National Trust responds to calls for grouse shooting ban after loss of two hen harriers and 10 eggs near Sheffield
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The heritage conservation charity said it was working to ensure its shooting tenants were ‘aligned’ with its priorities ‘for nature, climate and people’.
A spokeswoman added: “We only have a small number of tenancy agreements where grouse shooting remains, and we work closely with them to ensure that these are aligned with our strategic priorities for nature, climate and people.
“We continue to work closely with a range of partners including the police, RSPB and local raptor groups to support efforts to stop illegal wildlife persecution and will always take action where this is possible.”
Earlier this month The Star revealed two rare male Hen Harriers had suddenly disappeared from a shooting moor in the Peak District, leading to the loss of two nests and 10 eggs.
It prompted widespread shock - and calls for the National Trust to ban the practice in line with other bodies including the Peak District National Park Authority and Sheffield City Council.
It is believed it has four grouse shooting tenants on its land in the High Peak.
Joanna Collins, Green councillor for Hope Valley ward, which covers part of the National Trust’s moorland, called for an end to shooting leases.
She tweeted: “Upsetting. The NT says it has tightened the rules for management of land it leases for grouse shooting. Surely it should just stop allowing it at all.”
Stone Elworthy tweeted: “Very poor of National Trust. Evidently not worthy custodians of our countryside.”
Isobel Davies said: “Shame on you National Trust.”
Gary Smyth wrote: “Why does the National Trust own a grouse moor?”
But Roger Merry said: “Might be iffy, might be entirely normal. Cold dry spring, high mortality rate, high abandoned nest rate. Last year they had their best year for decades didn't they? On managed grouse moors obviously because that's where they live.
“I'd actually be more concerned with the risk of the losses being due to avian flu. Has anyone actually checked for that?”
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And See Pee said: “Has anyone seen any actual evidence of the accusations that this was anything other than natural predation rather than illegal gamekeeping practises, natural predation or an egg collector?”
Hen harriers are strictly protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb them on or near an 'active' nest.
They are also on the Red List of UK birds of conservation concern.
Some 70 hen harriers have been confirmed ‘missing’ or illegally killed since 2018, most of them on, or close to, UK grouse moors, according to Dr Ruth Tingay of Raptor Persecution UK.
A spokeswoman for the Peak District National Park Authority said they had not permitted shooting on their land since the early 1980s and they ‘unequivocally’ condemned any persecution of birds of prey.
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She added: “We have had joint discussions with the National Trust about the implications of confirmed or alleged bird of prey persecution, and how we can collaborate to address the issue.”
But despite years of work restoring bird of prey populations had ‘still not been achieved’.
She added: “The Authority was involved in the former Peak Nestwatch partnership project which included intensive surveillance work on a number of nest sites, but despite some initial success the project had limited success in improving the fortune of birds of prey.
“Consequently, in 2011, the Authority convened the Bird of Prey Initiative to work with the police, conservation organisations, moorland owners and managers to boost bird of prey populations in the Peak District.
“This included the appointment of an independent field worker from 2012-18 (co-funded by partners) to help ascertain accurate breeding data and to facilitate co-operation between raptor workers and shooting interests. Work has continued since 2018 to build on that co-operation.
“Whilst the Initiative has resulted in increased co-operation between raptor workers and shooting interests, the restoration of bird of prey populations to the agreed targets, based on numbers present in the 1990s, has still not been achieved.”
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Luke Steele, executive director of Wild Moors, condemned the National Trust for ‘more than a decade’ of failings.
He said: “Grouse shooting’s contribution to wildlife crime on the High Peak Estate is undeniable.
“After over a decade of birds of prey being illegally shot, poisoned, trapped and vanishing without a trace, the National Trust has failed at every attempt to stamp out this cruel, environmentally-damaging and unlawful practice.
“The National Trust is on the wrong side of history as long as it allows grouse shooting to take place on its land. Wild Moors is calling on the conservation organisation to follow Sheffield Council and the Peak District National Park in no longer leasing its land for grouse shooting and instead restore the vast moors of the High Peak Estate for nature, climate and people.”
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He added: “Other landowners have actively banned grouse shooting, including Sheffield Council on Burbage, Houndkirk and Hathersage Moors, whilst some are actively reviewing grouse shooting leases, including Yorkshire Water, and tightening up the rules surrounding how their land is used, United Utilities. Those landowners have also banned burning.”
It is not the first time that hen harriers have gone missing on land in or close to Sheffield’s countryside.
In February, police were called in after a hen harrier went missing from its habitat near Stocksbridge.
It was never found, despite being fitted with a satellite tracking tag by the RSPB in 2021.
In 2018, the RSPB said a bird called Octavia, which bred from a nest in the Peak District that summer, was one of three such birds to suddenly disappear.