NPWS launch investigation into Hen Harrier poisoning

Published by Niall Sargent on

January 30th, 2020

An investigation is underway following the discovery of a dead Hen Harrier killed as a result of poisoning in Co Meath earlier this month.

According to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), meat baits treated with a toxic substance were discovered at the scene near Drumconrath in the north of the county.

The NPWS believes that other fatalities may have occurred and is concerned that other animals may be at risk particularly around the area of Lough Bracken.

The NPWS is appealing to the public for information regarding this activity which is illegal under the Wildlife Acts, and asking for any suspicious activity to be reported to them and to Gardaí in the area.

The incident will have major implications for important scientific studies that are being carried out by the NPWS as the Hen Harrier was among birds that are being tracked by ornithologists. 

A medium-sized raptor with a wide wingspan, the harrier is Amber-listed due to a decline in the breeding population. The Irish Raptor Study Group (IRSG) recently warned that there may be less than 100 breeding pairs of the bird of prey left in the country.

The national population has declined for the last 40 years as the ground-nesting bird that breeds in bogs and upland areas is threatened by conifer plantation expansion, agricultural land reclamation, peat extraction and wind farm development.

Last April, a female harrier was killed on a wind farm in Co Kerry in April after colliding with a wind turbine, leading the IRSG calling on the Government to bolster post wind farm construction monitoring measures.

Permission was granted last year for two wind farms in Barna in Co Kerry and Meenbog in Co Donegal despite conservation groups warnings of their proposed locations beside earmarked breeding areas for Hen Harriers.

In December 2017, the State launched a €25m five-year Hen Harrier Programme in a bid to try and halt the decline of the species. The programme is targeted specifically at farmers with land in the six Special Protection Areas (SPA) designated for the hen harrier.

The scheme incentivises farmers to manage their fields in ways that will improve the habitat condition for the species. All eligible land will be scored annually, with farmers with higher scores receiving higher payments.

All lands within SPAs are eligible for payment except areas with active turf cutting for domestic use, buildings or farmyards and commercial forestry are eligible.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London