AN investigation is underway after a protected hen harrier was killed by an illegal trap on a Scottish grouse moor.

Police Scotland and the Scottish SPCA are looking into the death of the raptor after the trap was discovered in the Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire.

Experts claim the bird endured “immeasurable unnecessary suffering”, with its leg almost severed by the jaws of the trap.

Despite attempts by a specialist veterinary surgeon to save the bird, its injuries were too severe and it was later euthanised.

The Scottish SPCA special investigations chief inspector, who cannot be named, said: “We can confirm we have been assisting with a Police Scotland investigation into an illegally set trap on a grouse moor in Lanarkshire.

“A hen harrier was caught in the trap and the wound was so severe, the leg had almost been severed.

“Another trap was set beside a nearby hen harrier nest with eggs. We immediately took the bird and eggs to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre to be cared for.

“Unfortunately, the hen harrier and eggs didn’t survive, despite the specialist expert care and dedication of our team.

“The bird would have been caused immeasurable unnecessary suffering and incidents such as this raise grave animal welfare concerns for us.”

The hen harrier was discovered by members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group, who were undertaking routine raptor monitoring in the area on May 11.

The group contacted the police and the Scottish SPCA.

Police Scotland have since led a search of the estate, which spans around 18,500 acres, including the villages of Leadhills and Elvanfoot.

A police spokesman confirmed that enquiries are continuing.

Hen harriers, which like to nest in open heather moorland habitats, are the most persecuted birds of prey in the UK and feature on the red list of endangered species.

Once widespread in the uplands of Britain, by 1900, Victorian persecution by game preservers and skin and egg collectors had pushed the bird to extinction as a breeding species.

Although the species has clawed back some of its lost ground, there are only around 500 breeding pairs in Scotland.

In South Lanarkshire alone, the RSPB has recorded at least 50 confirmed raptor persecution crimes on or close to grouse moors since 2003.

A Scottish Government review of grouse moor management and the need for regulation is due to be published shortly.