40 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 simply ‘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).

This assertion was made shortly before the publication of a devastating new scientific paper that demonstrated that 72% of satellite-tagged Hen Harriers were confirmed or considered likely to have been illegally killed, and this was ten times more likely to occur over areas of land managed for grouse shooting relative to other land uses (see here).

We only started compiling this list of dead / missing hen harriers in June when we learned that all five of last year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks were ‘missing’, presumed dead (see here). It was then further updated when we learned that two more satellite-tagged hen harriers had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors in the Cairngorms National Park during the Coronvirus lockdown (see here).

It’s now time to update the death list again, as we’ve learned that satellite-tagged hen harrier Rain ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances over a grouse moor in Nairnshire on 26 April 2019 (see here). (Thanks to blog reader Alex Milne for pointing us to this info).

That brings the gruesome tally to 40 hen harriers.

Four Zero.


In the space of two years.

Nobody has been prosecuted for any of these cases. We have every expectation that this list will be updated again in the near future.

For now, here are the 40:

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)

26 April 2019: Hen harrier Rain ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Nairnshire (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)

5 April 2020: Hen harrier Hoolie ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

8 April 2020: Hen harrier Marlin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (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……..

Anybody still wondering why the grouse shooting industry wants us to stop fitting satellite tags?

14 thoughts on “40 hen harriers ‘missing’ or confirmed killed since 2018”

  1. I seem to have information on 2 more ‘NE tagged’ birds as follows:
    NE seems to have a habit of releasing information very late, in a manner likely to be missed even by people who are interested, or possibly (and I’ve no information on this) not at all. They are an utter disgrace.
    “Missing no trace
    Mabel 2 October 2018 Little Smale Gill, Ravenseat moor Yorkshire Dales bird 2018
    Tom 23 October 2018 Bridgend South Wales 2018 bird
    Barney xx Bodmin Moor 2018 Bird”
    If you don’t have a reference I could try searching for it. It will likely be well concealed.
    It may be that these 2 birds should be added to the list. Each one is important and should not be omitted if they fit your criteria.

      1. It is worth perhaps repeating what I put on Mark’ Avery s blog about the NE birds.
        “It is very hard to follow what we know about NE birds. I try to keep up but fail.
        If only it didn’t change so often.
        I wonder if this has been issued to finally correct what we all hope is to come in the peer reviewed report and data?
        Still, the link you gave shows what NE believes missing fate unknown includes.
        Perhaps it also includes shot, bird and tag destroyed, buried or removed. Strangely enough it does not say that anywhere in the 8 lines of possibilities.
        Perhaps no one has indicated to NE that should also be included.”
        18 months on, the situation with Hen Harriers disappearing and NE incompetence has not changed in any way.

  2. This is a national disgrace. The Hen Harrier is a red listed bird of conservation concern.
    Regular readers of this website will already be aware of most of the facts concerning this bird.

    What can get lost in all the “debate, science and population counts” concerning Hen Harriers is that these birds are sentient beings – a fact recognized by the UK government.

    And whilst this conservation battle rages on, and on- these birds are suffering on an individual basis, through all manner of persecution, suffering and death.

    The suffering many Hen Harriers endure would not be tolerated in domesticated animals or pets.

    Those responsible are nothing short of cruel, barbaric and evil people, who clearly display no ethical or moral values.

    So, regardless of the conservation debate, Hen harrier numbers, breeding success etc, the suffering these birds endure as they try and go about their lives is a testament to the depraved behavior of certain elements within the shooting industry.

    One thought that has struck me with the BLM protests is, – should public consciousness and outrage also be extended to all manner of injustice and persecution, not just racism, sexism or ageism but also speciesism?

    Have we reached a point in our history, when “direct action” is now the only course available to bring about the changes necessary to stop this injustice and persecution?

    Do the British public now need to have another “1932- Kinder Scout” moment of civil disobedience to make the government pass the necessary legislation to effectively deal once and for all with the issue of raptor and wildlife persecution?

    This may be something our politicians need to consider very carefully, whilst they pontificate and drag their heels on implementing changes to wildlife protection.

    And whilst this dithering drags on and on- birds and other wildlife suffer intolerably.

    For those who haven’t read Peter Singer’s excellent book – Animal Liberation, it is an illuminating read and explores the ethics or in many cases the lack of ethics in how humans treat the other creatures we share this planet with.

  3. Given that half to a third of Hen Harrier broods are fitted with satellite tags and extrapolating the survival of those untagged birds would suggest a death toll of between 80 and 120 birds, a truly horrible and horrifying total. If this is tolerance quite what does intolerance look like, one shudders to think.
    Also time we not only listed all these harriers and where they died but which estates own these places and who owns or manages these estates. We are not suggesting who is killing these birds but even so.

    1. Paul’s extrapolated figures for total Hen Harrier persecution over the period seems bang on. This is a rapid rate of attrition set against no movement at all from Government. We are in desperate measures when faced with these contrasting rates of progress.
      There is considerable support for the idea of making public the estates and ownership associated with these losses, it would make an interesting league table and give us all focal points, a handle on exactly what and where rather than the more general picture that we currently have. After all, if the three of you at Wild Justice attract such attention, surely the criminals deserve a share in the spotlight. There could also be a good guys league too.

    2. Not all of the 40 were tagged, but the number that were supports an overall figure in the range suggested. What do we have to do to get some action?
      It is abundantly clear that there is a hard core of people in a certain profession who are in open defiance of the law and who seize any opportunity which might arise to destroy Hen Harriers and other species, notably Red Kites. Two things might help. Firstly a significant strengthening of the law to make it something to be reckoned with – not least in terms of facilitating active Police surveillance and allowing the use of video evidence. Secondly, in those rare instances in which someone is brought to book for offences committed, as severe a penalty as is possible should be imposed. It is high time that the existing option of six months in the slammer was utilised in addition to the imposition of a significant financial penalty.

  4. And just the tip of a very large iceberg. These are birds that are tracked and known about. How many others have been killed? How many other raptors that are not tracked have met the same fate? But let’s not forgot the amazing, fantastic, brilliant news of a massive, incomprehensible, mind boggling figure of 12 successful nests in England as recently published. (Note the hint of sarcasm).

  5. The biggest problem is the government,they turn a blind eye to these criminals because many politicians have a vested interest, they need to think long and hard for they are sending out the wrong signals, are they saying if it suits you it is ok to break the law. People are sick of the rich and famous getting away with crime because they can use their influence or money to buy their way out, if we all start breaking the law they will be powerless to stop us, just look at the recent riots, do the right thing government and lead by example or you may soon pay the consequences

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