Two hen harriers shot on two North Yorkshire grouse moors: shooting industry’s response

At the end of January 2020 several prominent organisations from the game-shooting industry (BASC, Moorland Assoc, National Gamekeepers Org, Countryside Alliance) and the Country Landowners Association made a huge thing about acknowledging 66-year-old wildlife protection legislation when they announced a professed ‘zero tolerance’ for the illegal killing of birds of prey (see here).

Since then police in North Yorkshire, the epicentre of UK raptor persecution, have issued two public statements (on 12th and 17th March) about the witnessed shooting of two male hen harriers, one on a grouse moor in the Bowland AONB (here) and one on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here). The illegal killing of hen harriers has been identified as a National Wildlife Crime Priority. This species is on its knees, thanks to criminals within the grouse shooting industry.

It was also revealed that, unusually, North Yorkshire Police had been able to make two arrests in relation to these reported crimes; this was welcome news and in both press releases the police asked the public to come forward with any further information as their inquiries continued.

[Conservationist Chris Packham holding the corpse of an illegally trapped hen harrier that was found on a grouse moor in Scotland last year. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

You might think, given the recently professed ‘zero tolerance’ of these offences, that police appeals for information about these two disturbing crimes reported on Yorkshire grouse moors would provide the perfect opportunity for the grouse-shooting industry to offer its full support to the investigations and to encourage members of the public to step forward with info, especially if there was concern about dangerous unidentified armed criminals running amok on privately-owned land, right?

Well apparently not. We’ve looked at the websites of the five organisations to search for statements and this is what we found:

BASC: nothing

Moorland Association: nothing

National Gamekeepers Organisation: nothing

Countryside Alliance: nothing

CLA: nothing

Ah, you may say, well they’re all too busy focusing on the coronavirus so haven’t had time to share information about illegal raptor persecution.

Well, that may have been a credible argument had we not found the National Gamekeepers Organisation and Countryside Alliance yesterday making urgent demands of DEFRA’s Secretary of State George Eustice to issue licences that permit gamekeepers to continue killing stoats and sidestep new restrictions (see here and here).

Meanwhile, with the hypocrisy knob turned up to high, BASC has been howling with moral indignation about the timing of Wild Justice’s decision to challenge the casual killing of birds in Wales (see here).

Zero tolerance of illegal raptor persecution? Yeah, right.

26 thoughts on “Two hen harriers shot on two North Yorkshire grouse moors: shooting industry’s response”

  1. Given how key this is to their crazy fake research project, there must surely be a raft of urgent reassuring emails to NE, DEFRA and the Minister….? Certainly, there should be a raft of emails from ministers, DEFRA and NE to the “honest, we dont kill harriers” clubs.

  2. Free fittings for sets of ” Emperor’s new clothes ” will continue to be offered to the DGS criminal brethren during the current public health crisis.

    Keep up the pressure !

  3. No doubt they are waiting for a complete lock down apart form employment based activity. Then no one other than gamekeepers will be on the moors.

    After these restrictions have blown over illegal raptor killing will be a thing of the past.

    1. Even in this time of social distancing and self isolation we should still be out and about in the uplands. When the government talks of unnecessary journeys they surely mean public transport with all its contagion risks. We must not let the darker souls of the grouse bothering fraternity use this and an absence of observers to do to our raptors what they damned well got away with in the 2001 F&M outbreak.

      1. Though mountain rescue have asked people to stick to well-known low-risk routes. They need to self isolate too.

  4. At the very least you might have expected a response from the NGO. After all, it is the reputation of their members which is being tainted by these people, whoever they might be, trespassing with guns on their ground and bringing their profession into disrepute. Or do they know something we don’t?

  5. It seems the shooting community will never be content until they’re given consent to kill whatever they want, including Stoats apparently. They’ll be applying to control field voles before we know it, and I wouldn’t be surprised. In fact I’m now worried I’m giving them ideas. RPUK, and RSPB to some extent, are making considerable headway, but it would be better if the wider public became more involved in the campaign to put an end to what amounts to the destruction of nature in our countryside. My personal opinion is that the RSPB needs to do a lot more to motivate their large membership. How? It is up to them to step up to it.

    1. My personal opinion is that the RSPB needs to come out against ALL shooting -don’t the initials claim to protect birds!!

