Poisoned hen harrier ‘Mary’ – open letter calls for action

A young hen harrier named Mary that hatched on the Isle of Man in 2019 and had been satellite-tagged by the RSPB’s Hen Harrier 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.

We blogged about the illegal killing of this hen harrier earlier this year (see here) and it was quite evident from the press statements from both BirdWatch Ireland and the RSPB that there were concerns that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Gardai (Irish Police) could be doing more in terms of investigation, enforcement and liaison.

[Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot, photo by BirdWatch Ireland]

Seven months on from her death, those early concerns appear to have been justified.

Have a look at this open letter, written by Manx BirdLife (Isle of Man) and addressed to the National Parks & Wildlife Service (Irish Republic) calling for transparency about any criminal investigation which may, or may not, have taken place in to the illegal killing of this hen harrier.

This is a really interesting, and welcome, move by Manx BirdLife. It’s an indication of the growing frustration around the ongoing illegal killing of hen harriers (and other raptors) and demonstrates an unwillingness just to sit back and watch it happen time and time again without anyone being held to account.

For all we know the NPWS may have conducted a thorough investigation and been thwarted by the usual problems of finding sufficient evidence for a prosecution, but that information should certainly be made public because otherwise it looks like they just don’t care and sends a message to other would-be criminals that this sort of offence will go unpunished.

It’ll be interesting to see what sort of response, if any, Manx BirdLife receives from the NPWS.

9 thoughts on “Poisoned hen harrier ‘Mary’ – open letter calls for action”

  1. Is the NPWS an investigatory authority? Am I missing something or shouldn’t the Garda be investigating this case?

  2. According to Natural England -” The species has an unfavourable conservation status in Europe, is a red-listed UK Bird of Conservation Concern and appears on government’s section 41 list of priority species. It is also listed on Annex 1 of the EU Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (1979) and Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).

    Hen Harriers are fully protected in Ireland under the EU Birds Directive and under the national Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended), to kill or injure one is a criminal offence

    As such one would hope the Garda Siochana have launched a full criminal enquiry into this despicable act.

    Due to the Hen Harriers red listed status in the UK, then there should be a call for the UK government to change the legislation so that anyone convicted of the unlawful killing of a Hen Harrier serves a minimum of a 3 year custodial sentence.
    This is important, as a 3 year custodial sentence carries a life time ban on the possession of firearms.

    This would have the effect of making any gamekeeper convicted of killing a Hen Harrier virtually unemployable, as the keeper would be banned from using firearms for life, and thus would not be effective in his/her employment.
    It would make keepers think very hard about killing Hen Harriers as the consequence of getting caught would potentially be the loss of their livelihood.

    Should the Uk government do this?
    Yes, if there are really serious about the conservation status of this very rare bird.
    India already has a mandatory 3 year prison sentence for anyone convicted of killing a tiger in a reserve or national park – is it not time the UK government started to treat some of our most endangered species in the same way??

  3. ‘Unfortunately, the excitement felt by many in receiving this magnificent young bird into Ireland’s territorial care quickly turned to tragedy’ – what a beautifully written and well constructed letter. The people who are genuine conservationists are just so much better in every respect than those who slaughter our wildlife sometimes while pretending to be conservationists. Yet again good people versus the shits.

  4. Well done to the concerned people of the Isle of man.These criminals should be caught,named and shamed and given a lengthy prison sentence.NPWs have some great dangers on the ground but at management level the organisation seems lazy and stale the hen harrier in Ireland is also under severe threat with habitat destruction being its main threat…Its foraging ground is given nonstatuz at all and the uplands of Cork and Kerry are being destroyed by sitka spruce plantations and wind farms…..Shame on the Agriculture minister and the minister for heritage and the upper crust of NPWS…Shame on ye…..

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