Hen harriers vanishing due to illegal killing - study

Hen harriers  vanishing due to illegal killing  - study
Data gathered over a decade found satellite-tagged hen harriers were ten times more likely to die or vanish when they were on or near areas used for shooting.

Researchers say there is no plausible explanation other than illegal killing.

The analyses "confirm what has long been suspected - that illegal persecution is having a major impact on the conservation status of this bird," said co-researcher Stephen Murphy from the wildlife body, Natural England.

The study found that four of 58 satellite-tagged hen harriers were illegally killed, while 38 simply disappeared, which "strongly suggests destruction of the tag and removal of the carcass".

The survival rate of juvenile hen harriers in England was 17%. This compares with survival rates on the Orkney Islands, where there are no managed grouse moors, of 37 - 54%.

Image caption The hen harrier is known as the skydancer for its agility on the wing

The Moorland Association , which manages moorland in England and Wales for wild red grouse, said when a satellite tag fails unexpectedly, persecution may be a factor.

Commenting on the study, director Amanda Anderson said: "Persecution should not occur and must cease in order to give hen harriers the best chance of survival."

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation said raptor persecution risked "terminal damage" to shooting.

"Satellite tags are a tool in the fight against raptor persecution," said executive director of conservation Caroline Bedell. "We have to make sure there is no place left for criminals to hide."

The paper, published in the journal Nature Communications , relates to satellite-tagged hen harrier disappearances between 2007 and 2017 in England.

"We conclude that the increased likelihood of mortality is associated with illegal killing of this species on grouse moors," said the researchers, from the University of Cape Town, University of Aberdeen, Natural England and RSPB, Scotland.
News Topics :
Similar Articles :
A young tagged hen harrier has disappeared in Aberdeenshire in what RSPB Scotland described as highly suspicious circumstances. Calluna, a female harrier, was fitted with a satellite tag earlier this...
More than 80, 000 people have called for a ban on grouse shooting as the season officially starts. They argue that the sport is directly contributing to a rapid fall in...
Just a few weeks ago we were celebrating the breeding success of hen harriers across the UK, but already these young chicks are disappearing in suspicious circumstances when they are...
Numbers of hen harrier pairs in Wales fell by more than a third over the same period. The birds of prey live primarily on heather moorland. The males are easily...
Top Stories
A golden eagle that was pronounced missing, presumed murdered is at the centre of a stand off between a Scottish sporting estate and one of Britains biggest wildlife charities. When Bird...