Another satellite-tagged Hen Harrier goes missing


Investigations into the sudden disappearance in female Hen Harrier 'River', born last summer, have begun. Once again, the incident has taken place in North Yorkshire – a county with a track record of raptor persecution – with the police and RSPB opening investigations over this latest ‘vanishing’ bird of prey.

River was born last year, but only lived a few months (RSPB).

River was one of several Hen Harrier chicks to be fitted with a satellite tag as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project last summer. Her last transmission came on 14 November between Colsterdale and Nidderdale – an area with a history of raptor persecution – from a driven grouse moor. River had been in the area for several weeks, using it to both hunt and roost. RSPB Investigations staff and North Yorkshire Police searched the area, but there was no sign of the bird or the tag and, so far, no information regarding her death has been forthcoming.

More than 30 Hen Harriers were tagged last summer in Britain. Between August and November nine of these, including a 10th bird tagged in 2017, disappeared at different locations. Mark Thomas, Head of RSPB Investigations UK, said: “Again we have news of a disappeared harrier, again in North Yorkshire, and again last known to be on a grouse moor. Hen Harriers are barely clinging on as a breeding species in England.

“They should be a common and joyful sight over the moorlands of North Yorkshire, however the reality is most people only know them as being rare and persecuted. The idea that this bird may have been deliberately targeted is incredibly worrying, especially in the context of eight others which have vanished in similar circumstances.

“When a tagged Hen Harrier dies naturally, we expect the tag to continue transmitting, enabling us to find the body. This was not the case here. Instead, there was no trace of the tag or the bird, which is highly suspicious. When Hen Harriers disappear like this over an area with a history of raptor persecution, it’s hard not to draw conclusions.”

The RSPB’s latest Birdcrime report showed that North Yorkshire is consistently the worst county in Britain for documented bird of prey persecution, accruing significantly more confirmed incidents in the last five years than anywhere else. Indeed, in 2012, Hen Harrier ‘Bowland Betty’ was found shot at Colsterdale.