The killed bird pictured while being fitted with a satellite tag

Police are appealing for information after a rare bird of prey was fatally injured in an illegal shooting in the Yorkshire Dales.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is offering a £1,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

On 5 July 2012, the body of a female Hen Harrier was found on Thorny Grain Moor in Colsterdale, in the Yorkshire Dales.

The body of the bird was sent to the Zoological Society of London for a post mortem examination, which revealed that she had a fractured left leg, leading to her death.

A pioneering forensic examination conducted at UCL Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, Stanmore, found a tiny fragment of lead at the site of the facture, confirming that the bird had been shot, which resulted in her death.

The history of this particular Hen Harrier is well known. Nicknamed ‘Bowland Betty’, she was raised in a nest in Bowland, Lancashire, on 2011. She was fitted with a satellite tag by Natural England as part of their Hen Harrier Recovery Project – which has tagged a number of hen harriers since 2002 – to learn more about their wide-ranging movements across the country.

The satellite tag helped to track Betty’s movements over the past year and showed she had travelled as far North as Caithness, in Scotland.

On 22 May 2012, she returned to Bowland, before flying east into North Yorkshire three days later. For the next couple of weeks she ranged around the moors in the Nidderdale and Colsterdale areas.

In late June the satellite data indicated that Betty had become stationary, raising fears for her safety. With the cooperation of Swinton Estate, Stephen Murphy of the Natural England Hen Harrier Recovery Project found Betty dead on 5 July.

With Hen Harriers on the brink of extinction as a breeding species in England, Betty’s death is a significant blow to the future of the species in this country and her shooting is a serious offence.

PC Gareth Jones, Harrogate and District wildlife crime officer, said, “The shooting of this rare and majestic bird is against the law, and it beggars belief that in 2012 a bird of this status has been shot and killed.

“North Yorkshire Police’s Wildlife Crime Unit are dedicated to protecting all wildlife in the county and I urge anyone with information about this tragic incident to contact the police or Crimestoppers with information.”

The RSPB also condemned the shooting and are working with North Yorkshire Police as investigations into the shooting continue.

Bob Elliot, head of RSPB investigations, said, “The Hen Harrier is on the brink of extinction as a breeding species in England and the loss of yet another bird to illegal persecution is sickening.

“We are offering a reward of £1000 for anyone with information which leads to a conviction. We would urge people with information to contact North Yorkshire Police or call our confidential hotline 0845 4663636.”

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) are supporting the investigation and urged its members to come forward if they have information, which can help the police with their enquiries.

A spokesman for BASC, the UK’s largest shooting organisation, said: “We unreservedly condemn this crime and urge anyone who shoots who may have any information to come forward and assist the police.

“Anyone shooting a protected species damages shooting and the countryside and has no place among the law-abiding shooting community. BASC would have no hesitation in expelling any member found guilty of such a crime.”

Anyone who can help officers with their enquires is urged to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 – select option 2 – and ask for Gareth Jones or Harrogate police.

If you wish to remain anonymous, Crimestoppers can be contacted on 0800 555 111.

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