Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Police Crackdown to Save Hen Harrier

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Police Crackdown to Save Hen Harrier

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tony Henderson Environment Editor

Those who continue to target a bird of prey on the edge of extinction will find themselves hunted in a police crackdown launched today.

Last year only eight pairs of hen harriers successfully bred in England, including one pair in north Northumberland and one at Geltsdale on the Cumbria-Northumbrian border.

The birds have suffered constant persecution in the North of England and elsewhere - despite having the highest level of European and British legal protection.

Offenders face a fine of pounds 5,000 and six months' jail for every bird killed.

But today the Association of Chief Police Officers launches Operation Artemis, which is the first national strategic police operation to raise public awareness of a specific wildlife crime and to prosecute those involved.

Wildlife crime and rural beat officers will visit grouse and upland managers in areas which provide suitable hen harrier habitat.

While only a handful of the birds attempt to breed it is estimated that there is sufficient habitat in England to support 230 pairs.

Paul Henery, Northumbria Police wildlife liaison officer, said: "This will be an intelligence-based operation targeting specific persons and certain areas.

"Hen harriers are being persecuted across the country. It has long been one of our priority areas but this operation raises the stakes.

"Every means will be used to deal with this issue because hen harriers are on the verge of extinction in England and that is unacceptable.

"This issue has now been flagged up and we will be taking it very seriously."

A Durham Police spokesman said: "Every year in County Durham hen harriers attempt to breed on the upland grouse moors but they are rarely successful. We believe this is due in large part to the misguided and illegal actions of a small number of gamekeepers and landowners who disturb birds at crucial breeding times. …

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