Rare eagle starved to death after being shot
Published 06/03/2014 | 02:30
A garda investigation has been launched into the horrific death of a magnificent white-tailed eagle which slowly starved to death after being peppered with shotgun pellets.
The young male eagle was one of a single pair which made history after successfully hatching last July from a nest on the shores of Lough Derg in Co Clare, heralding the return of the species to Ireland after an absence of over 100 years.
However, conservation workers have been left stunned by the slaying of one of the precious birds just seven months after leaving the nest.
An X-ray taken for a post-mortem reveals around 50 shotgun pellets lodged in its wings and body. Experts believe the bird plummeted to the ground after being shot, breaking one of its legs and a wing in the impact.
The carcass was found near a hedgerow by a man out walking his dog on the north-east shore of Lough Derg, close to Ballingarry – a discovery described as "heart-breaking" by Dr Allan Mee, Reintroduction Project Manager.
"It is absolutely incomprehensible that someone would shoot one of these magnificent birds but even more shocking is that one of the first two Irish-bred eagles has been shot only seven months after leaving the nest," he said.
Stefan Jones, District Conservation Officer at the National Parks and Wildlife Service, said he believes the eagle was shot between six to 10 weeks ago.
"No major organs were penetrated and judging by the length of time that his fractures had been healing, he managed to struggle on for a reasonable length of time," he said.
The pair of white-tailed eagles were reared at a nest on Lough Derg, near Mountshannon, Co Clare, and were the first successes of the high- profile reintroduction programme which began in 2007 with the release of the Norwegian parent eagles in Killarney National Park.
Around 4,000 visitors came to Lough Derg from all over Ireland last summer in the hope of catching a glimpse of the fledglings.
Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said he was "shocked" by the crime, saying the birth of the bird had been a special day for nature conservation.
Anyone with information on the shooting of the eagle is asked to contact the gardai at Nenagh station at 067-50450 or the National Parks and Wildlife Service at 076-1002501.