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 email@example.com or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
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.