Eagles fall victim to suspected poisoning

The once-extinct birds of prey were released in Killarney last August and lasted just six months in the wild before they were either deliberately or accidentally poisoned.

The magnificent birds of prey became extinct in Ireland over 100 years ago. Ironically, they were shot and poisoned out of existence.

The first dead bird was discovered on Monday evening at around 5pm after its tracking signal went silent for a number of hours. The second bird was found about 500 yards away in similar circumstances on Tuesday morning. The bird was found lying 14 yards away from the carcass of a dead sheep.

White-tailed sea eagle project co-ordinator Alan Mee said he was devastated by the news and believes that the circumstances in which the birds were found dead means they were almost certainly poisoned. He does not believe the dead sheep found near one of the dead birds was attacked by the eagle as no evidence exists to prove that a white-tailed eagle has ever attacked a live, fully-grown sheep.

Sample tissue has been taken from the sheep and the eagles and has been seen to a laboratory in Cork for toxicology analysis.

Mr Mee said that it is possible the sheep carcass was laced with deadly poison to kill off foxes or crows and that the eagles ? scavengers by nature ? met their doom when they fed on the dead carcass.

But what is worrying Mr Mee most is that threats by some farmers to kill the eagles may have been followed through.

Last August, just weeks before the eagles were released into the wild, farmers threatened to shoot, trap and poison the protected white-tailed eagles if they interfered with their livestock. Farmers feared that the large bird of prey would attack lambs and present an obstacle to the granting of permission for the development of windfarms and forestry.

However, Kerry IFA Chairman John Stack said this week that toxicology results and other findings would have to be known before farmers could be implicated in any way.We have no proof of anything yet. I don?t condone any acts of sabotage. I?d be very disappointed if it is found that a farmer is responsible for this,?? Mr Stack said.

Since their release, no complaints about the eagles have been received by Mr Mee and the IFA said that it was not aware of any animosity shown by farmers towards the bird of prey.

Fifteen birds were introduced to Killarney National Park last year. This week?s discovery has rediuced that figure to 12 ? another of the eagles died last year of natural causes.