Yet another satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappears’ in suspicious circumstances in the North Pennines

Durham Constabulary have reported the suspicious disappearance of a young satellite-tagged hen harrier called ‘Sia’.

[‘Sia’ after being satellite-tagged in southern Scotland earlier this year. The tag was sponsored by the Lothian & Borders Raptor Study Group]

This is the press statement issued yesterday (4th November 2022):

Officers team up with partners in search for missing hen harrier

Officers have teamed up with partner agencies to investigate a suspected case of raptor persecution.

Led by Wildlife Officer, PC Dave Williamson, members of the Barnard Castle Neighbourhood Policing Team, RSPB, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and Police Scotland carried out a search in an area close to Hamsterley Forest on Wednesday morning (November 2).

The activity came after a 2022 female hen harrier called Sia, from Southern Scotland, went missing in the area on October 10 when her tag stopped transmitting.

It is believed the protected species could have been shot down or killed unlawfully.

PC David Williamson, who led the operation, said: “We will always do everything we can to act on information received about alleged criminal activity.

“I would encourage anyone with information about this suspected crime to get in touch.”  

If you have any information call 101 quoting incident reference number 79 of October 19, email PC Williamson at david.williamson@durham.police.uk or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

ENDS

There’s no detail provided about the last known location of Sia, nor of the area searched last Wednesday, but it’ll come as no surprise to anyone to see that the area next to Hamsterley Forest is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting:

A scientific study published in 2019 showed that hen harriers are ten times more likely to disappear/be killed over areas of land managed for grouse shooting relative to other land uses.

Sia isn’t the first satellite-tagged hen harrier to ‘disappear’ in suspicious circumstances in the North Pennines. Just looking at the data since 2018, there have been seven others:

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here)

14 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183704) ‘disappeared’ in the North Pennines (here)

23 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #55149) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here)

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

24 July 2021: Hen harrier Asta ‘disappeared’ at a ‘confidential site’ in the North Pennines (here). We learned 18 months later that her wings had been ripped off so her tag could be fitted to a crow in an attempt to cover up her death (here).

14 May 2022: Hen harrier ‘Harvey’ (Tag ID 213844) ‘disappeared’ from a ‘confidential site’ in the North Pennines (here).

And of course, it’s not just the North Pennines where they ‘vanish’. Since 2018, at least 72 hen harriers are known to have either been killed or to have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances, mostly on or close to grouse moors across the UK. I’ll now have to update that list to 73, and counting.

Why does it keep happening? Simple. Nobody has been caught or prosecuted in any of these 73 cases, the chances of anyone being caught or prosecuted are virtually none existent, and so there is absolutely no deterrent whatsoever to stop this happening again and again and again.

In addition, this systemic criminality is being enabled by a series of DEFRA Ministers who repeatedly and resolutely display wilful blindness at every opportunity (e.g. see here).

This cannot continue.

8 thoughts on “Yet another satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappears’ in suspicious circumstances in the North Pennines”

  1. When those who have the hegemonic power to stop these specific crimes against raptors but find that their own selfish interests are aided by these offences, then the chance of ending them is small to non existant. The power to change the laws of evidence concerning this specific offence could by adjusted to suit the context but my first comment explains why this is not achieved.
    Another change that could be considered is that a system could be created where the vehicles and firearms used by estate employees are fitted with GPs tags that only one named employee can access.
    However if one tries to promote this the same powers will use the same network to stop it dead in it’s tracks.
    Sometimes solutions must be of a creative nature.

    1. Obviously i dont know if this one died of foul play or natural causes or if it was in the area to the north of forest or not but i do know if xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx wanted to know he would get answers and quick. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx. Not many defy them famously one sheep farmer refused to sell out his common grazing rights and when long convoy of flashy rangerovers of foreign royalty and vips went past one shoot day he stood roadside and pulled his trousers down bared his arse full in there faces a rare true legend.

  2. Let me guess xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx at work again thats who control that area I know that they shoot the SEO there so it will be them for yet another HH missing bastards words fail me as soon as grouse shooting is stopped the better.

  3. Just thinking back to a previous blog post I wonder how many / any prominent column inches will this get in the RSPB’s members magazine? (I am aware there is a seperate Legal Eagle newsletter to some members) The investigators and police have gone to the trouble of footslogging up there but they need ordinary birders to be out in places like that all the time, and it is not difficult to do. This is the same corrupt greedy international grade scandal as illegal killings of white rhinos and orangutans and the rest which rightly apalls but only a small number of the very large birding hobby community seem to either know about it or give a shit to get out there and do something about it. If I am offending RSPB members, sorry – that is not my aim, my aim is get passionate birders with good binos and scopes to say en masse “hmmm look at that depressing list of dead and missing harriers on RPUK – I am going to pick one of the locations mentioned and go birding there regularly to see what the hell is going on, and I am going to encourage my friends to do the same.”

  4. Ruth is absolutely right she says there is no deterrent to Hen Harrier persecution.

    Hen Harrier persecution will only end, when shooting estates close to or where a Hen Harrier goes missing in suspicious circumstances find that the shooting over the estate is suspended for a substantial period. A suspension long enough to have major financial implications for the estate involved .
    Money and the need to produce an unnatural number of game birds to support commercial shooting interests is what is most probably behind Hen Harrier and other raptor persecution.

    It’s a very simple process of risk management. At the moment raptor persecution is a low risk activity. Low risk of getting caught, and low risk of serious consequences if caught.
    It is accepted that it is very difficult for the police and partner agencies to identify the individuals behind the persecution. Due to remoteness of most grouse moors, the lack of evidence, the lack of witnesses and the high threshold tests to bring a case to court, that is unlikely to change.
    Therefore in order to make raptor persecution a high risk activity, then this will involve making the consequences of raptor persecution a high risk factor- ie a long period for a shooting ban over the areas where the persecution is taking place.

    Whilst there are some well managed grouse moors, where the keepers are encouraged to play a a crucial role in nature conservation, there are still those estates where the focus is solely on game bird numbers, bag size and the number of shoot days which can be offered. This puts keepers in a position where they feel heavily pressurised to maximise game bird numbers. If a keeper gets caught doing something illegal, it is the keeper that suffers not the estate. This needs to change.
    If estate managers and those running the commercial shoots realised that the consequence of raptor persecution was likely to result in a suspension of gamebird shooting, I think we can be pretty certain that instructions would be very clear to keepers, that raptor persecution would not be tolerated.
    Likewise no landowner would want to lease a grouse moor to commercial shooting interests if they thought the value of the moor could diminish if shooting was banned for a period of time, because the moor was being badly managed.

    There is a well used expression when it comes to crime- “follow the money”.

    The consequences of raptor persecution need to be heavy financial penalties, and the best way to achieve that is through shooting bans on those estates where the persecution is taking place.

    Some years ago house burglary was a problem, in order to tackle the issue, the government introduced a “3 strikes and you are out” policy whereby persistent offenders convicted of 3 house burglaries were sent to prison for a minimum period of 3 years. At the time it was believed that such a policy would reduce the number of house burglaries which were being committed. This had the effect of making house burglary a high risk activity.

    So one has to question why the government, with all its tough talk about raptor persecution being a national wildlife crime priority isn’t employing a similar policy to reduce wildlife crime???

    The word “complicit” comes to mind!!

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