Someone Killing Birds of Prey In Northern Ireland
A shocking 44 birds of prey have been confirmed as having been shot, trapped or poisoned in Northern Ireland between 2009 and 2014. Unfortunately, these numbers may only be the tip of a very unpleasant iceberg as many such incidents may not have been discovered or reported. Some dead birds are so decomposed when they are found that it is impossible to tell what killed them.
Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime
A report has been drawn up by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime, which involves agencies including police, the Environment Agency and wildlife groups. It’s author, Dr Eimear Rooney, fears that many attacks on birds have not been reported as the crimes often occur in remote areas.
The crimes which have been reported have involved buzzards, red kites, peregrine falcons, sparrowhawks, merlins, golden eagles and white tailed eagles. Buzzards were targeted most often with 23 deaths having been confirmed since 2009.
But why are these beautiful birds being targeted?
Ignorance and Agriculture
It is thought that there is a general ignorance of the law in Northern Ireland. Birds of prey are protected by legislation including the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. It is against the law to intentionally injure, kill or capture one of these birds unless you are in possession of a licence to do so. In addition, many people may not be aware of the important role that birds of prey play in the ecosystem.
The birds are often targeted to protect the livestock on farms or people’s pets. But, in reality, the birds do not represent much of a threat as Buzzards eat carrion, rodents and smaller birds. Most pets and livestock would simply be too large to become prey.
How are the Birds Killed?
The birds are often poisoned. Pesticides which are highly toxic are available over the counter. These can be used deliberately to poison the birds. Indiscriminate or careless use can also put birds at risk. A number of bird deaths were shown to have involved the use of a highly toxic pesticide called Carbofuran. This has been banned in the EU since 2001. Red kites and buzzards are particularly susceptible to the use of poisoned baits as they routinely scavenge on carrion.
Catching the Bad Guys
Sadly, it is hard to identify the offenders as they must to be caught in the act. There has never been a successful prosecution. It is extremely important that people come forward if they have information regarding this criminal activity.
An analysis of the known attacks revealed that there are several hotspots of activity across the country. But this does not enable the authorities to point the finger at any particular individuals or groups in the affected communities.