Cairngorms National Park Authority statement on hen harrier persecution

Hen harrier persecution is a National Wildlife Crime Priority and the population in Scotland has suffered a 27% decline in the last 12 years. Losing over a quarter of the population in such a short period is a significant conservation concern and as such, we expect a strong response from the authorities whenever these crimes are exposed.

Earlier this month we learned that two satellite-tagged hen harriers (Wildland hen harrier 1 and Wildland hen harrier 2) had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on two grouse moors in September 2019, one within the Cairngorms National Park and one right on the Park boundary (see here). We don’t recall seeing any statement from the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

Yesterday we learned that two more satellite-tagged hen harriers, Hoolie and Marlin, had both ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances from grouse moors in the Cairngorms National Park in April 2020 (see here). We also learned that they both vanished on exactly the same grouse moors from where two other satellite-tagged hen harriers had also disappeared without trace (Hen harrier ‘Lad‘ in 2015 and Hen harrier Marci in 2019).

It’s bad enough that these birds continue to be persecuted even though they’ve had legal protection in the UK for 76 years, but when this keeps happening inside a so-called National Park and nobody is ever held to account, you have to wonder, in terms of species conservation, what’s the point of National Park status?

We asked Grant Moir, CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, for a statement about these latest two suspicious disappearances and this is what he provided this afternoon:

It’s a strong statement in as much as the CNPA CEO recognises and fully accepts that these wildlife crimes continue in some areas of the National Park, which is in stark contrast to statements made by the grouse shooting industry reps today (more on this later) but it doesn’t offer a solution. It’s more of an exasperated shrug of the shoulders and a heavy reliance on the Scottish Government to respond well to the Werritty Review.

Is that it, then? Is the CNPA so impotent it can do nothing more than bemoan the persistent criminality within its boundary? This has been going on since 2002 (the Park wasn’t formally established until 2003 but we’ve included 2002 data as the area had been mapped by then). This list includes just the crimes we know about. How many more went unreported/undiscovered? How many more will we have to read about before the criminals are held to account?



Feb: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Tomintoul (No prosecution)

Mar: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 rabbit baits. Cromdale (No prosecution)


Apr: 3 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 grey partridge baits. Kingussie (No prosecution)

Jun: Attempted shooting of a hen harrier. Crannoch (Successful prosecution)


May: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cuaich (No prosecution)

Nov: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)


Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale (No prosecution)

Mar: 3 x poisoned buzzards, 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Crathie (No prosecution)


Jan: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Dulnain Bridge (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned raven (Mevinphos). Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Morven [corbett] (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned raven + 1 x poisoned common gull (Aldicarb) + egg bait. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

May: egg bait (Aldicarb). Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenfeshie (No prosecution)


Jan: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Glenshee (No prosecution)

Apr: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: Pole trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

May: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Tomintoul (No prosecution)

May: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit & hare baits. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Jul: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Ballater (No prosecution)

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Newtonmore (No prosecution)

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)


Jan: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Mar: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)


May: 2 x poisoned ravens (Mevinphos). Delnabo (No prosecution)

Jun: rabbit bait (Mevinphos). nr Tomintoul (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Strathdon (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x illegal crow trap. Nr Tomintoul (No prosecution)


Apr: Pole trap. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x pole-trapped goshawk. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Jun: Illegally set spring trap on tree stump. Nr Dalwhinnie (No prosecution)

Sep: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenlochy (No prosecution)

Oct: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Nr Boat of Garten (No prosecution)


Jan: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Bridge of Brown (No prosecution)

Mar: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Apr: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran & Aldicarb). Nr Bridge of Brown (No prosecution)

May:  1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

May: 1 x shot short-eared owl, found stuffed under rock. Glenbuchat (No prosecution)

Jun: 1 x shot peregrine. Pass of Ballater (No prosecution)

Aug: grouse bait (Aldicarb). Glenlochy (No prosecution)

Sep: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

Nov: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon


Apr: 1 x shot short-eared owl. Nr Grantown-on-Spey (No prosecution)

Apr: Peregrine nest site burnt out. Glenshee (No prosecution)

May: Buzzard nest shot out. Nr Ballater (No prosecution)


Jan: White-tailed eagle nest tree felled. Invermark (No prosecution)