  6. It is usually the case that a guilty suspect “goes no comment” !!

    Anything else will usually be proved as fabricated lies and won’t stand the scrutiny of proper examination !!!!

  7. The problem with them behaving like the guilty suspects this time is that they have previously disavowed themselves of persecutors, hence we should at the very least have expected statements from these organisations that the suspects and the estates upon which the crimes allegedly took place are suspended from membership pending the outcomes of police enquiries and any subsequent cases in court. That they have chosen to remain silent means that they do not know about the cases ( very, very unlikely) or their original statements were a sham, box ticking exercise and in reality it is business as usual, with its enormous blind eye. As it is without acknowledging these criminal events their credibility remains somewhere in a black hole, on the other side of the universe.
    they or those who attend should all be challenged about this at the next RPPDG.

  8. Raptor Persecution- please could you consider posting a blog to help readers identify the different types of traps being used by Gamekeepers, and which will be illegal from 1st April.

    I understand the Fenn trap will be illegal to use after 1st April 2020 to kill stoats, and the trap if used, will have to be safeguarded to prevent entry by non-target species- making it virtually redundant in use.

    For those readers that regularly go out onto the grouse moors- it may be a useful exercise to gather evidence of the use of illegal traps -photograph and identify the location- (What3words – is a good mapping method as it enables police and other wildlife crime investigators to navigate easily to a location.)

    This information can then be shared with the police/RSPB etc which might further strengthen the body of evidence which will be required to persuade the government to change the way the grouse moors are managed and introduce regulations to the shooting industry. (Bloggers may also want to consider writing to their MP’s )

    It may be useful to have this evidence available by the time the proposed debate in parliament – Ban Driven Grouse Shooting Wilful blindness is no longer an option, takes place.

    Evidence is everything!!
    A detailed mass of evidence covering everything from heather burning, the illegal use of traps, to incidents of raptor persecution could be very difficult for the shooting industry to dispute, and for a government to continually “turn a blind eye”?

    1. The legislation listing spring traps that can, legally, be used to catch mammals such as stoats are set out in the following legislation (Spring Traps Approval Orders – STAO):

      The Spring Traps Approval (Scotland) Amendment Order 2018

      The Spring Traps Approval (England) Order 2018

      The Spring Traps Approval (Wales) Order 2019

      The Spring Traps Approval Order (Northern Ireland) 2019

      The legislation sets out the rules under which the traps can be used.

      The new rules arose as a result of protracted negotiations over an international agreement (the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards) between Russia, Canada, the USA and the European Union about the humaneness of certain snares and traps for use with a list of certain mammals. The AIHTS was implemented years ago by all the other countries but was delayed by the UK government thanks to the shooting industry concerns about the costs and practicalities of killing stoats in a more humane way. Fox snares were removed from the list of snares required to be covered by the AIHTS however Fenn traps were covered by the AIHTS.

      BASC and the GWCT have useful links about the new DOC traps which will replace the Fenn traps for use in catching stoats (but will still be permitted to be used to catch certain small mammals which are not covered by the AIHTS.)

      Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS)

      Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS)

      There are three types of DOC traps (which, basically, are the same but different sizes). DOC traps can be used in two types of tunnels. 1 Run-through tunnels (ie open at both ends so the animals could, in theory run through the tunnel if set traps were not placed in the middle of them).
      2 Closed-end tunnels (ie dead-end boxes with bait placed in the tunnel – usually one egg before the trap and eggs behind the trap at the end of the tunnel).

      The usual means of trapping stoats, on grouse moors, has been to place Fenn traps in run-through cages attached to logs over streams. These are placed on the natural animal paths leading to water courses and the traps are not set until the animals are familiar with the logs and tunnels as easy means of crossing the streams. Once the animals use the run-through tunnels, then the traps are set. Those Fenn traps should shortly be replaced by the DOC traps.

      According to the STAO (England), when using a DOC trap, “The trap must be set in an artificial tunnel constructed to the design specified by the Department of Conservation, using materials suitable for the purpose.” This provision caused concern in the shooting industry because the wooden tunnels produced by the manufacturers of DOC traps were expensive. I hope that the wire tunnels will have to be replaced by wooden tunnels. The New Zealand Department of Conservation has very strict specifications for the tunnels to ensure that the animal is manipulated into a position where it will be killed by the quickest, most humane strike to the back of the head (rather than the neck or back or legs etc). I, personally, think that the shooting industry will have to revert to wooden boxes both to ensure that fewer non-target animals gain access to the tunnels and any animals caught by the trap are more humanely killed.

