Confirmation that short-eared owl was shot is 2nd blow for raptors in 24 hours

Confirmation that short-eared owl was shot is second blow for raptors in 24 hours

By Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director of the North Pennines AONB Partnership

Less than 24 hours after a blog post on a missing hen harrier in the North Pennines went up on the AONB Partnership website, I find myself writing about a short-eared owl found shot in the Selset area. This bird was actually found in May, but was sent away for a post-mortem that concluded that it had been shot with a shotgun and received injuries that would have caused its death soon afterwards.

Yesterday’s blog post, on the ‘missing’ hen harrier, had a glimmer of hope that the satellite tag had failed (however unlikely) and that the bird was still out there. There is no ambiguity here though, no opportunity for anyone to chip away at the reality that raptor killing is still widespread, despite any successes or improvements that people can point to – it’s still going on, and across the whole country. The mapping in this link is from 2020 but I’d be amazed if the general picture wasn’t still a grim one.

This short-eared owl was shot, in the breeding season, with the high likelihood of an impact on the success of a nest. So there’s no question that a crime has been committed here, and one for which the impact very likely reached beyond this one bird and into further reducing the population.

The south-eastern part of the North Pennines has seen short-eared owls shot in 2015, and a satellite-tagged hen harrier suddenly stopped transmitting in this part of the AONB in 2018 and was never found. The north-eastern part of the AONB has a worse record, with at least 10 shot kites and buzzards in the last 10 or so years. It’s shameful, and people can’t look away from it – they have to own it, to accept that there is a problem. Those with the genuine power to change things – the people who are doing this and anyone with influence over them – have to do more to make it stop; the law appears incapable of even putting a dent in the procession of depressing statistics on the killing of our raptors.

So, same problem, different Police force – for the second time in 24 hours we’re echoing the call for anyone with information to come forward. If you can shed any light on this matter, please contact Durham Police on 101. If you have any influence at all on the wider problem, please bring it to bear.

Image of a short-eared owl (c) Martin Kitching 

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