May: 1 x shot hen harrier. Glen Gairn (No prosecution)

May: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat


Apr: Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat

May: Armed masked men shoot out a goshawk nest. Glen Nochty (No prosecution)


Sep: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Lad’ found dead, suspected shot. Newtonmore (No prosecution)


May: 1 x shot goshawk. Strathdon (No prosecution)

Jun: Illegally set spring traps. Invercauld (No prosecution)

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Brian’ ‘disappears’. Kingussie


Mar: Satellite-tagged golden eagle #338 ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Calluna’ ‘disappears’. Ballater


May: Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle Blue T ‘disappears’. Ballater

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Athena’ ‘disappears’. Nr Grantown on Spey

Aug: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Margot’ ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

Sept: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Stelmaria’ ‘disappears’. Ballater


April: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Marci’ ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon

April: Four geese poisoned and Carbofuran bait found on an estate nr Kingussie (no prosecution)

August: Golden eagle photographed with a spring trap dangling from its foot, nr Crathie, Deeside

September: Satellite-tagged hen harrier Wildland 1 ‘disappears’ on a grouse moor nr Dalnaspidal

September: Satellite-tagged hen harrier Wildland 2 ‘disappears’ on a grouse moor at Invercauld


April: Satellite-tagged hen harrier Hoolie ‘disappears’ on grouse moor nr Newtonmore

April: Satellite-tagged hen harrier Marlin ‘disappears’ on grouse moor nr Strathdon

In addition to the above list, two recent scientific publications have documented the long-term decline of breeding peregrines on grouse moors in the eastern side of the National Park (see here) and the catastrophic decline of breeding hen harriers, also on grouse moors in the eastern side of the Park (see here).


29 thoughts on “Cairngorms National Park Authority statement on hen harrier persecution”

  1. Bearing in mind what powers the Park does and does not have, and the fact that its not an NGO but instead the staff answer to a governing Board (a mix of appointed by Scottish ministers, locally elected, and Local Authority reps) what exactly would you like them to do? They don’t have legal enforcement powers, nor can they dictate land use. (They are the planning authority though so tracks etc are within their power to control if that’s a problem in the Cairngorms like it is on some English moors). Genuine question – I’m just asking for specifics of what they have the power and/or authority to do that they are not doing? Thanks

      1. Ok, the first 24/07/16 post asserts that NPs have the power to ban hunting by means of byelaws. That’s quite a stretch in terms of recognised authority but let’s take the assertion at face value and ignore the legal difficulties. What would happen if they tried to enact such a byelaw?

        s202 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 applies to NPA byelaws which states that “Provided that, notwithstanding that a local Act specifies otherwise, the confirming authority in relation to byelaws made under any local Act shall be the Secretary of State.”. So, first, the NPA would need the agreement of the Local Authorities and others on its board to put forward a byelaw, following a significant public consultation exercise and Board vote, and then the Scottish SoS would need to approve it. The bitter divisiveness of a years long consultation exercise would cripple the NPA and the local communities for decades, but ok lets assume there was a margin in support (52;48 perhaps? We know how well that goes).

        Given how often this blog (rightly) condemns the attitude of the Scottish Government on issues of grouse shooting, how likely is it that such a byelaw would then be approved by the SoS? Note too that a byelaw that banned a commercial activity worth £millions, if it survived legal challenge, would incur a compensation liability big enough to bankrupt the NPA several times over, unless the Scottish Govt bailed them out.

        Seems a lot more likely to me that the NPA would simply find itself in very hot water for being so stupid as to ask; it would be political suicide and the byelaw would never be enacted. A byelaw is simply not an legitimate or legally sustainable mechanism for such a significant change. What you’re asking of the NPA is completely unreasonable.

        The 04/09/2017 blog proposes that land in the NPA is nationalised – not a bad idea at all but the blog itself admits that that’s impossible under current legislation and would require an entirely new legislative framework. So once again responsibility lies with the Scottish Government not the NPA because they have the power and the NPA does not. However I also suggest that it might not be unreasonable for the Scottish Government to think that a vast land purchase and all the associated legal battles might not be the highest priority for hundreds of millions of pounds of public money. They’d be far better off just banning driven grouse shooting, which would be far more cost effective and far less legally fraught.

