A LIVE pigeon was tethered and believed to have been covered in poison in a barbaric trap to kill a peregrine falcon on land near Castlederg earlier this month, it has been revealed.
The bird of prey and the pigeon were both found dead at the location in the Scraghey area on Tuesday, July 10 and a PSNI investigation is underway.
It is understood that those behind the attack, used the live pigeon for bait as peregrine falcons will only eat prey which is still alive.
The attack has been condemned by a protection group as a serious and reckless crime.
Jim Wells from the NI Raptor Study Group (NIRSG) praised the efforts of volunteers who found the dead birds.
“The vigilance of several members of the Raptor Study Group and the very quick response by the PSNI has revealed what is likely to be one of the most serious incidents of peregrine persecution in Northern Ireland for several years,” said Mr Wells.
“The use of poison on a pigeon to kill a protected bird of prey is cruel, dangerous and totally irresponsible. The peregrine falcon once faced extinction due to the use of pesticides and now its recovery is threatened by those who seek to kill adults and young using totally illegal and reckless methods.”
The dead pigeon was found with one of its legs tied to a rock below the nest of the falcons.
Mr Wells – who is probably better known as the former DUP health minister – said all peregrine sites in Tyrone are monitored on a regular basis every year.
He added, “This research has revealed that illegal persecution remains a problem in some parts of the county. There are those who want to prevent people living in this area from seeing the fastest bird in the world.”
Dr Eimear Rooney, an officer with NIRSG and representative in the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime NI (PAW NI), voiced her fears over the impact of such attacks.
“Illegal killing could result in serious implication for the viability of the species here. Peregrine falcons are primary predators and removal of such predators from our ecosystems can have serious consequences on a wide range of species. It’s deeply frustrating to think that someone went out of their way to target these birds in such a heinous manner,” said Dr Rooney.
“Wildlife crime incidents, particularly where they occur in remote locations, can often go unreported. We are extremely grateful to our fieldworkers who go above and beyond to monitor these birds. The Partnership for Against Wildlife Crime NI (PAW NI) are working hard to raise awareness both of the law and the protection it affords birds of prey.
“However, there are clearly still those individuals who are determined to kill birds of prey. We urge anyone who has any information about this suspected crime to report it to the Police on 101, quoting incident number 1550.10/7/18.”
According to the last report from PAW NI , 57 birds of prey were killed illegally across the North over the last eight years. Most of the birds were either shot or poisoned.
In response to the ongoing killing of birds of prey – some which have been re-introduced to the North after years of extinction – the PSNI launched a dedicated campaign in 2016 called Operation Raptor to help protect the various species.
And last year, the PSNI revealed that they deploying drones to combat wildlife crime, including the targeting or birds of prey.
Posted: 10:09 am July 31, 2018