51 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018

For anyone who still wants to pretend that the grouse shooting industry isn’t responsible for the systematic extermination of hen harriers on grouse moors across the UK, here’s the latest catalogue of crime that suggests otherwise.

[This male hen harrier died in 2019 after his leg was almost severed in an illegally set trap that had been placed next to his nest on a Scottish grouse moor (see here). Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Ten days ago this list totalled 48 hen harriers, all either confirmed to have been illegally killed or to have ‘disappeared’, most of them on or next to driven grouse moors.

They disappear in the same way political dissidents in authoritarian dictatorships have disappeared” (Stephen Barlow, 22 January 2021).

Today the list has been updated to include some others whose reported disappearances in 2020 have been confirmed, including Bronwyn (here) and Rosie (here), bringing the current running total to 51 hen harriers.

This disgraceful catalogue will continue to grow – I know of at least one more on-going police investigation which has yet to be publicised and I suspect there’s one other, although I’m still waiting for clarification on that one.

I’ve been compiling this list only since 2018 because that 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).

2018 was also the year that Natural England issued itself with a licence to begin a hen harrier brood meddling trial on grouse moors in northern England. For new blog readers, hen harrier brood meddling is a conservation sham sanctioned by DEFRA as part of its ludicrous ‘Hen Harrier Action Plan‘ and carried out by Natural England (NE), in cahoots with the very industry responsible for the species’ catastrophic decline in England. For more background see here.

Brood meddling has been described as a sort of ‘gentleman’s agreement’ by commentator Stephen Welch:

I don’t get it, I thought the idea of that scheme was some kind of trade off – a gentleman’s agreement that the birds would be left in peace if they were moved from grouse moors at a certain density. It seems that one party is not keeping their side of the bargain“.

With 51 hen harriers gone since 2018, I think it’s fair to say that the grouse shooting industry is simply taking the piss. Meanwhile, Natural England pretends that ‘partnership working’ is the way to go.

‘Partnership working’ appears to include authorising the removal of hen harrier chicks from a grouse moor already under investigation by the police for suspected raptor persecution (here) and accepting a £10K bung from representatives of the grouse shooting industry that prevents Natural England from criticising them (see here).

[Cartoon by Gill Lewis]

So here’s the latest gruesome list:

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)

23 October 2018: Hen harrier Tom ‘disappeared’ in South Wales (here)

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here)

1 November 2018: Hen harrier Barney ‘disappeared’ on Bodmin Moor (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)

24 September 2019: Hen harrier Bronwyn ‘disappeared’ near a grouse moor in North Wales (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)

23 March 2020: Hen harrier Rosie ‘disappeared’ at an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland (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)

19 May 2020: Hen harrier Fingal ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Lowther Hills, Scotland (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)

27 May 2020: Hen harrier Silver ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on Leadhills Estate, Scotland (here)

9 July 2020: Unnamed female hen harrier (#201118) ‘disappeared’ from an undisclosed site in Northumberland (here).

25 July 2020: Hen harrier Harriet ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

14 August 2020: Hen harrier Solo ‘disappeared’ in confidential nest area in Lancashire (here)

7 September 2020: Hen harrier Dryad ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

16 September 2020: Hen harrier Fortune ‘disappeared’ from an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland (here)

19 September 2020: Hen harrier Harold ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

20 September 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2020, #55152) ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in North Yorkshire (here)

To be continued……..

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

16 thoughts on “51 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018”

  1. Is there really good reason for the public being prevented from knowing about these cases simply because there’s an ongoing investigation ? It seems almost totally counter productive. I can understand that it’s accepted practice to enable police to conduct the “investigation”, fine, with a reasonable time delay, but it seems sometimes months later the incidents actually come to light, and quite ludicrously accompanied by a public request for information.
    It seems like the release of the information, at times, could almost be seen as “managed” to downplay the number or severity of the cases.

  2. Hi Ruth
    I noticed in your list of shame that Wildland harriers 1 and 2 are confirmed dead in the Cairngorms. According to the tracking app Wildland harrier 6 disappeared 6 months ago as well just up the A9 from Blair Atholl heading north. Do you have any idea what has happened to this one?

