West Country bird of prey death toll rises
Peregrine death near Buckfastleigh brings poisoning
in Devon and Cornwall this
year to eight
Devon and Cornwall Police and the RSPB are appealing for information following confirmation this week that a young peregrine falcon found dead at a quarry near Buckfastleigh had residues of both carbofuran and aldicarb. These banned pesticides are suspected to have contributed to the bird’s death.
This brings to eight the number of birds of prey killed in poisonings this year in the West Country. In March four goshawks and a buzzard were found dead to the west of Exeter and in July two peregrines were found near St Just in Cornwall.
The bird, a young female peregrine, was found by environmental consultants from URS Scott Wilson at Whitecleaves Quarry near Buckfastleigh on 21 July. Peregrines at this site have been targeted previously, with dead birds found in 2005, 2004 and 1992. On each occasion the birds had been poisoned.
Following the discovery, Natural England‘s Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) was notified and began an investigation. The body was sent for analysis and it was confirmed last week that both had residues of the banned substances aldicarb and carbofuran. The latter was also identified in the previous cases this year.
Wildlife conservationists have mounting concern over the presence of these chemicals in the wider countryside.
Ivan Lakin, Natural England’s Wildlife Adviser in Devon said: “Peregrine falcons have suffered from illegal poisoning in Devon for 20 years – often tricked into consuming poisoned ‘live bait.’ The poison which we have seen used in many of these cases was banned more than a decade ago and it can be potentially as dangerous to the public, children and pets as it is to birds of prey.
“We treat such incidents seriously and will continue our work with other agencies under the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme, with the main objective of stopping illegal persecution and prosecuting people responsible for these senseless crimes.”
Tony Whitehead, spokesperson for the RSPB in the South West said; “I was truly shocked to see the images of the dead bird. Peregrines at this site have a long history of persecution. In 2005 a bird was found dead on the body of a pigeon. The pigeon had its wings purposely clipped and it had been doused with poison. In 2004 a peregrine was found dead near to a pigeon spiked with the poison malathion. And in July 1992 a peregrine was found dead alongside another pigeon similarly treated with malathion.
”This has been a truly awful year for birds of prey in the West Country. Whatever the motives of the people that carry out these deliberate acts, we must not forget that they are nothing more than common criminals. They show no regard for these magnificent and much loved birds of prey and also show little regard for the safety of people and their pets walking in the countryside. This needs to be stopped.”
PC Josh Marshall, Wildlife Crime Officer in Devon said: “This strikes a chord with me as I visited the site this year and watched the birds at the site while the female was incubating.
Nationally, bird of prey persecution is continuing to be a major problem, particularly this year in the south west and in Devon. In terms of wildlife crime, we welcome the fact that bird of prey persecution has been identified as a key priority for wildlife crime enforcement. Investigations can be complex and are often initially out of the public eye until analysis results are obtained, then as in the case, we frequently appeal for anyone with information to come forward to assist with our enquiries.”
Anyone found guilty of an offence against birds of prey can be liable to a fine of up to £5000 (per offence) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both.
If anyone has information regarding this they can call 101 quoting crime number JA/11/423. Alternatively if members of the public wish to remain anonymous they can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. The public can also contact the RSPB on 0845 466 3636. All information is handled in the strictest confidence. The RSPB is offering a reward of £1000 for information leading to a conviction.