        But to do that they’d have to want to, which brings us back to where the responsibility does lie, with the Scottish Government (just for the record I’m English and despite its failings let’s just say I’d rather have the Scottish Govt than our Tory one!).

        So…the NPA can’t ban hunting without the agreement of the Scottish Government, and if they had such agreement the Scottish Government would simply ban drive grouse shooting itself anyway.
        And the NPA certainly can’t unilaterally nationalise the land as parkswatchscotland itself states.

        So I ask again; what does the NPA have the power and/or authority to do that they are not doing?

        1. You make a fair point Bill, in terms of the powers of the NPA, as RaptorPersecutionUK says. But aren’t you rather missing the point that, in the context of decades of organised crime, the statement from Grant Moir is hand-wringingly weak and was only issued when RPUK asked for a response?

          You don’t necessarily need power to be able to change things and some leadership from the CNPA might go a long way. They could point out that whilst tougher sentences are welcome, they’re pointless if no one is ever prosecuted. They could state unequivocally that the Scottish Government needs to act upon the recommendations of the Werrity Report, if a decline in persecution is to be achieved. They could consistently deplore the persecution that happens in the Park. They could campaign for more power, for themselves or for other appropriate bodies, to be able to tackle the issues. They could point out that the National Park isn’t actually able to protect the ecological heritage it contains.

          Perhaps they have done these things elsewhere, but if so I’m not aware of them.

          1. Francis, thank you. Those are all, I agree, things they could do if the Board were to back the CEO in being more outspoken. So pressure on those controlling Board members is a good way to go. Would be interesting and very useful to know which of them would be supportive, which need persuasion and how best to change their minds, and which would never agree. Then work on tipping the balance; the NPA can’t go further than its board members permit.

            1. Absolutely agree Bill, that’s a good way to try to change their approach. Thinking about the best way to do it now … Thank you, too.

  2. That list Raptor Persecution has posted above is a clear indictment of a situation that surely requires the Park authority members to recognise their own hands are tied, apparently. If Parkwatch writing in 2017 can analyse public concern, surely the CNPA should be doing the same and coming up with their own plan of action, not simply washing their hands of it in the hope that others will find a solution. .

  3. The major obstacle to change continues to be the pattern of land ownership in Scotland – until this changes significantly we will always be fighting an unequal battle. We will win in the end but God it’s like pulling teeth!

  4. As Kempe states, buying the land is really the only safe option. However, with Langholm only getting a third of what they applied for, it’s going to be a mighty uphill struggle.

  5. Instead of posting a list of wildlife crimes committed within the park how about publishing a list of statements made by the Cairngorms National Park Authority. I’m sure it will be a sorry list of excuses and inaction.

  6. I’m afraid this long catalogue of mindless destruction just shows that the legislation designed to protect our national parks and AONBs is not worth the paper it is written on.

  7. Who cares about all this? We’re getting the funicular repaired for a mere 10 million aren’t we? Who cares about a few birds (not the CNPA at any rate).

    This is a joke actually – but not a very funny one.

  8. I understand the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform is Roseanna Cunningham.

    This Minister has responsibility amongst other things for policy on climate change, environmental protection and biodiversity; environmental and climate justice; land use and land reform; animal welfare; wildlife crime.

    The fact that this appalling Hen Harrier persecution is occurring under her watch and the lack of positive action by the Minister to tackle this ongoing problem is something she should be held accountable for.

    Previously she has made all the right noises about tackling raptor persecution – but words alone are not enough, and changes in legislation about how National Parks are managed are now the only way this problem will ever be resolved.

    Enough talk- some action please!

    1. John L, oh no please spare us from more action by Roseanne. Her previous action to deal with the prolific and systemic crimes against raptors and other wildlife in the CNP was to unleash a special detachment of highly trained and motivated Special Constables. If she does take heed of your plea John maybe she’ll reinforce the SC with Girl Guides & Boy Scouts.

  9. Looking at the % of no prosecutions it doesnt take a genius to work out scottish law, powers to police and the legal system need a total overhaul.

