31/10/2007
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Hen Harriers shot on Royal Estate

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Media speculation is currently rife regarding the illegal shooting of two Hen Harriers last Wednesday at Dersingham Bog on the Queen's Sandringham Estate. A Natural England worker witnessed the shooting of two Hen Harriers in close succession on the evening of the 24th of October. Today it has come to light that Prince Harry has been questioned in relation to this matter, but denies any involvement. He and a friend were, however, close to the scene at the time of the shooting.


Hen Harrier (Photo: Pete Hadfield)

Persecution of Hen Harriers on shooting estates is far from new. However, it must come as a considerable embarrassment to the RSPB that their patron's estate should fall under the spotlight. Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB's director of conservation, is all too familiar with incidents of illegal killing of Hen Harriers in the uplands during the bird's breeding season. Dr Avery is quoted as saying "these magnificent birds have been wiped out in mainland Britain once. They continue to nest in England purely because of the commitment of a small number of landowners backed by the dedicated support of RSPB staff and other conservationists. We can't relax our vigilance or these birds will be driven from England once more. It is alarming if we are seeing the illegal killing spreading from the bird's breeding areas to the places they spend the winter".

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Hen Harrier (Photo: Sean Gray)

Norfolk Constabulary are seeking witnesses to the shooting, and can be contacted on 0845 456 4567. It has to be hoped that, given the presence of members of the Royal Family in the vicinity at the time, there may have been a number of security staff present to add to the list of potential witnesses. The RSPB and Natural England are both helping the police with their enquiries.

This latest incident comes a little less than a year after one of the Queen's gamekeepers was convicted of trapping a Tawny Owl, which later had to be put down due to its injuries. Dean Wright was fined £500 and ordered to pay £470 in costs after admitting setting an illegal trap.

The RSPB have a campaign to protect birds of prey. You can find out more here.
Written by: Fiona Barclay