independent

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Witnesses to shooting of falcon being sought

Maria Pepper

Published 23/08/2014 | 00:00

The Peregrine Falcon

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is still searching for witnesses to the illegal shooting of a young Peregrine Falcon.

The bird was found by a passer-by on a road at Ballinastraw, near Glenbrien, and was so badly injured it had to be put down.

An appeal last week by the Wildlife Service for information on the shooting has not yet resulted in a breakthrough.

On Monday, wildlife officer Dominic Berridge renewed the call for public assistance with the investigation.

'We would like to hear from anyone who has information that could lead to a prosecution,' he said, adding that a person convicted of killing a Peregrine Falcon could face serious penalties including a fine of up to €5,000 and a year in prison.

An x-ray confirmed that the bird found at Ballinastraw had shotgun pellets in its wing and leg.

An identification ring that had been placed on the bird's leg in June showed it was a young falcon on one of its first flights.

The shooting was condemned as 'barbaric' by Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys, whose department is responsible for the Wildlife Service.

The incident was also condemned by Wexford Regional Game Council, the largest local voluntary organisation involved in game shooting and conservation.

'Our members remain committed to conservation and the creation of a suitable habitat for all wildlife,' said a spokesman.

Peregrine Falcons are native Irish birds of prey and, as a protected species, they receive the highest possible legal protection.

The person who found the injured falcon handed it over to a landowner and notified the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the find. The bird was picked up by wildlife officers and taken to a veterinary clinic for examination.

Unfortunately, the falcon had to be euthanised due to the extent of its injuries, which included a leg fracture and a pellet lodged in a wing joint.

Rehabilitation was unlikely to have been successful and this would have made it difficult for the bird to survive in the wild.

The Ballinastraw shooting was not an isolated incident, according to Dominic Berridge. 'There seems to have been an increase in the deliberate killing of peregrines in recent years with several unexplained nest failures in the south-east,' he said.

'The finding of this bird is not an isolated incident. There have been attempts to poison and shoot birds at a number of nests and if people see anything suspicious like a tethered pigeon or a trap, they should contact us,' Dominic said.

There are about a dozen Peregrine Falcon eyries in Co Wexford but the NPWS is reluctant to reveal the exact locations for fear they will come under threat.

'There are people out there who seem to be out after them, for whatever reason,' said Dominic. 'There are some people with guns who will take a pot shot at anything.'

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