Harrier shot and another missing in UK persecution hotspot of North Yorkshire

The missing hen harrier. Picture courtesy of North Yorkshire Police.
The missing hen harrier. Picture courtesy of North Yorkshire Police.

Police have condemned “another example of wildlife crime” in North Yorkshire which adds to the county’s unwanted record as the UK’s worst hotspot for bird persecution.

In the latest reported incident, a marsh harrier was found with a broken wing and a shotgun pellet lodged next to the fracture.

Suspicions of further criminal behaviour have also been raised after a satellite-tagged hen harrier went missing last month. Police searches have so far been unable to locate the bird.

As reported in The Yorkshire Post yesterday, police forces across the country are this week focusing on targeting rural criminals as part of a Wildlife and Rural Crime Week of Action organised by the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

North Yorkshire Police issued an appeal for information yesterday as part of officers’ ongoing investigation into the discovery of the injured marsh harrier on August 18.

The scale of birds of prey persecution in Yorkshire's countryside

The bird was found by a member of the public in a stubble field close to the village of Hutton Buscel, near Scarborough.

It was taken to Ryedale-based wildlife rehabilitator Jean Thorpe for care and was then examined by a vet.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “Sadly, North Yorkshire is the UK’s worst hotspot for confirmed cases of bird of prey persecution.

“This magnificent bird has been very fortunate to survive, largely thanks to the dedication and care given by Jean Thorpe, but is yet another example of a wildlife crime having taken place against our birds of prey.”

The force has also issued a public plea for information to help track down the missing hen harrier, a protected species of serious conservation concern that the RSPB describes as the UK’s “most intensively persecuted”.

The young male bird was tagged at a release site in the Yorkshire Dales at the end of July as part of a brood management scheme and is known to a monitoring team at Natural England as 183704.

Its last satellite tag data showed the bird had spent a few days in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire before flying to the Lake District near Thirlmere on September 19. That same day, the bird passed through the Mallerstang Common area in Cumbria’s Upper Eden Valley and just after 6pm its final transmission was from the Seavy Gutter area of Askrigg Common in Richmondshire.

Police said the bird could have then flown on for some distance.

Natural England field staff have used a hand-held scanner and monitored known roost sites in a bid to locate the bird, while North Yorkshire Police have carried out two searches – one in the area of the last known transmission and a second one covering a much larger area – but there have been no further sightings or transmissions.

The force said farmers, land owners and gamekeepers had fully co-operated with Natural England and North Yorkshire Police as part of the investigation.

The bird is a juvenile male and will still be brown in colour. It had been ringed and bears the British Trust for Ornithology ring number EA54306.

Police said if the bird is found dead, a post-mortem examination will take place to establish if the cause of death was from natural causes or predation, or if criminal activity was involved.