10 December 2012
Tests conducted by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have confirmed that a female hen harrier found dead by Natural England on moorland in North Yorkshire, had been shot.
As part of its ongoing hen harrier recovery project, Natural England fitted the bird, named Bowland Betty, with a harness-mounted satellite tag in June 2011 while it was still a fledgling on a nest site in Bowland, Lancashire. The tag has since provided Natural England with a year long record of the bird’s movements travelling hundreds of miles across Britain.
In June 2012 the satellite signal became stationary and the location from which final transmissions were being received was identified. With the willing assistance and full cooperation of the landowner Natural England was able to conduct a thorough search of the site and the dead bird was located, and sent to the Zoological Society of London for post-mortem examination.
The hen harrier is one of England’s rarest birds of prey and is afforded high levels of protection under existing wildlife laws. Since the dead bird was located, Natural England and ZSL have liaised closely with North Yorkshire Police’s Wildlife Crime Unit, and the results of the post-mortem have been handed to North Yorkshire Police, who are now investigating the incident.
Maddy Jago, Natural England’s Director for landscape and biodiversity said; “This incident represents a tragic and disturbing setback for England’s fragile hen harrier population. The hen harrier is on the brink of extinction as a breeding bird in England and we are deeply concerned about its future.”