It appears they are trying their best to kill every Hen Harrier they come across. Yet a fifth Hen Harrier reported missing near a grouse moor 2 October.

The North Yorkshire Police have issued an appeal for information.

Concerns have been raised about the welfare of a hen harrier which may have gone missing along the North Yorkshire – Cumbria border.

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Female hen harrier Mabel was one of four chicks that fledged in July 2018 from a nest site in the Cumbrian area of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Along with her sibling Tom, she was fitted with a satellite tag on 10 July by Natural England.

Since fledging, Mabel has been into Teesdale and wandered as far north as Allenheads, and also spent time around the Tan Hill area.

The transmitter functioned up until 2 October 2018, with the last signal being received from the Little Smale Gill area in Cumbria, north of Ravenseat Moor – but the bird could have been further afield when something happened to Mabel or the transmitter.

Hen harriers are one of the UK’s rarest birds of prey, with just three successful nests recorded in England in 2017. Like all wild birds, they are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. However, despite full legal protection, their numbers remain consistently very low.

A search was conducted by Natural England staff but no tag or body was found. Cumbria Constabulary and North Yorkshire Police were informed, and are making enquiries.

Sergeant Stuart Grainger, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said: “I was lucky enough to spend some time monitoring Mabel’s nest site, and, despite following birds all my life, this was the very first time I’d ever seen a male or female hen harrier because they are so rare.

It is therefore particularly upsetting that one of the fledglings from the nest has inexplicably gone missing. I would urge anyone with information to come forward.”

PC Helen Branthwaite, Wildlife, Rural and Environmental Crime Co-ordinator at Cumbria Constabulary, said: “It is extremely worrying to hear of Mabel’s disappearance and that we are facing another enquiry into a missing hen harrier. With so few successful nest sites every bird that is lost has a severe impact on the conservation status of this rare bird.”

A spokesperson for Natural England said: “The sudden disappearance of the hen harrier, Mabel, is a matter of grave concern. We urge anyone with information to get in touch with North Yorkshire Police.”

Landowner farmer Andrew Brown said: “It was a pleasant surprise when Natural England staff knocked on my door and let me know these rare birds were likely to breed on my land.

The experience of watching them throughout the spring and early summer from building their nest to fledging four chicks was a real privilege.

NE gave me the chance to see them close up when they were satellite-tagged, and it was an honour to name the tagged birds Mabel and Tom after my grandparents. It is such a shame that something may have happened to Mabel. NE were keeping me regularly updated about Mabel and Tom’s whereabouts, and I was looking forward to hopefully welcoming them back next year.”

David Butterworth, Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: “There was delight from all right minded people when four hen harrier chicks fledged earlier this year in the National Park. That has been matched by the despair felt that one of the birds, Mabel, has now gone missing.

The North of England has an unenviable reputation for criminal activity in terms of raptor persecution, so it’s hard not to think the worst in this case. However, for the moment we would strongly support the efforts of North Yorkshire and Cumbria Police to find Mabel, and would urge anyone with information to contact the police as soon as possible.

Anyone with any information about the hen harrier’s disappearance should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101. Alternatively, speak to the RSPB in confidence, by calling the Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.




3 comments to It appears they are trying their best to kill every Hen Harrier they come across. Yet a fifth Hen Harrier reported missing near a grouse moor 2 October.

  • I’m not suggesting for one minute that persecution of some hen harriers does not happen. However surely this is only one piece of the young harriers very difficult survival jigsaw? It is well known that around 2 out of 3 harriers will perish of natural causes in their first year of life. Add on top of this the added burdens and weight of a satellite tag, harness and a bloody great aerial sticking out the back of each of these young harriers. Surely these magnificent raptors have evolved over millions of years to be both light and aerodynamic for hunting and to avoid other larger aerial raptors? These large aerials will surely allow the likes of Golden Eagles and Goshawk to home in and focus their aerial attacks on these young harriers? Once predated the aerial and satellite tag would obviously be ripped of and future satellite transmissions would obviously be lost. I’d like to ask readers a very important question. Are these satellite tagging technique doing the young harriers more harm and actually causing even lower natural survival rates?

  • Thorbjorn Odinsberg

    Were that to be the case that birds are incumbered by the tags that would have been obvious years ago. What you cannot explain is when a bird dies a natural death away from grouse moors both it and the tag are nearly always recovered yet on grouse moors both functional tag and bird just disappear indicating anything but a natural death. It has absolutely nothing to do with the natural mortality levels expected in young harriers. You are just a bloody apologist for the damned keepers.

  • Albert Ross

    I have no direct answer to that but I sincerely doubt it. Satellite tags are fixed to many birds now, check out the BTO website for cuckoos. which has been going for many years now. Cuckoos are much smaller than Hen Harriers and yet these birds have been tracked to and from Africa for years. There have been some casualties mainly due to harsh Sahara weather, drought, etc., but this is a small %.
    I invite you to compare that casualty rate spread over the whole migration route with the horrendous almost 90% rate of lost harriers.
    I think you will find the answer, like Political power, comes out of the barrel of a gun.

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