A HEN Harrier fitted with a satellite transmitter has disappeared on a moor near Elvanfoot, once again reviving the war of words between the RSPB and grouse moor owners.

The RSPB statement on the bird's disappearance noted its proximity to a grouse moor, and said that it followed the 'depressingly familiar pattern' of other raptor losses in the area.

However, landowner body Scottish Land and Estates noted that the RSPB had known about the bird's signal loss since February, but rather than sharing that information with local land managers so a proper search could be conducted, had sat on the case for three months.

The female harrier, named Skylar, was being monitored by the RSPB as part of their EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project. She had been roosting overnight in an area of rushes and rough grassland fringing a grouse moor a few miles south of Elvanfoot for several days before her tag stopped working on February 7.

RSPB pointed out that the area 'had a history of similar cases', as a hen harrier and a short-eared owl were shot and killed on a grouse moor in 2017, a few miles away from Skylar’s last known location. Another tagged hen harrier, was found shot nearby in April 2015 and two other tagged hen harriers vanished in the area, one in June 2014 and another in May 2016..

RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations Ian Thomson, said: “Yet again, a young harrier has disappeared close to a driven grouse moor, never to be seen or heard of again. This area of South Lanarkshire has been notorious for some years as a black hole into which protected birds of prey simply disappear.

“Skylar’s disappearance comes at a time when the Scottish Government has commissioned an independent enquiry into grouse shooting, including looking at options for greater regulation. A step change is now urgently required, as current laws and enforcement measures are proving inadequate to deal with such systematic criminality, and the negative cultural attitudes towards birds of prey that remains in many grouse moor areas.

"The most intensively managed 'driven' grouse moors should be licenced, with sanctions to remove licences to operate, where the public authorities are satisfied that wildlife protection laws are being routinely flouted.”

SLE executive director Sarah-Jane Laing commented: “We wholeheartedly condemn any form of raptor persecution. It is disappointing that it has taken three months for the alarm to be raised about Skylar. Landowners in the area are surprised that this is the first that they have heard of any issues and stand ready to assist the police in any investigation that they may undertake.

"Our view is the sooner concern is raised the more assistance can be given to find the bird, and where a crime has been committed then it would surely help increase detection and prosecution. This is why a more independent and transparent system of monitoring satellite-tagged birds should be established. We also question the presumption that grouse moor management is responsible without evidence to support it. That is a matter for any police investigation.”