Shot Leadhills hen harrier was third bird to be lost, says RSPB

Hen harrier
Hen harrier

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has added its voice to the appeal for information following the shooting of a protected hen harrier near Leadhills

The female bird was killed at 5.15pm on Friday May 4 near the B7040 from Leadhills to Elvanfoot..

The charity said that an individual, armed with a shotgun and with his face covered, was observed at the scene, but left hurriedly, on a quad bike before the police were able to attend.

RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, Ian Thomson said: “This latest incident shows very clearly how protected birds of prey continue to be treated in some areas of our uplands, particularly where there is intensive grouse moor management.

"The hen harrier is an increasingly rare bird in southern and eastern Scotland, with illegal killing the main driver of this long term decline.

"This incident occurred only a few miles from where a satellite-tagged harrier, known as Annie, was found shot a couple of years ago, and is close to where another tagged bird, Chance, disappeared mysteriously last spring.

"We ask that, if anyone has information about this latest incident at Leadhills, they contact Police Scotland on 101.”

The police issued their appeal for information yesterday.

And later this afternoon Leadhills Estate issued an appeal for information and clarity on the reports, with one source having said it had been shot on a grouse moor.

A spokesman for Leadhills Estate said: “We are appealing for anyone who may be able to provide information and clarity on this matter to contact Police Scotland urgently. The first we knew of this incident was a newspaper report and contacted police immediately with a view to assisting them.

“At this stage we do not know the details of the incident but if a hen harrier has been shot we wholeheartedly support the police investigation and have launched our own internal inquiry. We want to make clear our condemnation of all forms of wildlife crime.

“Leadhills is not currently an active grouse moor. The small gamekeeping team at Leadhills manage the moorland on a care and maintenance basis. There has been very little shooting in the last few years and we expect that to be the case in the foreseeable future.

“Our keepers know their conservation and employment responsibilities very well. There are seven active hen harrier nests this year on estate ground, which we believe makes Leadhills one of the foremost private estates in Scotland for harrier numbers.

“The estate acknowledges that 13 years ago and nine years ago gamekeepers were convicted of wildlife crime offences while employed by sporting tenants who had sole responsibility for sporting operations.

"Since October 2013, the estate has directly been responsible for sporting operations. We, and our staff, are wholly committed to the highest standards of moorland management.”