The news of the four Hen Harriers which disappeared mysteriously on grouse moors in Scotland is shocking. That is, shocking in the sense of morally reprehensible rather than really rather surprising.
As I mentioned in my earlier blog, an interesting aspect of this news is the revelation that 12 young Hen Harriers have been discovered dead, with their transmitters transmitting (as would be expected) and their remains have been collected and analysed and we know that they died of natural causes.
Of this year’s young birds (where I do not think we know how many satellite tags were deployed except that it was a record and high number) that means that 12 have died of natural causes with their transmitters still working, and 7 (four in England and 3 in Scotland (the 4th Scottish bird was hatched in 2017)) have disappeared (their transmitters have stopped transmitting). Seven out of the seven ‘disappeared’ were last recorded on or near driven grouse moors; all seven of them.
So I was interested to know how many of the 12 were found on or near driven grouse moors. Let’s imagine that all 12 were found on grouse moors – that would stuill be interesting. It would mean that all birds that can be recovered on grouse moors die of natural causes but that there is a large category of birds who also disappear on grouse moors (or near them) but whose bodies, for some reason, are not available for examination. That would be interesting in itself.
But let’s imagine that half of the 12 were picked up on grouse moors and the other half were not – that would be interesting too. It would mean that birds dying away from grouse moors always seemed to die of natural causes whereas Hen Harriers sometimes died of natural causes on grouse moors, but rather a lot of them ‘disappeared’ and their bodies could not be recovered on grouse moors.
It’s fun imagining, but the RSPB must know the answer so I asked them. I asked how many of the 12 young Hen Harriers dying of natural causes this year were picked up on grouse moors. And the answer is ‘none’. None! Not one! Zilch!
That is a fascinating fact.
So of the 19 young Hen Harriers which have either died and been autopsied or ‘disappeared’ mysteriously, not a single death from natural causes occurred on a grouse moor and not a single ‘mysterious disappearance’ occurred anywhere other than a grouse moor.
12 – 0 and 0 – 7. Fairly remarkable scores, don’t you think?