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)
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]