Hen harrier confirmed shot in Yorkshire11/12/2012 14:14:18 Cutting-edge science used to reveal bird of prey persecution
December 2012. The battle to save England's most threatened nesting bird of prey from illegal persecution is going increasingly high-tech as a technique used for the first time in the UK confirms that a female hen harrier which was found dead in the Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire, had been shot.
GPS tracking revealed bird has stopped moving
Raptor persecution in Yorkshire
Between 2007 and 2011 (inclusive), figures compiled by the RSPB confirm the illegal poisoning, shooting or trapping of at least 20 birds of prey in the Yorkshire Dales. These incidents include: 10 poisoned red kites; four poisoned buzzards; two shot red kites; two shot buzzards; a shot kestrel; and a trapped sparrowhawk. In addition there were four incidents involving the discovery of poisoned baits and a number of dogs were also poisoned.
The hen harrier is a rare nesting bird in England with only one pair nesting successfully in 2012. Government studies have shown that the uplands of England could support over 300 pairs and that the principal reason for the bird's perilous state is illegal persecution associated with grouse shooting.
Martin Harper is the RSPB's conservation director. Commenting on this case, he said: "Information from a satellite transmitter, a detailed post mortem - supported by cutting-edge scientific analysis - adds weight to our belief that hen harriers continue to be subject to determined effort to eradicate them from our countryside.
"We need the Government, its conservation and enforcement agencies to step up to the challenge of securing the future of hen harriers in England. The problem of persecution is well understood - we need Government to bring solutions to the table via an emergency recovery plan. The first step is for ministers to confirm long-term funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit - it is essential that the UK maintains a national centre of expertise in tackling wildlife crime."
The RSPB's Jude Lane works with hen harriers in the Forest of Bowland. Commenting on the news, she said: "Devastated! That's how I feel about this news. I was privileged to have been present when she had her satellite tag fitted. I also had the honour of placing her back in the nest once the job had been done. As I placed her back in the nest with her siblings that day, I made sure to wish her luck: it's tragic that her luck ran out. I feel privileged to have known Betty in her short life. She must not be allowed to have died in vain."
Bob Elliot, the RSPB's head of investigations, said: "The hen harrier has become so rare that obtaining evidence of persecution has become very difficult, demonstrating the importance of cutting-edge techniques. The person who shot this bird must have realised they would be bringing the hen harrier one step closer to oblivion as a breeding bird in England."
The RSPB is offering a reward of £1000 for anyone with information leading to a conviction. People with information can contact the North Yorkshire police or a confidential hotline: 0845 4663636.