Fourth rare bird of prey 'suspiciously disappears' from Scottish glen

The young Hen Harrier, Shalimar, was fitted with a satellite-tag that was said to be working as expected before data transmissions 'unexpectedly and suddenly' stopped.

Fourth rare bird of prey ‘suspiciously disappears’ from the Angus Glens Supplied

A rare bird of prey has become the fourth of its kind to “suspiciously disappear” from the Angus Glens.

The young Hen Harrier, Shalimar, was fitted with a satellite-tag that was said to be working as expected before data transmissions “unexpectedly and suddenly” stopped on February 15 in Glen Esk in Angus.

The disappearance of the bird, which fledged from a nest on the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in Aberdeenshire last summer, marks the fourth vanishing incident since 2017.

There have been several previous incidents where satellite-tagged birds of prey have been killed or “suspiciously disappeared” which includes four Hen Harriers, a Golden Eagle and a White-tailed Eagle.

Officers from the National Wildlife Crime Unit and Police Scotland, supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Investigations staff, carried out a search of the area where the bird last transmitted, but failed to find its body or tag.

According to the RSPB, Hen Harriers are one of the UK’s “rarest” birds of prey and the “most heavily persecuted” species in the country.

The charity said that studies have found evidence from historical and on-going criminal investigations to suggest that the killing of “red listed” species is “significantly” linked to land managed for Red Grouse shooting.

A large area of the Angus Glens is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting and is a notorious raptor persecution hotspot, with multiple confirmed incidents of poisoning, shooting and illegal trapping stretching back over the last 20 years.

Staff at Mar Lodge said they were “saddened” by the apparent loss of Shalimar and the other tagged-harriers that have fledged from the estate.

The estate has tagged 23 Hen Harriers since 2016 and said that almost 40% of the tagged birds have “suspiciously disappeared”.

“Despite these losses we will continue our vital conservation work at Mar Lodge and other NTS properties doing what we can to ensure the survival and recovery of hen harriers and other raptor species,” they said.

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations said: “The Scottish Parliament has recognised the ongoing link between crimes against birds of prey and the management of some grouse moors by its of passing of the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill earlier this week.

“In future, any landholding linked to wildlife crime faces a loss of its licence to shoot grouse. While these provisions have come just too late to prevent Shalimar becoming the latest Hen Harrier to likely disappear at the hands of criminals, we hope that the new legislation will help to consign raptor persecution to the history books in Scotland”.

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