HAMPSHIRE TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham has joined a protest against the illegal killing of hen harriers ahead of the grouse shooting season.

The Springwatch host, pictured, who grew up in Southampton said the event in the Peak District would send out a “peaceful but clear message” that people are no longer prepared to tolerate the killing of the birds, which are targeted because they prey on red grouse.

According to conversationists there could be more than 300 pairs of hen harriers on UK uplands, but because of persecution only three pairs of the protected birds nested in the uplands this year.

Now Mr Packham, who lives in the New Forest, is calling for an outright ban on driven grouse shooting.

He said the move had come about because efforts to work with shooting organisations had failed and conservationists no longer trusted them to tackle illegal persecution.

Mr Packham said: “We need a total ban on this type of shooting until they can prove they behave themselves. There’s a lot of responsible shooters out there getting dragged down by a minority set.”

Organisations which back grouse shooting say research shows managing the land for grouse shooting is good for wildlife, boosting the breeding of birds including curlew, lapwing, golden plover and redshank.

They also say it boosts jobs, services and businesses.

However Mr Packham said other solutions were needed and suggested diversionary feeding, where other food is provided for the hen harriers to prevent them preying on red grouse.

He added: “We pay lots of subsidies to other farming methods to help wildlife. Maybe we need to start thinking about paying subsidies to these sorts of people – but we need an assurance they will behave properly.

“I’m not going to offer any concession at all to anyone who pulls a trigger on hen harriers.”

It is the latest campaign that Mr Packham has thrown his weight behind. Earlier this year the Daily Echo reported how he had been questioned by police in Malta for five hours after a confrontation with hunters shooting migratory birds on the Mediterranean island.

The issue was later debated in the House of Commons.