The illegal shooting of one of England’s most threatened nesting birds of prey has been condemned by shooting groups, conservation charities and police.

The female hen harrier, fledged on land managed for shooting in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire in 2011, was discovered dead in July on Thorny Grain Moor in Colsterdale in the Yorkshire Dales.

The hen harrier is a rare nesting bird in England with only one pair having nested successfully in 2012.

BASC director of communications Christopher Graffius said that any BASC member guilty of such a crime would be expelled instantly.

He said: “We unreservedly condemn this crime and urge anyone who shoots who may have any information to come forward and assist the police.

“Anyone shooting a protected species damages shooting and the countryside and has no place among the law-abiding shooting community.”

Fears for the bird’s safety were raised when its satellite tag, attached by Natural England, showed the bird had become stationary — working with the Swinton Estate, Natural England staff found the bird on 5 July.

A pioneering forensic examination conducted later at University College London found a fragment of lead at the site of a fracture in the bird’s left leg, confirming the bird had been shot, which resulted in its death.

The RSPB announced that it was offering a £1,000 reward for any information that led to the conviction of those responsible.

The rest of this article appears in the 19th December issue of Shooting Times.

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