Moorland wildlife will only recover once the cause of the problem and main moorland predator, the gamekeeper, is removed.

The only way the moorland environment and it’s once numerous wildlife is ever going to return to the way it should be is to remove the main cause of the problem and the main moorland predator, that is the grouse moor gamekeeper.

Remove the gamekeeper and the moors will start their own regeneration and the wildlife will eventually return! This would also start a rapid reduction in the unnaturally large numbers of red grouse on the moor to a naturally sustainable level. It would lead to a moorland habitat where the heather is allowed to grow rank if it desires to do so, without the threat of unnecessary burning destroying all manner of wildlife and nesting habitat, a habitat which is capable of providing cover for various forms of wildlife including birds of prey such as Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin and Short-eared Owls.

Badger in Snare

Snared Badger left in agony for several days before it eventually died on red grouse moor

The many drainage channels should be filled in or dammed and the wet areas allowed to become wet again, providing feeding and breeding areas for various species of waders and insects such as dragonflies. The removal of the growing number of access tracks criss-crossing the moors would be a start and is needed urgently to halt erosion.

Evidence of wildlife destruction and deliberate persecution of  protected raptors upon moorland where red grouse are shot throughout Britain tells its own gruesome story. Heather habitats together with key species like hen harrier are supposedly protected by SSSi’s and SPA regulations. On a number of  moorland estates in northern England for example, the construction of miles of estate tracks began in earnest  in the early 1990’s. Many of these tracks approved by English Nature, now Natural England were conveniently routed through prime heather moorland in Lancashire where occupied hen harriers territories were know to exist on a regular basis.  As the use of these vehicle tracks increased on a daily basis by estate staff including gamekeepers, the disturbance caused resulted in abandonment of all territories previously occupied by breeding  hen harrier and peregrine in this regional location. Importantly, the SSSi and the SPA legislation introduced to protect  threatened species like the hen harrier from such inappropriate and intrusive activities failed to prevent their disappearance from grouse moors.

Fox in Snare

Snared fox cub on red grouse moor

Throughout other moorland regions both north and south of the border heather was either cropped short or completely burnt out and destroyed by gamekeepers, rendering Special Protected Areas (SPA’s)  no longer habitable for any breeding wildlife including  the hen harrier; once again a clear breach the SSSi & SPA legislations. The important question is, what action did Natural England take  to rectify this problem in England which they helped cause in the first place? The reply is very simple, they turned a blind eye to this illegal activity.

trapped buzzards-1

3 Illegally Trapped Buzzards, the Gamekeeper was heavily fined for this offence

Ban driven grouse shooting and the main cause of Raptor persecution and environment destruction on the moorlands will stop. If you are still undecided about signing Mark Avery’s petition calling for a ban of driven red grouse shooting in England, we have added a few graphic images below depicting the way grouse moor gamekeepers maintain the ‘healthy’ biodiversity of the moorland ecosystems they manage at the expense of protected fauna, in particular protected birds of prey.

Please take a few minutes to sign the petition to ban driven red grouse shooting here


Sparrowhawk shot and the hung on fence for all to witness


23 dead fox carcasses hung on Gibbet-all shot to protect game


More shot foxes hanging out to rot on gibbet.


Stoats & Grey Squirrels hung out on gibbet

Vermin Trap_

Tunnel Trap containing the crushed body of a stoat.

trapped stoad a crual death-1

Close up showing the remains of a trapped stoat in a tunnel trap

Peegrine nest robbed 2013-1

Red grouse moor 2013: Peregrine ground nest where full clutch of eggs disappeared.

