Recently released White-Tail Eagles found Dead in County Kerry
Two White-tailed Eagles, released in Killarney National Park, County Kerry in August 2007, have been recovered dead. The first corpse, wing tag 5 a male, was found on Monday 18/2/08 and the second corpse, a female wing tag 7, was recovered on Tuesday 19/2/08 . Both corpses were located by radio tracking. Every White-tailed Eagle was fitted with a small radio transmitter, each with a unique radio frequency, prior to being released. The radio transmitters on each bird emits a different type of signal once the birds become static or die. Both birds will be sent for post mortem, including a toxicology test for poison and an x ray at the Regional Veterinary Laboratory in County Cork. The second dead bird was recovered next to a dead sheep, which has also been removed for analysis. Both birds were known to be alive on Friday (15/208) in the Upper Lake area, Black Valley in Killarney. Both birds were found dead on a hill in the Glencar area, on the eastern end of the Iveragh Peninsula.
15 White-tailed Eagles were released in County Kerry in early August 2007 and had adapted well to the surrounding countryside over the last several months. They were monitored roosting, flying and feeding within Killarney National Park and had been seen attending several dead sheep carcasses in and around the National Park. They had also spent some time trying to catch spent salmon on the shores of Loch Leanne. The local farmers in and around Killarney National Park, other local landowners and members of the public have been extremely supportive of the project since the birds were released. The Irish Farmers Association has obviously expressed its reservations about the project prior to the arrival of the birds last spring. But the White-tailed Eagle project Manager, Allan Mee has spent a considerable amount of time reassuring farmers wherever the birds settle, and has developed a better rapport with the IFA local leadership and membership in recent months.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service in Kerry are currently investigating the matter. It is not yet known whether the bird consumed poison left out for ravens and crows or died from some other causes. However, the fact that both birds died at the same time in the same area and that one bird was found near a partially eaten sheep strongly suggests that consumed poisoning. The eagles are well known for scavenging dead sheep on the hill - sheep that have not been found by farmers. But if a farmer finds a dead sheep he must either bury it or remove it for collection under Dept of Agriculture rules; whereas anyone laying poison on a carcass is actually breaking two separate regulations regarding poisoning with meat baits and failing to remove dead livestock. All native birds of prey, including released White-tailed Eagles, are fully protected in the Republic of Ireland under Section 22 of the Wildlife Act (1976) and by the Wildlife (Amendment) Act (2000). Under the European Union's Birds Directive, White-tailed Eagles are listed as an Annex I species and are therefore given the highest level of protection under European law.
This is a major disappointment for the Golden Eagle Trust Ltd (GET), which is managing the project in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) through the White-tailed Eagle Steering Group.
The Golden Eagle Trust Project Manager Allan Mee said:
"Obviously, after all the hard work of the Steering Group and the widespread support for the project across Kerry and even nationally, it is very worrying to recover two dead White-tailed Eagles at the onset of the lambing season. But I must stress that the level of support and liaison I have with the Irish Farmers Association has improved enormously over the last five months. I have met scores of farmers where the birds have settled and the vast majority of them are very supportive of the birds and many of them are keenly interested in the birds and their local history in Kerry.
"However, White-tailed Eagles were once driven to extinction in Ireland due to shooting and poisoning and the success of this project in Kerry will ultimately depend on the continuing support and goodwill of all the local community. Even if a hand full of individuals still use poison meat baits, as has been a traditional practice and habit, that could ultimately cause the project to fail. This is a serious blow to the project and we would again appeal to all landowners not to leave out any poisoned meat baits, which is now classed as an illegal activity under the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government poisoning regulations, following recent changes in those regulations. Any deliberate action to kill eagles could result in fines or penalties under the single farm payment scheme."
"We are unsure whether someone deliberately laid out poison for eagles or whether they were targeting crows or Ravens, but the indiscriminate nature of poisoning (which also threatens other protected wildlife, sheep dogs, domestic pets or even children) is no longer acceptable where one is trying to restore eagles. We hope that all landowners can stop using poisoned meat baits this season and in future. The return of these Eagles to the Kingdom, has been widely welcomed, and we appeal to the wider community in Kerry to support this effort and ensure these magnificent birds are simply tolerated around the coasts and hills of Kerry."
"Other forms of poison bait can still be legally used to control crows, ravens and foxes, such as eggs, bread and butter, chips or grain and these baits do not pose a risk to White-tailed Eagles. We do not believe any group can legitimately call for a reversal of the regulations banning poisoned meat baits in Ireland, considering the very real and safer alternative poisoning methods available. Ideally we would like to see people stop using poison. We are mindful of the concerns farmers have regarding eagles in general and we have successfully dealt with similar concerns among farmers in County Donegal, for example. And we are still determined to see White-tailed Eagles re-established in County Kerry, despite this considerable setback."
"At the start of the spring when bird song and snow drops are beginning to herald the reawakening nature in a Kerry springtime, it is a shame to collect two dead eagles. But we still have a dozen White-tailed Eagles alive. Our efforts to re-establish a breeding population, along our coastal landscapes, nesting every springtime as they did for millennia is undiminished."
"We believe the people of Kerry and the people of Ireland will simply not accept these Eagles been driven to extinction, through poisoning, once again".