53 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]

Just last month, this list totalled 52 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 the latest victim, Yarrow, hatched in 2020, gone by 12th April 2021 (see here).

This disgraceful catalogue will continue to grow – I know of at least one more on-going police investigation which has yet to be publicised.

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 53 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)

24 February 2021: Hen harrier Tarras ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Northumberland (here)

12th April 2021: Hen harrier Yarrow ‘disappeared’ near Stockton, County Durham (here)

To be continued……..

12 thoughts on “53 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018”

  1. And so it continues. Meanwhile the culprits are obviously getting away with it (mostly..) thank you Ruth for your tireless work (amongst great opposition and vilification ). I still can’t believe that in the 21st century this barbarism continues.

  2. The time for licensing has passed. Campaign groups have enough evidence now to campaign for a complete ban on Grouse shooting on our precious upland spaces. Gamekeeping is an evil profession that should be consigned to the history books.

  3. This makes dismal reading. And I fear it won’t start to get any better until Driven Grouse Shooting is banned. I am further dismayed by the unwillingness of the BBC, in particular in its ‘informing’ and ‘educating’ roles, to cover this kind of news or indeed anything ‘challenging’ to do with ‘Wildlife’ on its news website. (And ‘the environment’ too for that matter). I’ve emailed them a couple of times about this lack of coverage – and particular headings too – but have yet to receive a reply. They, along with other news channels could do a lot to generate public awareness on this issue but they prefer to keep schtumm. I wonder why?

    1. “I wonder why?”

      Indeed. I also wonder how many of the BBC’s Executive Committee, Board and the rest of its huge management structure either partake in or are otherwise associated with the Shooting industry?

      When Farming Today spent an entire programme extolling the ‘virtues’ of ‘game food’ without once mentioning the serious health issues of ingesting lead, even in the most minute of quantities, I made an official complaint (as per their web site). To this day they have refused to respond…

      Of course, it is not helped that Phil The Greek is estimated to have personally shot 30,000 ‘game birds’ in his life… with the BBC leading the pack in venerating his life.

  4. We need action now! Natural England seen to have fallen for the propaganda that driven grouse shooting is of economic benefit to uplands, whereas wildlife tourism could bring in a far larger benefit while delivering greater biodiversity (so say Common Weal). The SNP should not drag their heels any longer and put licencing in place before the start of the next season on 12th August.

  5. This is beyond belief!!

    We need to stand up to these bullies (The Grouse Shooting Industry) and a bill to make the industry illegal I. e. the ban of grouse shooting. That is the only way to stop this horrendous and vile persecution.

    I am feeling very angry right now!!


  6. There is no point in any of us debating this with the wilfully blind who support, partake and act as mouthpieces for or promoters of the niche activity that is DGS. They won’t listen and the few that do are quite clearly both dominated by the majority and anyway there is no prospect of any meaningful self regulation. Licencing is the absolute bare minimum but unless we can be absolutely sure it will be very vigorously policed it will not make enough difference and may hamper the route to a ban. Even the good guys in shooting do not believe all we say despite the science and police press releases, they remain friends with the criminals and those who employ the criminals. To them talk shows we are making progress but we are clearly not and the time has come and gone when we should have got very tough. No more talking to them or for that matter listening we should all be campaigning for a ban on the basis of ecology, biodiversity, organised crime prevention, climate change, flood prevention, water quality and that our uplands would be better served and serve the nation far better including economically if this foul Victorian “sport” of the inadequate and all who adhere to it were gone, gone gone, to oblivion.

    1. Spot on!!
      53 critically endangered satellite tagged birds either killed or missing in suspicious circumstances in just over 2 years, and yet no one has been held accountable, and the activity which creates this criminal behaviour is still permitted.
      This is totally unacceptable in a supposedly democratic country with a rule of law, where criminal behaviour should be thoroughly investigated, punished and hindered.

  7. Is the number of HHs tagged in every season recorded as a %age of total birds fledged ? It follows that the tagged and disappeared birds are only a %age of the total number likely missing. If say only 50% are tagged there must be a similar number of untagged birds have likely met the same fate.

  8. So whats the suggest plan to get some justice back and hold these contemptible grouse shooting idiots to task?

  9. My local wildlife club has been mass ‘infiltrated’ by BASC pro shooting lunatics , (more than 25 of them ) and all joined within 4 days of each other last September. They post pro hunting propaganda, refute and dismiss any suggestion of wrongdoing by the hunting ‘industry . Is this part of a conserted and organised online activity by BASC? Is anyone else’s local group suffered the same thing?

    Dave in Clitheroe, Lancs

    1. There has been a noticeable vocal element of pro-shooting people on BirdGuides for quite a while. Typically, they make wild pro-shooting assertions without ever being able to provide any evidence. Maybe they are useful business for BirdGuides because I regularly get criticised by their ‘web managers’ for being ‘passive aggressive’ when I refute their claims, often with references…

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