ONE of the first two white-tailed eagles to fledge successfully from a nest in County Clare last year has been found dead in Tipperary. It had been shot and subsequently starved to death, as it was unable to fish and forage.
The young male eagle was reared by a pair of white-tailed eagles at Lough Derg, near Mountshannon and successfully flew from the nest in July 2013 along with its sibling.
After a few months of care by the parents, both young eagles began to disperse more widely and become independent.
The last confirmed sighting was of one of the two juveniles near Dromineer, County Tipperary, on the east shore of Lough Derg in January. After information supplied by a member of the public and a subsequent search on lands on the shore of Lough Derg by an officer from the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the reintroduction project
team, the dead eagle was found near Ballinderry, North Tipperary, on the north-east shore of Lough Derg.
A subsequent post-mortem by pathologists at the Regional Veterinary Laboratory in Limerick showed the young eagle had been shot, the body holding some 45-50 shotgun pellets.
The impact of the shooting broke one of the bird’s legs and wings but it survived some weeks after the shooting before dying. The horrific nature of the bird’s shooting and ultimate death have shocked those involved in the reintroduction project.
Investigations are being carried out by the Gardai and the NPWS.
John Harvey, chairman of Mountshannon Community Council, said he was disgusted by the incident.
“We are absolutely appalled that someone could have done this to such a magnificent bird. The chicks that flew the nest in Mountshannon last year captured everyone’s imagination. Local people have been heavily involved in watching the breeding pair here and the progress of their two chicks. We are sickened to think that someone would callously shoot them. It feels like we haven’t moved on as a people since the dark days when these magnificent birds were wiped out.”
White tailed eagles are protected under the Wildlife Act (1976) and it is an offence to shoot or otherwise harm the species. Anyone with information on this crime should contact, in confidence, An Garda Siochána at 067 50450 or the NPWS at 076 1002501.
Local NPWS District Conservation Officer Stefan Jones said the available evidence indicated that the bird had a drawn out and horrific death.
“This bird would have been unable to fish and forage as normal and it appears that it slowly starved to death as a result. Bearing in mind the broken limbs and the fact that it had approximately 50 shotgun pellets in it, it is amazing it managed to survive for such a period.”
Reintroduction Project Manager was Dr Allan Mee and he was devastated after the discovery of the bird’s body.
“It is absolutely incomprehensible that someone would shoot one of these magnificent birds but even more shocking is that one of the first two Irish-bred eagles has been shot only seven months after leaving the nest.
“Although all losses impact the project, for me the loss of this male, the first Irish-bred white-tailed eagle of the reintroduction programme, is especially difficult to take”, added Dr Mee.
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan was also appalled by the incident. “I am shocked by this crime. The birth of this bird was a special day for nature conservation in Ireland. So much work has gone into reintroducing this species here, and there has been wonderful co-operation by many different groups to achieve successful breeding. To have all this undone is a significant blow,” he said.