      All this killing is disgusting but there is now, an opportunity for standards to be more clearly defined.

      I really hope that OneKind, the League Against Cruel Sports, the National Anti Snaring Campaign and others will put up helpful information on their web sites.

      As you say, evidence is key but, as you say, people need to have the knowledge to get that evidence!

      1. Thanks
        That’s really helpful
        It also explains why, on one of the grouse moors I frequent, I have noticed that the old mesh tunnel type traps appear to all have been replaced by new traps enclosed in wooden boxes! – but that land owner is reputed to be “more enlightened” towards conservation?
        Let’s see what I can find on another moor – which features on the RSPB raptor persecution map!!

        1. Good!

          These are the tunnel design specifications set out by the Department of Conservation, New Zealand, which the shooting estates will have to comply with. As you’ll see they are quite stringent and the design incorporates the use of a particular size and type of baffle. Shooting estates will no longer be able to carry on as usual with home made mesh tunnels with haphazard nails to deter entry by non target species.

          DOC 150

          Click to access doc150-predator-trap.pdf

          DOC 200

          Click to access doc200-predator-trap.pdf

          DOC 250

          Click to access doc250-predator-trap.pdf

          This is some information issued by the Dept of Conservation, New Zealand, but there is plenty of information out there on the internet.

  9. As a bit of light relief, over on the Moorland Association’s Facebook page, one of the resident half-wits referred to “Corvus-19”. Speaks volumes, I think!

  10. found this on their Facebook page dated 5th March
    The Moorland Association fully supports North Yorkshire Police’s appeal for information over a potential wildlife incident involving a hen harrier near Keasden on Friday 18 October 2019.
    North Yorkshire Police says a witness reported seeing a hen harrier shot and is appealing for anyone with information about this incident or who may have seen anything in the area shortly before 5.30pm to please call 101 quoting reference number: 12190193431.
    followed by this comment they must assume that we tell as many lies as they do

    John Driver Why is this reported as a hen harrier that has been shot when it is just one persons claim that they have seen it? Obviously there is no actual evidence of this happening or an arrest would have been made. More lies from the anti grouse shooting fanatics aimed to cast a shadow over grouse shooting

    1. Grouse shooting is doing a very good job of casting its own shadow over the sordid activity it doesn’t need help and when it’s finally where it belongs in the history books I for one will sleep a lot better, I can’t wait

  11. Its the time of the year when eyes are needed on the moors. I have noted that the keepers who were originally scoffing at a “wee flu virus” are now jumping on the “towny terrorists go home” band waggon. Clearly they are seeing the shut down as a way of shrouding their activity in darkness.
    However, their “conservation work” is not essential and they should not be working. It would be good to get some clarity on this from the gov channels.
    Keepers should not be out and about setting traps, snares and killing harriers. They are putting the lives of mountain rescue etc at risk.

  12. It’s a long and difficult road -catching and prosecuting the numerous wildlife criminals-yes, armed criminals who no doubt with the blessing of grouse moor owners are killing Hen Harriers and several other protected species-they are incredibly pernicious, but as has been mentioned with Raptor Persecution and Wild Justice and the other wonderful defenders of decency on their backs-it will be a fight but hopefully good will eventually triumph over evil.
    To me the killing of protected species and indeed the wanton widespread killing of most forms of large and medium sized avian and mammalian life that has the extreme misfortune to live in or near a grouse moor(i.e. eco desert) is nothing more than a despicable and cowardly organised crime , such as occurs in the Mediterranean region with the killing or song birds for instance-it is a despicable selfish MINORITY spoiling everything for for everyone and everything else–call me an optimist but as long as most of us(i.e. decent people) constantly call into question their criminal activity and use all legal means at our disposal, good will eventually triumph over evil

    1. Gareth, I wish I could share your optimism, but don’t know where to start with comments. The next month or two could easily be the time for gamekeepers to undertake a determined and ruthless assassination of Hen Harriers, not experienced to that degree in recent times. As you imply, other raptor species will also be slaughtered. It could well be the worst year in modern times where gamekeepers have such an easy reign over “their territories.” How much information will reach this blog (or the RSPB) is hard to predict, but the Covid-19 crisis could well lead to a drying-up of the information flow. It’s terrible times for us and wildlife too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: