Only a handful of Hen Harriers breed in England, and illegal persecution by gamekeepers on grouse moors is suspected to be a major reason for their rarity. Yet, proving illegal behaviour has proven challenging to quantify.
A new, scientific, peer-reviewed paper has just been published in Nature Communications (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-09044-w) that explores this issue. Researchers have examined data from 58 satellite-tagged harriers to explore patterns of Hen Harrier disappearances. The analysis provides compelling evidence of widespread illegal killing on grouse moors across the north of England.
Professor Steve Redpath, Chair in Conservation Science at the University of Aberdeen, and one of the authors of the paper said: “New technologies are now allowing us to get better insights into illegal behaviour. Our findings suggest that there is a widespread problem of illegal activity on grouse moors and increases the pressure on managers, conservation organisations and government agencies to find a solution that ends this illegal activity.”
Hawk and Owl Trust welcomes this research and will continue to push for prosecutions for those who persecute Hen Harriers and other birds of prey, whilst supporting the use of robust science to help find solutions to this problem.