Peegrine nest robbed 2014a-1

Red grouse moor 2014: Peregrine ground nest where second clutch of eggs disappeared from same territory during the following season.

peregrine nest eggs disappeared 2007-1

Red grouse moor 2007: This clutch of  4 Peregrine eggs disappeared from eyrie before hatching.

peregrine nest eggs disappeared 2006-1

Red grouse moor 2008: This clutch of 3 Peregrine eggs were removed the following year from same territory as above.

peregrine dead embrio 2-1

Two dead Peregrine embryos killed after gamekeeper had placed crushed ice on 2 of the hatching eggs. This is a common practice on some red grouse moors intended to appear the deaths were due to natural causes.

peregrine dead embrio 3-1

3 Peregrine eggs at a second ground nest, all embryos dead in shells after crushed ice had been placed on top of eggs. This killing method leaves no visible evidence.

peregrine dead embrio -1

One of the dead embryos removed from egg shell after death. Both sites established on red grouse moorland.

Hawthornthwaite Greave-Peregrines helecopter

Peregrine ground nest where two eggs containing dead embryos were found 1 metre outside nest scrape. Two live day old chicks were discovered safe. For those with good observation powers, note the single half egg shell which had been placed over the shell containing one of the dead embryos. This did not happen by accident.


Peregrine ground nest: After the police had insisted estate gamekeepers, who were unaware of the nest’s existence, should be invited to witness 4 chicks being rung. The following day when the nest was re-examined by the local raptor group the two larger female chicks had disappeared, leaving the 2 smaller male falcons to fledge. 

Please take a few minutes to sign the petition to ban driven red grouse shooting here

13 comments to Moorland wildlife will only recover once the cause of the problem and main moorland predator, the gamekeeper, is removed.

  • alan

    What a terrible article.
    Its completely full of biased supposition with no evidence what so ever.
    If you actually want moorland, the gamekeeper and sheep farmer genuinely are the force that keeps it there.
    If there were no keepers and no sheep farmers, the vast majority of moorland would eventually revert to its natural state. Upland woodland.
    Personally im all for this, but do get frustrated with this moorland obsession.
    Just because it has been moorland for a few hundred years doesnt make it a natural eviroment.
    It was woodland for millions of years!
    Is there any evidence the sparrow hawk was shot?
    With regard to the perigrines and your open and shut case against the gamekeepers. There is no evidence what so ever that it was them.
    Could it have been a fox that took the chicks? It was a ground nest.
    Why take them to the nest other than to blame them?
    I see numbers on some of the eggs.
    Are we certain it wasnt over protective meddling that caused abandonment?
    If we are aware of these nests and want to use them as evidence why dont we make it better and set up some camera traps.
    If its a fox we will know.
    If it a keeper we may still no know but we will know that the camera has been distrubed.
    Silly articles like this simply play in to the keeprs hands by demonstrating that we are a biased group, who blame everything on the keepers with no evidence.
    It doesnt mean they arent guilty a lot of the time, but you cant blame them cart blanche.



  • nirofo

    This article has hit the nail right on the head, as it says remove the gamekeeper and the moorland and it’s wildlife will rejoice in the fact that it will at last have a chance to recover. Maybe not recover to it’s once former glory because the wanton destruction has gone too far for that, but without the continued interference from the grouse shooting fraternity and their gamekeepers the wildlife and the moorland environment might just have a chance. The estate owners and their gamekeepers have been given every opportunity to clean up their act, it’s obvious to anyone who cares to take the blinkers from their eyes that this will never happen if it’s left up to them. Time has long since passed for them to do the right thing, the only way to ever put a stop to this out of hand Raptor persecution and moorland environment destruction is to impose a complete ban on Red Grouse shooting.

  • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Protection Group

    Alan, When raptor workers found 2 peregrine nests located on one single estates 2 miles apart each containing dead embryos in the shells, they were left in no doubt who was responsible, and why it was done. We are also informed by a friendly gamekeeper this activity was taking place to reduce the number of peregrines on the estate.

    Finding one nest containing dead embryos is rare, but 2 all on the same estate, no chance.

    Regarding your question “Could it have been a fox that took the chicks? That is a good question but in reality the only reply is no a fox did not take the missing two female chicks. The reason we know is because a fox would have killed all four chicks in the nest not just two.

