37 hen harriers ‘missing’ or confirmed killed since 2018

It’s getting to that time of year when the grouse shooting industry pumps out its patently misleading propaganda relating to hen harrier conservation in the UK. The aim is to hoodwink the public in to believing that the industry loves hen harriers and is doing all it can to protect and nurture the tiny remnant breeding population (but conveniently forgetting to mention that the breeding population is only in such dire straits because the grouse shooting industry has been ruthless in its maniacal intolerance of this supposedly protected species).

And the industry’s pursuit of the hen harrier is not ‘historical’ or indicative of past behaviour, as some would have us believe. It is on-going, it is current, and it is relentless.

To illustrate this fact, we intend to keep a running tally of all the hen harriers that we know (because most of these victims had been fitted with a satellite tag) to have either ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances or have been confirmed as being illegally killed since 2018.

Why only since 2018 when we know that hen harriers have been a persecution target for years and years and years? Well, 2018 is the year that the grouse shooting industry ‘leaders’ would have us believe that the criminal persecution of hen harriers had stopped and that these birds were being welcomed back on to the UK’s grouse moors (see here).

Having just learned that all five of last year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks are now ‘missing’ and presumed dead (one, #55147, probably dead from natural causes during a sea crossing so is not classed as ‘suspicious’ but the other four ‘missing’ in highly suspicious circumstances in the UK’s uplands – see here), it’s time to update the death list, which currently stands at 37. We have every expectation that this list will be updated again in the near future.

For now, here are the 37:

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: An untagged 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: An untagged 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)

5 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 1 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor nr Dalnaspidal on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park (here)

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

14 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183704) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

23 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #55149) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

24 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 2 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor at Invercauld 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 an untagged 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 (here)

1 April 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183703) ‘disappeared’ in unnamed location, tag intermittent (here)

21 May 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183701) ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Cumbria shortly after returning from wintering in France (here)

To be continued……..

11 thoughts on “37 hen harriers ‘missing’ or confirmed killed since 2018”

  1. Am I right in thinking that a year or two back another bird of prey was ‘ missing at sea,’ and presumed dumped there…..

  2. A terrible toll and of course there are all the untagged birds that this death list implies also have probably died at the hand of this criminal industry. No wonder the English Harrier population barely hangs on and no thanks whatever they claim to the grouse shooting cabal. This has been happening ever since Hen Harriers recolonised England ( and Wales) Northumberland and possibly Cumbria in the nineteen fifties, Durham, North Yorkshire and Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland in the late sixties. Its a carnage that almost certainly numbers hundreds possibly thousands of Hen Harriers. Tragedy barely covers it, a holocaust of birds, all down to one selfish, ignorant criminal industry that the rural economy can do without. In that time how many harrier persecution cases have made English courts never mind guilty verdicts, I can think of one and that was an egging case not persecution. A crime true but not as bad as killing as a friend says ” dead birds don’t lay eggs.”
    No wonder this awful industry continues in its pursuit of Hen Harrier extinction.

  3. Do we know what proportion of HHs are tagged? And can we therefore make an estimate of the true death toll?

    1. That is not simple Tim as it varies between nests depending in part on brood size so the proportion is between 20 and 50%, so the attrition rate is between 2 and 4 times the number we know about, this excludes BM birds all of which are tagged. However the proportion of tagged birds surviving from one breeding season to the next is very small 10-20%.

    2. The other thing to bear in mind is that whilst numbers outside Bowland have always been low, due to persecution but Bowland had 40 breeding females in 79/80 which was reduced to 4 by 1986. What killing rate does that take? Then it rose to 26 females in 91 and varied down to single figures until local temporary extinction in 2013, again imagine the slaughter. The best North Yorkshire year was 2003 with 6 possibly 7 attempts with two rearing 7 young. Most birds must live very short lives and be dead before any attempt at breeding.

  4. This is our version of the “Rhino Wars” in SA – and we need a similar response from the law when it comes to rogue estates and keepers

  5. In their report “A future for the Hen Harrier in England”, Natural England state:

    “Whilst evidence of persecution is irrefutable, it should be noted there is no proof linking incidents to particular individuals, as proven by the lack of successful prosecutions. This in no way diminishes the effect of criminality. We believe that whilst illegal killing continues to be a widespread activity both in this and in neighbouring countries, the prospects for the Hen Harrier’s return to its former range and numbers unaided are slight.

    When I wrote to my MP about the criminal activities associated with grouse moor management, I received a reply from the Rebecca Pow (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), who claimed in her response that the government were working with, amongst other bodies, game keepers and landowners to eradicate the illegal persecution of raptors.

    The fact that the Hen Harrier is probably the “flagship” species for raptors, and a true indication of whether the government approach is working. Then 37 Hen Harriers missing or confirmed killed since 2018 is not only a shocking statistic. It perhaps also indicative that the governments approach has not only failed to either understand the true nature of the issue or deliver on tackling the criminality responsible for this slaughter.

    As other contributors to this forum have so correctly identified- write to your MP, outline the evidence and lets hold the government accountable!
    The government can only keep running away from this issue for so long, and after the recent media interest in the nationwide killing of raptors during the “Coronavirus lockdown”, now is a good time to put the pressure on and demand change.

    In parliament, the Environment Bill Committee will no doubt have started on working the new Environment Bill legislation. So, you could ask your MP to contact this committee and ask that the Environment Bill includes measures to tackle raptor persecution and criminality associated with grouse moor management and the management of countryside. Is it right that stewardship or rural payments or grants should be made to those who act unlawfully in our countryside?

    The figures put the UK government in a very bad position when they demand other countries take their environmental issues seriously, but then can’t get “their own house in order”!!

    As Jimmy correctly points out, this is the UK version of “Rhino Wars” or the “Tiger Trade”- and the police and other conservation and environmental bodies need tough new legislation to tackle the problem.

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