61 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018, most of them on or close to UK grouse moors

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]

This is the blog I now publish after every reported killing or suspicious disappearance.

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 most recently reported victim, a young hen harrier whose satellite tag inexplicably stopped transmitting and whose corpse vanished in to thin air a few weeks ago on 10th February 2022 (see here).

The disgraceful national catalogue of illegally killed and ‘missing’ hen harriers 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 at least 61 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 and DEFRA Ministers remain silent.

‘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 or the sham brood meddling trial (see here).

[Cartoon by Gill Lewis]

So here’s the latest gruesome list. Note that the majority of these birds (but not all) were fitted with satellite tags. How many more [untagged] harriers have been killed?

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)

day/month unknown: Unnamed male hen harrier breeding on RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria ‘disappeared’ while away hunting (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)

18 May 2021: Adult male hen harrier ‘disappeared’ from its breeding attempt on RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria whilst away hunting (here)

18 May 2021: Another adult male hen harrier ‘disappeared’ from its breeding attempt on RSPB Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria whilst away hunting (here)

24 July 2021: Hen harrier Asta ‘disappeared’ at a ‘confidential site’ in the North Pennines (here)

14th August 2021: Hen harrier Josephine ‘disappeared’ at a ‘confidential site’ in Northumberland (here)

17 September 2021: Hen harrier Reiver ‘disappeared’ in a grouse moor dominated region of Northumberland (here)

24 September 2021: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2021, R2-F-1-21) ‘disappeared’ in Northumberland (here)

10 February 2022: An unnamed satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappeared’ in a grouse moor dominated area of the Peak District National Park (here)

To be continued……..

Oh, and we’re still waiting for Natural England to tell us the cause of death of two brood meddled hen harriers whose corpses were found in October 2021 (see here). Will they, too, be added to this list?

18 thoughts on “61 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018, most of them on or close to UK grouse moors”

  1. Thank you for posting this up to date list. Let’s hope that someone in a position to help change things reads this.

  2. The problem with Natural England is the people at the top.
    The ‘workers’ are mostly very dedicated highly qualified people who could earn twice as much salary working elsewhere.
    It’s poorly led and under funded.

  3. I can’t say I’m impressed with Tony Juniper’s performance on this but you need to remember that we live in a democracy where it is the elected politicians who call the shots – and there seems little doubt that George Eustice, Rebecca Pow and Lords Benyon and Goldsmith will have made it quite clear where they stand on this and the wriggle room for Natural England is extremely limited. Any idea that NE is at ‘arms’ length went out the window in 1990 when NCC was abolished following the Flow Country dispute.

    1. I’d disagree as our political system, though still a democracy of sorts, has morphed into a place where big business basically sponsors politicians to the point where it unfairly influences their election success. many also appear to have an eye on lucrative employment after they finish with politics.
      Woerds are cheap, regardless of what politicians might pronounce as action is what engenders success. Those who accept these jobs under current conditions know exactly how it works, as opposed to how it is presented to the public at large. i find it sad that in most people’s eyes Tony Juniper chose to become part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution as his decisions in many areas reflect. With his knowledge and experience he could be much more effective outwith such a compromised organisation.

    2. “but you need to remember that we live in a democracy where it is the elected politicians who call the shots”

      Tony Juniper always has the opportunity to resign over this issue, and make a damning public statement about it.

      ‘I was only following orders’ has long been deemed to be no defence in criminal/moral matters.

  4. There can be no doubt that the people with the influence, as cited by Roderick above, are fully aware of this issue. Not only are they, effectively, condoning the continued breaking of the law by failing to acknowledge the problem but they are also overseeing the wanton destruction of one of our most spectacular and inspiring raptor species. Surely the time has come for some positive action to resolve this once and for all. What does it take?

    1. “What does it take?”

      How about the BBC – with its outstanding Natural History Unit and the highest viewing figures for wildlife television programmes in this country – allow the persecution of raptors in the UK be exposed in fine detail? Maybe they could look at the devastation of upland ecosystems, while they are at it?

      Wouldn’t it be shocking if it took a Panorama programme to reveal the level of wildlife crime in this country?

      No?

