05 November 2008

Hen Harrier Persecution

Hen Harriers are afforded the highest level of protection under both domestic and European legislation. Despite this fact they are under threat throughout the UK and with an average annual breeding population of 10 pairs, they are listed as a ‘species at risk’ in England.

Hen Harriers require a rich mosaic of heather moorland for breeding and this need brings them in to conflict with heather moor managers. The birds suffer from habitat loss in Wales, where whole mountainsides are burnt out to improve grazing for domestic livestock, and they are subjected to persecution on grouse moors in England and Scotland. These threats are not the result of ‘incidental activities’ they are the result of determined criminality.

In September 2003 the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the Government’s Scientific Advisors, advised Police Wildlife Crime Officers that Hen Harriers were a flagship species and the prevention and detection of this criminality must be included in the list of wildlife crime priorities. In response, in February 2004 the Police launched Operation Artemis, a national strategy to identify and target criminals involved in Hen Harrier persecution.

In England, where the problem is most acute, crime prevention schemes, using a variety of scientific and technical techniques together with a large number of Volunteers, are deployed during the breeding season. This has lead to a year on year increase in the number of young birds fledging. Whilst this success is very welcome it should be seen in context; i.e. only 46 chicks fledged their nests in 2006; at least half of which will not survive their first winter.

With improved protection during the breeding season we have seen a marked increase in persecution at winter roosts; monitoring and bird protection is now a year round activity.

For further information about Operation Artemis please visit the dedicated website at www.savethehenharrier.com . You can also contact Steve Downing, the Operation Artemis Co-ordinator on 07917 267022 or via operationartemis@hotmail.com

Operation Artemis will ensure that future generations continue to enjoy the sight of the Hen Harrier in the skies above the UK.




North Berwick Police Office, 50 High Street, North Berwick, East Lothian EH39 4HQ Scotland UK
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