    It seems to me Alan you are a little naive and show a distinct lack of understanding about the persecution of raptors undertaken by gamekeepers.

  • Julie Wright

    Alan have you been to the Forest of Bowland? Do you live in the Forest of Bowland. I went there to see it for myself and the wildlife is non existent. Read my article that Raptor Politics kindly published on their site.
    The sheep do more harm than good. Are you a sheep farmer?

    Do you think people make all this up? I’ve been there, I’ve spoken to people & it’s all real. I’ve taken pictures of dead things hanging on fences.

    There is a conspiracy in the Forest of Bowland, why do you think there are no birds of prey there? It’s like a desert, barren. And your comment about over protective meddling, is utter nonsense. Do you have a licence to visit nests? Why did the RSPB have to protect the 2 Hen Harrier nests 24/7 this season, because the game keepers keep KILLING THEM. I’m not saying every gamekeeper is bad, but with the record in Bowland, if it’s a BOP it’s killed.

    Your comment about being biased, there are people there who look our for these birds, who have years of experience, they live there & know what’s going on. The area is vast, so how the hell can you prove a gamekeeper has killed a BOP, when there’s no one around to see it, you’d need hundreds of people walking the moor to catch them.

    As for camera traps, they will just remove them. If you’ve been following all the hoo ha on DEFRAS recovery plan to save the Hen Harrier, it’s all crap. licensing grouse shooting & moving the chicks is utter rubbish, they will return, funny how a bird can find it’s way to Africa & back without a map. Licensing is giving shooting estates a licence to kill! How the hell are they going to enforce this licensing? it’s illegal to kill a BOP now & they still do it, how is a licence going to change that? I know what we can do Ban Driven Grouse Shooting, problem solved.

  • alan


    I know plenty about raptor persecution.
    I stay very close to Glen Esk!
    Im not saying it wasnt done by gamekeepers.
    What im saying is that you cant prove it was them.
    It reads like the game keepers were deliberately shown the nest.
    The nest had clearly been distrubed previously, going by the numbers on the eggs.
    If we were serious about protecting these nests, then why wasnt a camera trap installed.
    As already said, if it was keepers, you probably wouldnt have caught it, but you could clearly demonstrate, distrubed camera and damage.
    Still not open and shut but at least some form of proof.
    How can you be sure it wasnt a fox.
    Again a camera would have stopped the confusion.
    Maybe installing cameras would have demonstrated an inconvenient truth, that it wasnt keepers.
    I know plenty about persecution Terry,and am in no way naive.
    It probably did happen as described, but that doesnt change the fact that it could have happened in other ways.
    If we want to put a case forward, it cant be based on “trust me, i heard from some one else”.
    Facts are whats needed.
    Still waiting for some one to confirm the sparrow hawk was actually shot.


    I havent been to the forrest of Bowland.
    Ive been to Milden.
    The main issue for me on Bowland isnt the fact that there was a paltry 3 nests, its why is this the first year there has been sucess.
    Where are the owls?
    If we use Bowland as our flagship, we arent doing very well.
    Im not a sheep farmer.
    I think you missunderstood me.
    I would like our uplands to return to their natural state, its just that for the majority of it, it wouldnt be moorland, but woodland.
    That doesnt happen because of the sheep.
    As said earlier, moved camera traps would still be more eveidence than garnered so far by other means at huge cost.

    I probably feel as stronly as both of you, i just think this article had no foundation what so ever, but was presented as actual fact.



    Editor’s Comment. Alan seeing a live fox in the Forest of Bowland is almost impossible. We say again the missing two female peregrine chicks were not killed or taken by a fox. A fox would have not been selective, a fox would have killed all 4 chicks in the nest in one go. The two male chicks that were left fledged successfully, so this fact also rules out any predation by a fox or anything else with 4 legs.

    • nirofo


      In response to your to one or two of your remarks.

