Patterns of satellite tagged hen harrier disappearances suggest widespread illegal killing on British grouse moors

Megan Murgatroyd (Corresponding Author), Stephen M. Redpath (Corresponding Author), Stephen G. Murphy, David J. T. Douglas, Richard Saunders, Arjun Amar (Corresponding Author)

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Identifying patterns of wildlife crime is a major conservation challenge. Here, we test whether deaths or disappearances of a protected species, the hen harrier, are associated with grouse moors, which are areas managed for the production of red grouse for recreational shooting. Using data from 58 satellite tracked hen harriers, we show high rates of unexpected tag failure and low first year survival compared to other harrier populations. The likelihood of harriers dying or disappearing increased as their use of grouse moors increased. Similarly, at the landscape scale, satellite fixes from the last week of life were distributed disproportionately on grouse moors in comparison to the overall use of such areas. This pattern was also apparent in protected areas in northern England. We conclude that hen harriers in Britain suffer elevated levels of mortality on grouse moors, which is most likely the result of illegal killing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1094
Number of pages8
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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