DEFRA Risk Assessment – Eagle Owl

Completed assessment available at

4 comments to DEFRA Risk Assessment – Eagle Owl

  • Andy

    Seems pretty fair, except you would have thought that as well as noting the potential predation of hen harriers, the fact that hen harriers have increased in the precise area the eagle owls inhabit would be worth mentioning!

    I don’t know how these things work, but from the wording of the conclusion the fact that it can’t conclusively be labelled non-native surely rules out a cull?

    • Skydancer

      This is what Brian Etheridge (RSPB) recently had to say about Hen Harrier persecution and their relationship with other raptors:

      Hen Harriers apparently avoid nesting in areas where there are resident Golden Eagles. This may be linked to an increased risk of predation by the larger species rather than any competition for prey.

      In moorland areas and in young forestry, where both Hen Harriers and Common Buzzards are often present and exploiting very similar prey species, some competition must occur, though the impact of this on harriers has yet to be studied. Hen Harriers face other likely prey competitors in Scotland such as that from Merlin, Kestrel, Short-eared Owl and even Goshawk.

      A study carried out by the RSPB during 1988-1995 using wing-tags found that breeding female harriers suffered a high level of illegal killing when they attempt to nest on moorland managed for grouse-shooting. The killing by gamekeepers was estimated to account for 55-74 females each year, 11-15% of their numbers in Scotland (excluding Orkney).

      Their nests and contents were destroyed at the same time. No estimate of the number of males killed was possible. There is no evidence that this scale of killing has reduced in recent years, moreover, range contraction and population declines in regions where grouse shooting is most prevalent suggest this illegal killing has intensified.

      Grouse-shooting is an important industry in upland areas of Scotland and northern England, both for economic and for employment reasons. Those who depend on this industry (I do not consider it a sport) view Hen Harriers (and most other raptors) as major threats to Red Grouse stocks. Most gamekeepers are under pressure to produce a surplus of grouse for the guns to shoot and any creature that they consider a threat to their stock, whether feathered or fur, protected by law or not, are classed as vermin and “killed”.

      Mr Etheridge would like the government to introduce a licensing scheme for grouse-moors, such that when an infringement of wildlife law is proven, the owners loose the right to operate the moor as a commercial concern, the licence is withdrawn and shooting is banned for a given period, depending on the severity of the crime. This could be tied into some form of “green” conservation endorsement to sporting estates, which will proclaim to visitors and others that no illegal killing of raptors takes place on the estate.

      For much of the current decade, English Nature (currently Natural England) have operated a Hen Harrier recovery programme in an attempt to increase the number of breeding pairs in England and provide protection to those pairs. So far, it has largely failed in the face of illegal killing and numbers of breeding pairs of Hen Harriers remain pitifully small outside protected areas and the proportion of successful nest tiny.

      Anyone who reads Mr. Etheridge’s comments above will be asking why then isn’t Natural England, who after all are the Government’s Wildlife “Advisors”, bringing this damming information to their notice? Never mind about undertaking a political cull of a few Eagle Owls, surely it more important to bring an end to the wide scale illegal persecution of birds of prey like the Hen Harrier by shooting estate gamekeepers on England’s uplands????

  • Foxfire

    Why do readers of this page or any other meida not object to the cull of the Eagle Owls. Eagle Owls used to roam Brittain before they were culled to extinction, now DEFRA want to do this again.

    Why can this site not memeber of the site and the RSPCA get a letter to the goverment to stop this nonesense before it gets out of hand again.

    I was quite impressed with SKYDANCERS comment until he wrote this piece of ignorant nonesense.
    QUOTE: “Never mind about undertaking a political cull of a few Eagle Owls, surely it more important to bring an end to the wide scale illegal persecution of birds of prey like the Hen Harrier by shooting estate gamekeepers on England’s uplands????”

    Since when do we have the right to dicatate Natural Selection, what makes us so God like.

    There is too much myth about the Eagle Owl and not enough facts. The red Tailed Hawks were persecuted to extinction by order of the Goverment, only to be reintroduced to Wales with species from Europe.

  • john

    When were red tailed hawks persecuted? and never knew they was re-introduced to wales, dont you mean red kites?