      Quote: “It reads like the game keepers were deliberately shown the nest”. – Any gamekkeper worthy of his job would have no trouble locating any bird of prey nest on his patch without assistance, ornithologists and bird watchers don’t have a monopoly on finding Raptor nests.

      Quote: “Still waiting for some one to confirm the sparrow hawk was actually shot”. I can confirm the Sparrowhawk was shot, I found it on the fence and photographed it, the evidence for shooting was obvious, bleeding from broken wings, can be seen on the photo, several bleeding puncture wounds on the body.

      Quote: “I would like our uplands to return to their natural state, its just that for the majority of it, it wouldnt be moorland, but woodland”. You’re right, parts of the moorland would eventually return to woodland, nothing wrong with that. The point you’re missing is that it would revert naturally over many years, allowing the return of many species of birds and other wildlife during this time without the threat of persecution hanging over them.

      The emphasis on Bowland is only a pointer to what is happening on many of our moorland uplands throughout the UK, it just so happens that Bowland has received much well documented publicity over the last few years for the amount of persecution and loss of breeding Raptor species. This was brought about in general by the collusion of Natural England with the shooting estates and the incompetence of the RSPB.

  • Julie Wright

    Alan, I don’t think this is the first year this has happened. On United Utilities land there was only 1 Peregrine nest successful this year, all the eagle owls are gone. The Hen Harriers nests were on UU land as well and they should have been safe. I think camera traps are a good idea but as mentioned they need to be small so as not detected, but these would need to be put in once nest site is established without disturbance. Going by track record of persecution, not just in Bowland, it’s hard to prove & prosecute. Something radical needs to be done.

  • Heather

    “Alan have you been to the Forest of Bowland? Do you live in the Forest of Bowland. I went there to see it for myself and the wildlife is non existent”
    Fortunately I live one mile from the boundary of somewhere called Forest of Bowland but it is a very different one from the one that you have visited and described. Our favourite evening treat this time of year is to pop up there and spend an hour looking at the wildlife.
    The day I drive across Bowland and don’t see a raptor of some sort I will be very worried (seen Hen Harriers twice in the last ten days with very little effort; lost count of the number of times we’ve seen Buzzards and various Owls including Barn Owls). I fear that the “I went to see it for myself” rather sounds like a single visit? For the observant, it is teeming with wildlife. That’s not to say that there wouldn’t be more if gamekeepers were dissuaded from removing raptors, but please don’t describe it as a barren wilderness.

  • alan


    Do you have photos of the puncture wounds?
    What makes you think it was a keeper?
    A sparrow hawk being shot and then deliberately hung on a fence certainly doesnt seem like the actions of an experienced keeper!
    Why deliberately leave evidence of a criminal offence?
    Even if there was no chance of prosecution, it would still add to the statistics of raptor crimes.



    Editor’s Comment. We now realise from your last comment Alan that you really do not have any idea what you are talking about. We are aware of at least 3 instance where harriers were killed by gamekeepers and left in their respective nests with their limbs ripped apart as a statement-we run the show so can do what we like.

    Alan you don’t appear to be reading what we are telling you,if you are you are taking no notice of what is being said. Please do everyone a favour, do not send any more comments BECAUSE THEY WILL NOT BE GIVEN ANY AIR TIME.


    A study by the National Trust suggest seabirds around the UK coastline are being hit by a “triple whammy” of extreme weather, predators, such as foxes, rats and non-native mink, and disturbance by human walkers and their dogs.

  • kevin moore

    Heather, what Julie is saying is right. Yes I’m sure you will see raptors on your evening drives, yes you will see Buzzards and kestrels,but these species are the only raptors in Bowland that you will see on any regular basis, but they can also be seen driving along any motorway in England and Buzzards are seen on the outskirts of Manchester.

