South Scotland

Appeal after hen harrier shot in south-west Scotland

Dead hen harrier Image copyright RSPB Scotland
Image caption The hen harrier's body was found in April

An appeal for information has been made after the discovery of the body of a rare bird of prey in south-west Scotland.

A post-mortem examination has revealed the hen harrier, which was found on remote moorland near to Daer Reservoir in South Lanarkshire, had been shot.

RSPB Scotland said the young female bird, named Annie, had been fitted with a satellite transmitter as a chick.

The work was part of a hen harrier research project on Langholm Moor.

The alarm was raised after the tracking device suggested the bird stopped moving in mid-March.

After an extensive search, involving the police, the bird's body was found at an undisclosed location in late April.

The timing of the appeal is likely to be questioned by the supporters of grouse shooting. The shooting season officially begins on Wednesday.

Environment Minister Aileen McLeod said it was "extremely disappointing" to hear that Annie had been shot.

Image copyright RSPB SCOTLAND
Image caption The bird was tagged when she was a chick

Ms McLeod said she expected all right-minded people involved in the countryside, including with shooting, to agree that "wildlife crime has no place in a modern Scotland".

She also said the news about Annie was "in stark contrast" to recent examples of successful Partnership Against Wildfife Crime (PAW) Scotland working to reverse the decline in the species.

Tim Baynes, Director of the Scottish Moorland Group, said: "This bird was found in April and until this morning we - as an active participant in the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime - had not been informed about it by any authority."

Alex Hogg, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman, described the discovery as a "setback".

"We are disappointed not to have known about it, as a PAW partner, until now, given the discovery was made in April," he said.

"As an organisation, we condemn wildlife crime but it would be wrong to pass judgement on who might be responsible until more is known."

The Queensberry Estate later issued a statement saying the bird had been found on its land but said it had no prior knowledge of the shooting.

A spokesman said: "We are deeply concerned and mystified by this incident as Queensberry Estate condemns any form of wildlife crime and are very proud of the species and habitat conservation work we undertake.

"We are aware of several hen harrier nesting sites on the estate and our keepers have been actively working to protect these birds in their habitat."

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