Six hen harriers have been lost in northern England. Photo: Bernard Stam CC-BY-SA-2.0

Six hen harriers have been lost in northern England. Photo: Bernard Stam CC-BY-SA-2.0

Police are appealing for information after a tagged bird of prey disappeared in the Yorkshire Dales.

North Yorkshire Police said the hen harrier’s tag stopped transmitting last month.

The incident adds to the Dales’ unenviable reputation for raptor persecution.

The police said John, a sub-adult hen harrier, fledged in Northumberland in 2016. He was fitted with a satellite tag in July 2016 by a hen harrier expert from Natural England.

The bird was lost on Threshfield Moor, west of Wharfedale, on 1 October.

“This was John’s second outward migration – he wintered in the same approximate area of Yorkshire in 2016-17, returned to Scotland and the Borders in spring-summer 2017, then back to Yorkshire in September 2017,” police said.

A search of the area has been carried out but no trace of the bird or equipment has been found.

Natural England reported John’s disappearance to North Yorkshire Police and is working closely with wildlife crime officers, local landowners, and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

The loss of another juvenile hen harrier brings the total to six within 14 months across northern England – and is a serious blow to the small English hen harrier population. Interference with hen harriers is a criminal offence.

Sergeant Stuart Grainger, of North Yorkshire Police’s rural taskforce, said: “Those responsible for bird of prey persecution, either directly or indirectly, should be ashamed.

“These birds belong to everyone and are part of our natural heritage. It is a disgrace that these beautiful birds appear to be relentlessly destroyed. The fate of this particular hen harrier remains unsolved at this time, but we are appealing for any information to assist the investigation.”

Rob Cooke, a director at Natural England, said: “The sudden disappearance of the hen harrier John is a matter of grave concern. We urge anyone with information to get in touch with North Yorkshire Police.”

David Butterworth, chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: “It is highly likely that a crime has taken place on Threshfield Moor.

“The spotlight is once again on the Yorkshire Dales as a black hole for raptors. This does no one any good.

“With colleagues in the ranger service, I am doing all I can to support North Yorkshire Police. Any leads which the police might have had in the six weeks since this hen harrier disappeared have come to nothing, but we should not give up – someone must know something.

“I urge that person to contact the police.”

Anyone with any information which could help police with their enquiries is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, quoting reference number 12170208338. Members of the public and also Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 to discuss the incident or to discuss any other information regarding alleged persecution of birds of prey.

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