Two of the satellite-tagged juvenile hen harriers reared this year through the controversial brood management scheme have gone ‘missing’. The tracker of one these missing birds last gave a signal over County Durham. If and when further information is available the North Pennines AONB Partnership will support the police in seeking evidence by sharing this and encouraging the public to report information or sightings.
Juvenile mortality in raptors is common, but the trackers on birds that have been killed by predators or died from other natural causes/accidents usually continue to give out a signal, facilitating their recovery. The trackers used are sophisticated and reliable.
Though rushing to judgement isn’t wise, and for now we still hope they turn-up safe and well, there is also a possibility that crimes have been committed in relation to the two missing birds. There is a grim track record of satlellite-tagged harriers going missing over grouse moors in northern England and Scotland, so we understand people’s fears over this.
In mid-September we hosted a full day raptor crime training session with four police forces, aided by the RSPB, the North East Raptor Forum (NERF) and a local estate that is also committed to ending raptor persecution. Police are better informed than ever about this kind of crime, understand its importance and are eager to stamp it out.
Inspector Ed Turner of Durham Police told us, “The fate of these birds is not yet clear. Until we can rule out the possibility that a crime has been committed, we will be taking this matter seriously and bringing our increased knowledge and awareness to bear on it wherever possible.”
Should the birds be refound alive, this would be great news. If they have died a natural or accidental death, this is sad but not uncommon. If a crime is ultimately found to have been committed, there will be questions about the wisdom of brood management, which Natural England will need to address.
We urge people to keep a keen eye out for hen harrier in the North Pennines and report any sightings to NERF and the RSPB. The RSPB’s hen harrier hotline can be contacted on 0845 4600121. If you have evidence of any illegal activity relating to this matter, we urge you to contact Durham Police on 101 quoting incident number 87 of 17 September.
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