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Birds of Prey Hen Harrier - Photo Credit: Dave Dimmock

Response to the death of ‘Free’, a Natural England tagged hen harrier

Friday 5 May, 2023, by News Release

David Butterworth, Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said:

“It’s astonishing that 21 Hen Harriers have disappeared across Northern England in 12-months, and sickening to hear that ‘Free’, a Natural England tagged hen harrier has been found dead, headless and missing a leg in an area of moorland in the National Park.

“After so many years of illegal bird of prey persecution in the area you might think we would become more immune to this pathetic criminality. We never should.

“Locally, we have seen some tentatively encouraging results in recent years in terms of successful breeding of hen harriers, with the strong support of some land owners.  However, that progress will be rendered utterly worthless if these attacks are allowed to continue.  

“It is shameful that we still have individuals among our local communities who take part in these atrocities. I would strongly urge anyone with any information on this incident to come forward. This has to stop”.

Killing birds of prey is illegal. Anyone with concerns about a possible wildlife crime should call 101, and anyone witnessing a suspected wildlife crime should call 999 and ask for the Police.

View the original story from Natural England

Picture of News Release

News Release

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority


6 Replies to “Response to the death of ‘Free’, a Natural England tagged hen harrier”

  1. Peter Moss says:

    OK David, so how is your National Park Plan policy to reduce raptor persecution going? Last I looked it is rated as ‘on course’. Will you now amend that to ‘failing miserably’?

  2. Mike Whitehouse says:

    Good start David – keep going. You are a key influencer.

    Surely people within the shooting community must have access to information and/or speculation that would help the police surely. Time for them to start cleaning up their industry, one would have thought.

  3. Chris Carr says:

    This topic should be tackled in first schools and Primary. Just like highlighting smoking the children come home and speak to Grandparent or parents about the issues. The killing of wild birds would maybe shunned

  4. Darren Chadwick says:

    There is zero evidence that this harrier died at the hands of a human. It was not shot, no toxins, no attempt to hide the carcass in fact nothing to suggest foul play or persecution. The evidence does however suggest another predator caused the death and the circumstances point towards a large raptor. In the days before this harrier was discovered there was one golden eagle in the area (tagged) and sightings of peregrines. Both species are known for attacking harriers and a regular occurrence among other competing raptor species. Defaulting to persecution as a cause of death in this instance is simply not justified.

    • Brett meikle says:

      Defending the indefensible. Dearie me.

      • John Morris says:

        24 hen harriers have disappeared from private grouse moors in around the previous 18 months, some tagged birds in the time just before the shooting season. Pull the other one Darren, we all know the facts are that if the landscape vandalism of shot moors didn’t exist, and more natural wooded heath and no reared grouse did, these Harriers would be flourishing like they were before this out of date sport was in these areas. It’s not rocket science is it…

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