    The Forest of Bowland is a designated SSSI with vast areas of habitat are also classified as SPA’s (Special Protected Areas where rarer birds of prey such as the Hen Harrier should be safe but are not. Don’t forget this years 2 breeding pairs of hen harrier were provided with a 24/7 guard at both nests this year to ensure the nests were not destroyed,hardly a success story when Bowland should have 20 plus pairs of Harrier easily.

    Where have all the Peregrine Falcons gone from Bowland? Only 1 single successful nest this year in Bowland, when in 2009 there were at least 15 sites occupied.

    The Goshawk another magnificent raptor very rare in Bowland due to its predation of Grouse and Pheasant. Bowlands woodlands should hold good numbers of Goshawk. Then there is the Short-eared Owls, another raptor whose numbers have dwindled over recent years. Despite 2014 being an excellent vole year the ShorT-Eared Owl is hardly abundant on the moors of Bowland any longer.

    Lets not forget the Eagle owl, last year 4 abandoned nests located in Boowland, this year no records of a single nest at all.

    I am someone who has witnessed these things first hand over many years of being in Bowland, and I would say Julies “single visit” and what she wrote amounted to a very good and accurate reflection of Bowland these days. The heather on the moor tops is mostly cut short or vast areas of it burned TO PREVENT RAPTORS LIKE THE HEN HARRIER BREEDING. Just look at the moorland on the Abbeystead estate, hardly any heather left in a lot of places, for example in Marshaw, and at Tarnbrook roads installed there resemble spaghetti Junction near Birmingham.

    Thankfully the Hen Harrier choose to breed on the Utilities estate this year and not on Abbeystead where it definitely would not have been provided with the same level of protection, if any at all.

    Unfortunately Julies description of what she saw is accurate.

  • paul williams

    I have spent much of my life wandering around bowland…From childhood to adulthood, and the decline of all species of birds of prey has become very apparent. I remember what I used to see in my young days…A far greater abundance of bird life than there is today…The decline since 2010 of Bowland’s raptors has been catastrophic. Hen Harriers, Peregrines, Eagle owl and Short Eared Owl’s. The Forest of Bowland is fast becoming akin with the North Yorkshire Moors…Barren…Except for Grouse and Pheasant and too gun totting many gamekeepers.

  • Julie Wright

    Hi Heather,

    I don’t intend to offend, but the Forest of Bowland is vast, I’m not sure that I visited near where you live? but the part that I did visit was mainly managed Grouse Moor and it is barren in lots of places.
    I stayed outside Bowland in Scorton, which is a lovely place, where I did see wildlife and a buzzard. The countryside is lovely, especially driving through some of the villages, but these places were not Grouse Moors.
    I was there for 5 days and walked all over the Grouse Moors covering lots of miles. I don’t know whether you read the article, but I didn’t see crows, I didn’t see foxes or rabbits. I saw lots of sheep, a rabbit, but it had been shot and left on a track through the Moor.
    I heard a Merlin, I did see a Kestrel and lots of Meadow Pipits and of course lots of Grouse. In the miles that I covered these Moors should be teeming with life.
    The United Utilities area does have more wildlife and when I drove through the Trough of Bowland I saw rooks in a field, pheasant & another Kestrel, it was also greener and had lots of heather growing as it should.
    I didn’t see any owls at all and I can assure you I was being observant. I was lucky enough to see both the Male and Female Hen Harrier from quite a distance on the second nest that was being protected. The first nest had already fledged.
    If you do see the Hen Harriers again, you could look to see if they are the ones that fledged with tags.
    It would be a good idea if there was somewhere to report the sitings, if more people did this and kept and eye out for this rare bird of prey, a bit like neighbourhood watch, then maybe any suspicious activity can be reported and hopefully people will actually start to be prosecuted and the Hen Harrier won’t become extinct in England.
    I’m hoping that when they move South for the Winter, I will get the chance to see them again and I may even spot one of the tagged birds. I will be returning to Bowland and I do hope to see more Hen Harriers and wildlife when I return, but until the persecution on the Grouse Moors stops, a natural balance is not going to happen.