    1. … and if as many as a quarter of Hen Harriers were tracked then that equates to over 200 being killed in total. Even that represents a hideous level of persecution but the reality must be more!

      1. Agreed, – based on the assumption that if one in four birds are tagged the total untagged deaths are likely an additional 3x the tagged. It would be interesting to know if shared information has any effect on outcomes, moreso in recent years. Survival rates of tagged birds and how that might have changed in the last few years might also be worth looking at – in short, has being tagged, in recent years, increased, even very marginally, the chances of an early death.

  3. This goes beyond cruel, malicious and criminal activity. It’s effectively a war waged by the shooting estates and their agents – official or otherwise – on the conservation movement with the persecution of wildlife as its primary mode of expression. I feel that it is not just random events but a coordinated offensive against us backed up with surveillance, harassment and intimidation at a personal level as I have experienced myself on the shooting estate where I live. It is therefore time – past time in fact – for all the various charities that support wildlife to come together to acknowledge this state of war – some more subtle use of language should be used here I suspect – so as to coordinate activities at all levels from the practical to the political to mobilise public opinion against this reign of ‘animalicide’ so that appropriate steps can be taken as happened with Fox Hunting when Tony Blair became Prime Minister. I predict that Bumbling Boris and his band of Tory cronies will be booted out at the next election and Keir Starmer will lead a Labour party to power and provide the chance to challenge the entrenched Tory status quo support for estates across the UK. (Well, England in this case at least). So we need to prepare for this opportunity now.
    Sorry to be so dramatic but sometimes you have to ‘tell it like it really is’. Alas.

  4. Mother Nature is weeping….as any and everyone who is as horrified, disgusted and heartbroken about this ongoing slaughter against nature, our own tears combined would create oceans, seas, lakes, rivers worldwide; yet they still couldn’t begin to move the world the way it needs to be moved, leaving me to wish hand on heart for people to visualise it…if even for a moment, the amount of copious tears Mother Earth and Nature sheds for every one of our precious raptors murdered. Every heart would feel their pain, whilst only those of lead remain unmoved…may their hearts feel that same lead until the end of time…and beyond.

  5. How anyone in government thinks that this doesn’t justify radical action on multiple fronts is beyond me

  6. Heart breaking stuff, and unspeakably frustrating.Hats off to you for sticking with it, No one does more for this cause.Thank you

    1. Could I ask how many birds are tagged and how many bird are found away from shooting g areas or is that irrevalent

      1. Hello George,

        You might want to try reading this peer-reviewed paper published in 2019 that addresses your question.

        Here’s the abstract:

        Patterns of satellite tagged hen harrier disappearances suggest widespread illegal killing on British grouse moors (Murgatroyd et al, 2019, Nature Comms).

        Identifying patterns of wildlife crime is a major conservation challenge. Here, we test whether deaths or disappearances of a protected species, the hen harrier, are associated with grouse moors, which are areas managed for the production of red grouse for recreational shooting. Using data from 58 satellite tracked hen harriers, we show high rates of unexpected tag failure and low first year survival compared to other harrier populations. The likelihood of harriers dying or disappearing increased as their use of grouse moors increased. Similarly, at the landscape scale, satellite fixes from the last week of life were distributed disproportionately on grouse moors in comparison to the overall use of such areas. This pattern was also apparent in protected areas in northern England. We conclude that hen harriers in Britain suffer elevated levels of mortality on grouse moors, which is most likely the result of illegal killing.

        Here’s the paper – it’s open access so available to read in full, for free:

        Click to access widespread-illegal-killing-of-hh-on-british-grouse-moors.pdf

        And funnily enough, the same pattern of suspicious disappearances on or close to grouse moors was found in a similar study of satellite-tagged golden eagles in Scotland. You can read that report, in full, here:

        Click to access analyses-of-the-fates-of-satellite-tracked-golden-eagles-in-scotland.pdf

  7. It’s going to be pathetic to witness N.E. climb down from this total fiasco, as surely they will try. This is a major miscarriage and must surely demand that heads roll.

    1. Could I ask how many birds are tagged and how many bird are found away from shooting g areas or is that irrevalent

      [Ed: George, please don’t spam this blog or you’ll be blocked. Fair warning]

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