Another Hen Harrier shot dead sparking fears for rare bird of prey

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Detectives at Cumbria Police have opened a full criminal investigation into the fatal of one of the bird of prey, called Rowan. Last year there were just six successful nests resulting from 12 attempts in England.

But this year the RSPB says there are only three nests known to be currently in existence. Rowan’s body was found in Ravenstonedale, in the Lake District, on 22nd October and a post-mortem by the Zoological Society of London established he was shot.

Devastated conservationists said Rowan was satellite tagged at the Langholm Project as part of a joint venture between Natural England and the Hawk and Owl Trust. Only a handful of Hen Harriers exist now in the UK and they are passionately protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

In August conservationists were caught up in a bitter row after abandoning support for a voluntary scheme designed protect the number of hen harriers in Britain.

GETTY – Last year there were just six successful hen harrier nests
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds withdrew support for Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs action plan aimed at saving the breed. They said nothing was being done to stop the deliberate shooting of the harriers on grouse moors, claiming they were being targeted to increase the numbers of game birds available for shoots.Martin Harper, conservation director of the RSPB, said: “We remain convinced the primary reason for the hen harrier’s continuing scarcity remains illegal . “People are still breaking the law and not enough is being done within the grouse shooting community to effect change. The hen harrier does not have time on its side.

GETTY – A full criminal investigation was opened after the shooting of one of the bird of prey, called Rowan
“Hen harriers and other in our uplands will not recover without a completely different approach.” The action plan, set up by DEFRA and agreed by the RSPB, landowners and shooting representatives, was designed to encourage the re-introduction of hen harriers.The introduction of the action plan in January 2016 followed the tragic disappearance – and suspected shooting – of five male harriers in 2015. In April a video emerged apparently showing an armed man using a decoy bird to attract a hen harrier in the Derbyshire Peak District.This led to the National Trust terminating a grouse shooting lease for the first time on its land.

GETTY – Only a handful of Hen Harriers exist now in the UK
The following month a man was caught setting illegal pole traps on the Mossdale estate, in North Yorkshire. He later lost his job. Mr Harper said: “This year, there have been a series of depressingly predictable incidents in England and Scotland, the disappearance of the hen harriers ‘Chance’ and ‘Highlander’, the use of pole traps and the hen harrier decoy in the Peak District.“As well as hen harriers, it has also been a really bad year for red kites with several suspicious deaths.” But landowners and shooting groups accuse the RSPB of ignoring other reasons for the hen harriers decline.
Peter Glenser of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation said: “The protection of hen harriers can only come through organisations working together. “It is easy to blame grouse moors and gamekeepers, rather than considering other impact factors, such as disturbance and climate.”The Countryside Alliance’s Liam Stokes blamed a small minority campaigners for the RSPB’s decision to pull out of the action plan. He said: “Aligning with these anti-shooting elements will strain the RSPB’s relationship with the working countryside.“When bird populations are in decline across the country it can ill afford to spend time, effort and money battling with shooting estates.”

This article was first published by The Sunday Express on 08 Nov 2016.


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george mira

How interesting the attempted dilution of blame by men with guns. They fail to understand themselves that harriers and other birds only abandon an area when prey disappear to sufficiently low levels that the predator cannot reproduce, or consistently wastes any visit. Thus habitat limitations are not climatological – in deserts, one can suddenly see the passage of great owls in the night sky, in dark forests of the tallest trees on earth (where I live) owls and fleet hawks able to tack through trees almost as fast as their tiny prey birds. tundra lands are wealthy with bird relationships… Read more »

Ann Leslie

What is wrong with people.

Iain Gibson

A recent debate in Westminster Hall, provoked by a petition to ban driven grouse shooting, was overwhelmed by Tory MPs denying that persecution of Hen Harriers is a significant problem. So how come there were only three pairs nesting on English grouse moors this year, when there should be in excess of 300 pairs? The grouse shooting industry is responsible for some of the worst wildlife crimes being committed in the UK, but seem to consider themselves above the law.

Julie Cox

Wow. That is really very sad.

Leigh Lofgren

how utterly sad and depressing is this and so hope that you are successful in saving these beautiful birds.

Meeche Miller
Meeche Miller

This is just terrible – I hope and pray the police will find who shot this bird and prosecute him to the full extent of the law – NO excuse for this!

jennifer wilkes
jennifer wilkes

You don’t see this in the U.S.: People kill birds and animals that are over-populated and leave the others to thrive.

george mira

Not at all completely factual. The indirect killing done by fencing and excluding native large wild animals from vital winter habitat,, the allowed bringing of dangerously infected domestic sheep (who are themselves immune to the particular pneumococcus) into bighorn habitat wipes out 100% of native wild sheep. I happened to joyfully witness the return of endangered Aleutian Geese, as they slowly became increased to what were once normal populations, and then in the early 2000s wildlife agencies unleashed legal gunfire against the flights that I had counted in the thousands to tens of thousands (not yet approaching the original numbers).… Read more »

Ama Menec
Ama Menec

There are simply too many guns in the UK, and far too many licences. Grouse shoots should be banned as should pheasant shoots. Take the toys back off the boys and properly protect our wildlife.

Robert Piller
Robert Piller

Disgusting but with the rate everything’s being killed right now it really is the tiniest fraction of bird-deaths. The RSPB. shows such little concern for all of these other causes of decline but will latch onto this and I’m not belittling this case in any way.