      As it is, Channel 4 News is the only outlet exposing this scandal… once in a while, in limited time slots, without expert input and limited viewing figures, and no noted wildlife audience.

      Or… how about the WWF launch a national campaign about wildlife at risk in the UK, instead of campaigns about wildlife at risk everywhere else except in the UK?

      No?

      Or… how about the Food Standards Agency placing a strict limit on the levels of lead in game meat?

      No?

      Wouldn’t it be shocking if we found out that these organisations had executives with links to shooting interests?

        1. You must be joking! The BBC endlessly criticises Tory Government policies. But it has never criticised the damaging effects shooting has upon our wildlife and environment regardless of whether we have had a Labour Government, a Lib Dem / Tory Coalition or a Tory Government in Westminster, or a Labour Administration in Wales or a Scottish Nationalist Administration in Scotland…

          You’d think with wall-to-wall food programmes *someone* might also point out the scandalous levels of lead in game meat, but no TV food programme even dares to touch the subject. Whenever game is referenced it is always as the ‘ultimate healthy meat option’.

          But the printed press is not so wilfully blind…

      1. Well said, Keith.

        We’ve seen it all too often on BBC Countryfile, or Landward, whenever persecution is the topic, they always have to bring in some clown from the CA, MA, BASC, GWCT, etc, to give “balance” the story. Which is quite strange, because whenever they have a piece glorifying the killing of wildlife (gamekeeping) or farming, they never have anyone from the RSPB dispelling the ridiculous claims made by these organisations.

        The truth is, the BBC is to fairness and impartiality, what the Tories are transparency.

        I’m sure that Panorama did do a programme about persecution, not that long ago, but the problem with that is that it is a very niche programme. Most people that watch Countryfile, Landward, and even the Springwatch-type programmes, will not watch programmes like Panorama, so it ireaches a very limited audience.

        The lack of action from the likes of WWF and Greenpeace, is a major reason why I don’t contribute to their funding.

        And I also get incredibly annoyed that the likes of David Attenborough has shied away from this topic for many years.

        1. Marco – couldn’t agree more on the lack of commentary from David Attenborough on this issue – admire him enormously, but this is one area that he appears to have avoided. If he did speak publicly I doubt he would get the same level of trolling that Chris P and others get from the SGA and their ilk and may hold wider sway.

          1. I have mentioned this before: David Attenborough is close to the Royal Family. Sometimes that can work in favour of wildlife, but on the issue of shooting, I fear it completely inhibits him:-(

            The role of the Royal Family in sustaining shooting in the UK (Diana possibly not withholding) should never be underestimated.

            Just think of the organisations which ‘rely’ upon Royal Patronage and which ‘suffer’ from the effects of shooting: RSPB, BTO, WWF, Wildlife Trusts, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust …

            1. We’re on Nicholas Witchell’s level here talking about personalities instead of the institution, guaranteeing permanent failure, but that’s English politics more widely. paralysed by deference – good ol’ ‘Atters’ and all that, limiting the populations of the ‘lesser breeds without the law’ is what we need. You have not the slightest chance of defeating the grouse industry as long as you are fannying around talking their language on their terms when you could be preparing a very small role in the Windsor’s demise which is conceivably within reach sometime in the next 10 years . The Windsors are the apex of the whole system.

              1. I thought we were talking about the BBC’s (Natural History Unit) long term lack of coverage of the adverse effects the shooting industry has on UK wildlife (when it could be critical in raising awareness and educating the general public, given the standing and reach of the BBC), and then David Attenborough’s apparent silence on the matter (on the BBC and elsewhere, given his well-earned status as a National Treasure regarding wildlife and related issues).

                I’m not sure that we have ignored any institution or talked ‘the grouse industry language’, what ever that is.

  5. It’s a sorry state when Natural England consider that people who wish to shoot wildlife are more important than the actual wildlife. Shame on them

  6. Just a reminder…
    61 Hen Harriers are the tip of the iceberg, if as many as 1 in 4 had been satellite tagged then this is a reminder that about 250 will have been killed and since the proportion tagged will be less than half of that then we are looking at 500 plus.
    Those bad apples are keeping busy.

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