Search called off for missing hen harrier after satellite tag resumes transmissions

A young hen harrier being fitted with a tag. Photo: Natural England.

The search for a missing hen harrier has been called off after the bird’s satellite transmitter resumed transmissions.

Natural England released five young hen harriers in the summer and was tracking their locations using the tags.

Police issued appeals after no signal was picked up from the tags on three of the birds.

Two of the birds were in Wensleydale when the signal was lost.

However, Natural England said signals were now being picked up again from one of the birds which was last known to be in the Dales.

The bird which has reappeared is a young female which was reported missing after its signal was lost while it was on Thornton Rust Moor.

Gamekeepers on grouse moors in the region have been blamed by conservationists for killing the protected raptors.

The update, however, has prompted moorland managers to further question the reliability of the technology used to track the birds.

In a post on its Facebook page, the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group, which was formed to give a voice to those who manage the area’s moorlands, said: “Great news – one of the reported missing sat tagged hen harriers from the dales is now confirmed to be safe and well.

“This is the second hen harrier tagged by Natural England that was reported as missing because its tag had stopped working, that is now back transmitting again in the past two weeks.

“Our gamekeepers have been helping and working alongside staff from Natural England from as soon as the tag stopped transmitting and we are thrilled to learn that the bird is safe and well here in the Dales.

“Satellite tracking has been used to monitor the movements and survival of birds and mammals for about 15 years, the technology is rapidly improving, and tag sizes are decreasing.

“However, during this year we have been involved with monitoring sat tagged hen harriers and the information received from the tags have proven somewhat unreliable and inconsistent.”

The group said the update “begs the question how many more tagged birds that have been reported as disappeared in suspicious circumstances are actually fit and well and the technology is at fault, nothing more sinister than that”.

Natural England said it was still concerned about the whereabouts of the other two hen harriers whose tags have stopped transmitting.

One was last known to be near Askrigg and the other bird was in Teesdale when its signal was lost.