ahem).

    I did note that with regards to the fact that the petition to ban driven grouse shooting will be debated in Westminster Hall, Tim Bonner manages to summon up indignation that Parliament’s ‘precious time’ will be taken up by this. According to him the campaign against DGS is not driven by science or evidence but by prejudice. The fact that on these two occasions the shootings were witnessed by members of the public will at least help put another nail in the coffin of that old bilge – a small positive to set against the tragedy of the slaughter of these birds.

  9. The connections (alluded to above) between the Food Standards Agency, gamebird shooting, lead ammunition and the BBC appear to linger on…

    On 29th January 2020 I complained to the BBC (Case number CAS-5901797-V9F3W6: Promoting Unsafe Food by the BBC) about the promotion of lead-shot game birds on Farming Today (BBC Rural Affairs Committee?) without their mentioning the published dangers of ingesting lead.

    They aim to respond within 20 days, but failed.

    I repeated my complaint on 25th February 2020 and asked why my complaint had not received a response? The BBC replied to say they were “sorry I wasn’t satisfied with their earlier response and appreciate that you felt strongly enough to contact us again”

    But they had NOT responded, and did not respond this time, either.

    On 4th March 2020 the BBC wrote again: “We are contacting you to apologise that we’ve not been able to reply to your complaint within the time period we aim for.”

    I have still not received any response. I don’t think they ever intend to respond.

    1. That’s just how the BBC do it. You should now complain to the regulator, but you’ll still only get some sort of anodyne brush-off. For an organisation purportedly fighting to retain public funding the BBC seem appallingly unaware of how badly they deal with the public.

  10. A very big thank you to all involved in helping to bring about these arrests, RPUK my only criticism of your and Mr Avery’s websites is that major items of news like this get moved off the front page too quickly sometimes, can i ask when was the last time 2 arrests were made in one month? one year? were any or both perps gamekeepers? if Amanda A of the moorland Ass was on our side how would she comment on this? is this a 100% or 200% increase in arrests made in a single year, we were always led to believe when Salmon or Deer poaching was rife it was down to organised gangs from towns or cities and it was probably funding or linked to more serious crime, do you think the organised gangs in the uplands could be linked to more serious crimes like county line gangs etc

      1. Only a couple of years ago a vicarious liability case in Scotland was dropped because the owner of the Grouse moor could not be identified within a specified time scale, payments received by the owners had been sent to offshore accounts in countries with no agreements to divulge the information to the British authorities, to most people this stinks of tax evasion and money laundering , I think I am still correct in thinking this estate still receives agricultural subsidies and if correct to put it in perspective your hard earned money taken off you in tax or from your pension is partly going to people who can afford to buy a grouse moor but are shirking from paying their share back in taxes. so while I agree county line gangs who need contacts in rural area’s might be a step too far I do believe their is still serious crimes linked

  11. The fact that we are now seeing an increasing number of these raptor persecution incidents being reported to the police, is perhaps an indication that Operation Owl, the national police operation to raise public awareness of raptor persecution is starting to bear fruit?

    It is also encouraging that North Yorkshire Police appear to be taking these reports seriously, and are swiftly investigating reported incidents, which have twice now resulted in arrests.

    Other constabularies should perhaps take note of the action being taken by NYP, and take similar steps when incidents of raptor persecution are reported in their police force areas.
    If this isn’t happening then Chief Constables should be challenged through the various Police Crime Commissioners, and reminded that the Government has identified raptor persecution as a national wildlife crime priority.

    However, the number of reported incidents of Hen Harrier persecution is a stark reminder of of the scale of the criminal activity taking place.

    When I raised the issue of Hen Harrier persecution with my MP, I received a reply back from the office of the Minister for the Environment, Food and Rural affairs which stated that the government are committed to securing the long term future of this species, and had taken the lead on the Hen Harrier Action Plan.

    My concern, is that this plan does not go far enough.

    In the letter I sent to my MP, I discussed criminality and outlined the principles of the Routine Activity Theory (Cohen &Felson 1979), which suggests that a person may choose to offend if they have:
    • the motivation to attack a target
    • the right kind of target to attack
    • a potential target without adequate protection.

    Whilst I won’t go into details, I argued from many perspectives, the Hen Harriers are “a potential target without adequate protection”, and that without further measures taken by the government to protect birds of prey, then we won’t see the desired outcomes, and birds of prey will continue to be persecuted, and breeding numbers of species like Hen Harriers will not increase to the numbers which the natural environment should support.

    I suggested these further measures should include:
    increasing penalties for raptor persecution, (for an endangered species such as the Hen Harrier this should be imprisonment with a set minimum term of at least 6 months)
    introducing proper regulations to govern the shooting industry,
    imposing financial penalties on landowners and estates where raptor persecution takes place -such as the removal of stewardship grants or rural payments from Natural England.

    This list is not exhaustive, and there are many other ways that Hen Harriers could be afforded “adequate protection”.

    But, the government has be totally committed to tackling wildlife crime and raptor persecution; and be courageous enough to stand up to those influential individuals and organisations that want to retain the current status quo regarding the management of grouse moors.

    1. Excellent post.

      One point of possible correction. On a different type of crime I recorded a complaint to my Police and Crime Commissioner over the fact that the Police force involved had refused to carry out an investigation (they even put it in writing). The PCC acknowledged my complaint but then did nothing for two years.

      My MP eventually got a reply out of the PCC to the effect that they do not investigate ‘operational matters’.

      I have it in writing that if you wish to make a complaint about the Police not investigating a crime you have to contact the Independent Office of Police Conduct.

      That was in England: whether it is different in the devolved administrations I do not know.

    2. I wonder if the police action is a result of pressure applied on the P & C Commissioner by local small businesses who see their trade at risk from visitors staying away.

      It may be only part of the process.

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