  10. One key theme of this turbo charged slaughter in the last 15 yrs or so in that region is the fact that a lot of english “grouse gurus” & agents have gone up there and got their feet under the table with the owners. My advice to the scottish people (and I am english) is get them thrown out before it’s too late! In another 15 years the Cairngorms won’t be at all wild in any sense, just a barren endless carpet of short dry and burnt patches of heather, loads of 4wd tracks, loads of grouse and curlews…and naff all else. Want a glimpse of your future? Come visit the moors of south northumberland, durham and north yorkshire.

    1. Spaghnum Morose you are spot on there, I live in Teesdale, and the way you describe the moorland is exactly right, it is a giant grouse farm, along with stoat traps on planks over little streams, and medicated grit in black plastic boxes for the flying “chickens”. The heather was knee deep fifteen years ago, and now you’re lucky if it’s six inches!

  11. I reckon that the response from the CEO of the CNPA is fair enough. What more should we expect from the head of a glorified planning department. Where does the role of the law enforcers figure in this debacle? Was it here where the Police launched an initiative a few years ago involving drafting in a couple of special constables to ask around if anyone knew of any baddies who were destroying raptors? Or did I just imagine that?

  12. That impotence was evident at Hen Harrier Day, Granton-On-Spey, 2018 where the rep from the CNPA hadn’t a clue how many pairs of hen harriers were in the “National Park.” You’d think he’d have done some homework before his speech..

    Even more telling – he disappeared like a rat up a drainpipe whilst all the other guest speakers assembled for an official photograph..

  13. This doesn’t make pleasant reading, a persistent catalogue of raptor persecution which unless addressed will continue unchecked. No wonder those with an interest in grouse moors are kern to have the 5 years to get their act together. At this rate 5 years from now they’ll be no raptors left😡
    Come on Scottish Government get your act together and address this raptor slaughter for the benefit of a minority who get pleasure from shooting grouse for sport – shameful
    As a National Park it should benefit all and those in charge should not be turning a blind eye or shrugging their shoulders to a problem that will not resolve itself

  14. In the statement, he could have said that he hoped the government would consider seriously implementing the Werritty recommendations immediately and not waiting five further years. That would have been an easy addition.

  15. It is interesting to compare the 2013 – 2018 Cairngorms Nature Action Plan with the follow-up 2019 – 2024 plan. The earlier one includes the statement that grouse shooting (amongst other activities) is fundamentally important to the biodiversity of the park. The 2019 plan seems to have shifted – if barely perceptibly – from that position and states “Currently, much of it [i.e. moorland] is managed for the primary aim of producing sufficient populations of red grouse and/or red deer for sport shooting. The longer term aim is to develop a more sustainable model of hunting, which includes more habitat and species diversity and delivers more public benefit.” And then “The key consideration is the balance of land use objectives and the extent to which the intensity of some management practices might be affecting long term sustainability and delivery of outcomes”.

    Hopefully this indicates that the myth peddled by the grouse-shooting lobby that upland biodiversity is dependent on the work of gamekeepers is being steadily eroded in the corridors of power. That of course is cold comfort given the ongoing cynical slaughter of birds of prey on shooting estates but it is a necessary step towards a hopefully not too distant future when decisive action is taken to address the issue.

    Unfortunately the UK’s national parks are not true protected areas in the wildlife conservation sense and as noted above the National Park Authority has very minimal powers to do much more than the hand-wringing we have seen.

    1. Agreed. “National Park” should more accurately be renamed “Atttractive Rural Area with some Planning Restrictions”…(complete with well paid quango presiding over it). In my (albeit dated) experience in northumberland the volunteers who help care for and love these places are the only ones whose hearts are really into the ethos of the thing.

  16. Outrageous – government sort it out obviously a relationship between the percecution and grouse shooting. Wildlife first please

  17. A decline of 27% might not seem particularly significant to some raptor enthusiasts, but it has to be borne in mind that this decline was from an already serious decline of the species. I don’t have access to figures right now, but wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Hen Harriers over time have lost several hundred pairs. That in itself may well be an under-estimate.

  18. It seems to me significant that the CNPA offices in Grantown-on-Spey are opposite a large hotel which seems to concentrate on visitors interested in wildlife. One would hope the CNPA would see the significance of this in the town and the wider area. It’s not obvious if they do.

  19. I shall not holiday in Scotland until this despicable criminal activity is stopped, grouse moors must be licensed and if criminal activity occurs the license must be revoked for 5 years and a considerable fine applied

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