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Moorland Association welcomes green light for pioneering Hen Harrier Scheme

17th January 2018

The Moorland Association welcomes the decision by Natural England, which has issued a licence to test if brood management will help improve the Hen Harrier population and range in upland northern England.

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association said: “This decision is an important step forward in the effort to improve Hen Harrier conservation.”

“Brood management is a conservation tool that has been used successfully in other countries, with other species and has the potential to make real progress on this issue.”

“There is a real desire across many countryside organisations to help unlock a predator-prey conflict to the benefit of both species.”

“The Moorland Association is pleased to be part of the group that will be running the project which includes Natural England, Hawk and Owl Trust, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, International Centre for Birds of Prey and Aberdeen University.”

“Moorland managed for red grouse contributes significantly to remote rural communities, businesses and treasured landscapes. This new wildlife management licence will give land managers confidence that the impact of hen harriers breeding on their land can be managed, to the benefit of both the harriers and other upland ground nesting birds.”

The licence permits the temporary removal of hen harrier eggs which will be hatched and reared in captivity, before being re-introduced into the wild. This intervention, which could reduce the predation impact on young grouse, may only happen where Hen Harrier nests have reached the pre-agreed density and the landowner gives permission.

The expectation is that the average fledging rate from nests reared in captivity will be higher than that from nests left in the wild and the risks to birds in the trial is very low. It is important to note there is no lethal control involved.

During the trial, young fledged harriers would be fitted with satellite tags to measure movements and survival.

The trial brood management scheme emerged from the 2016 Defra-led Joint Hen Harrier Action Plan, produced by a group representing the major organisations with an interest in conservation and moorland management.

The trial brood management scheme is one of six elements of the plan, the others are:

  • An increased focus on law enforcement, crime prevention and intelligence involving senior police officers with the Hen Harrier as a priority
  • Increased monitoring and protection of Hen Harrier breeding and winter roosting sites
  • Increasing surveillance of Hen Harrier movements using satellite tracking technology
  • The diversionary feeding of breeding Hen Harriers to reduce predation of grouse chicks
  • Research into the translocation and reintroduction of young Hen Harriers into other suitable habitats throughout England
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Did You Know?

75% of of the world’s remaining heather moorland is found in Britain – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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