The Hen Harrier Asta, a satellite-tagged young bird monitored by Natural England, met a brutal and sickening end on a grouse moor in County Durham in March 2021 (see here).
Her wings were ripped off so that her satellite beacon and harness could be fitted to a crow, likely in an effort to fool authorities that Asta was alive and well, as the satellite beacon continued to transmit data while the crow was flying in the countryside. .
It is unknown if Asta was alive or already dead when his wings were ripped off.
The crow was found dead a few weeks later in a lowland area of North Yorkshire and a police investigation was launched when it became apparent that the tag and harness he was wearing had originally been fitted to Asta and n could have been taken from her, intact, if her wings had been ripped off.
Thanks to blog reader Alan Gregory (@Barneygregorawg) who shared these photos of Asta, as he says, ‘enjoying his brief life patrolling Durham moors‘:
The level of depraved brutality involved in this crime is shocking enough, even for those of us who have become hardened to the relentless illegal killing of birds of prey in the UK. It’s nearly impossible not to look at these footage of Asta and imagine the horror she faced at the hands of her killer.
The calculated deviousness of whoever committed this crime deserves the full attention of the statutory regulator, Natural England, and wide publicity over the lengths these criminals will go to to conceal their continuing and appalling violence towards this species and other birds of prey. .
Instead, 18 months later, Natural England still refuses to draw attention to the crime, despite the police investigation being closed. Natural England have been contacted by a number of reporters this week but refuse to comment on Asta, let alone issue a statement of condemnation, but fortunately enough allowed a member of staff to appear in a propaganda video released by the Moorland Association singing the praises of the grouse hunting industry for its false tolerance and acceptance of the Hen Harrier.
And it’s not just this crime that Natural England is reluctant to talk about. Since 2018, at least 72 Hen Harriers have been illegally killed or ‘disappeared’ under suspicious circumstances, most of them on or near beaten grouse moorland (see here for list). Many of these birds have been marked and monitored by Natural England. And yet, I have not seen any statement from Natural England regarding this appalling figure. Instead, I have seen great media prominence given to breeding harrier numbers, fledged chick numbers, intermixed brood nest numbers and statements from Natural England of ‘great progress‘ in progress but no details were provided on the number of private grouse moors involved.
Natural England is supposed to be the statutory conservation agency, but it is completely compromised by accepting financial squeezes from the shooting industry with a contractual clause preventing criticism of Natural England (see here).
He cannot expect to be taken seriously as he continues to avoid talking about the continued illegal killing of this species on grouse moorland.
[Cartoon by Gill Lewis]