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Police investigation begins into poisoning of Peregrine falcons in Devon

It is believed that the birds of prey have been deliberately targetted. Photo: Devon and Cornwall Police

Devon and Cornwall Police are investigating reports of a Peregrine falcon being deliberately poisoned.

Officers were contacted by staff at Glendinning Quarry in Ashburton, on Tuesday 15 August, about an injured bird.

The falcon had been found on the floor of the quarry, which is home to a breeding pair of Peregrine falcons. Despited being given immediate care, the bird died the next day.

The bird was given treatment but could not be saved. Credit: Devon and Cornwall Police

According to the police, early indications suggest the falcon had been poisoned but it will be forensically examined to establish the cause of death, which will help the police investigation.

Members of the public are warned that poisons commonly used to commit a crime like this are incredibly toxic to humans and pets. Should any person locate any dead or injured birds they are strongly advised not to touch them or let pets come into contact with them. Ingestion of these poisons can lead to death.

– PC Josh Marshall, Devon and Cornwall Police Wildlife Crime Officer

This is not the first time these birds of prey have been targeted. In the same area of Ashburton and Buckfastleigh, several incidents have taken place over the last twenty years:

2011
one poisoned Peregrine falcon found.
2005
poisoned bait (racing pigeon) found with wings clipped. Adult falcons missing, chicks rescued.
2005
one dead poisoned Peregrine and one poisoned bait (pigeon) with wings clipped found.
2003
Two men spotted with a pigeon on a length of string appearing to try and lure Peregrines down.
2000
one poisoned Peregrine found.
2000
one shot Sparrowhawk discovered, it survived.
1992
Two dead Peregrines found with pigeon flesh in crop.

Most of the incidents involved the use of illegal poisons including Aldicarb, Carbofuran and Malathion. Racing pigeons have on the whole been used as bait and are generally smeared with a substance containing so that when the Peregrine plucks and eats the bait they also eat the poison.

In 2005 a number of children could have been harmed when the poisoned bait, a racing pigeon, was found wandering close to a childminder's address.

A healthy Peregrine falcon. Credit: PA Images

South West Peregrines, a volunteer group who monitor the birds have described the incident as "abhorrent" and are urging members of the local community to come forward with any information.

RSPB South West have also stepped in and are offering a £1,000 reward for information that directly leads to the prosecution of the offender.

Peregrines are magnificent and much-loved birds, whose comeback over the past twenty years is a conservation success. However, once again, it appears the Peregrines at this site have been deliberately targeted and, it is suspected, poisoned.

Should this prove to be the case, this is outrageous and the criminals must be brought to justice. We are also concerned that, should this again prove to be a poisoning, someone is wantonly placing toxic chemicals in the countryside which can be a danger to both humans and pets.

Someone in the local community must have information about who's doing this and we urge people to come forward and contact the police.

– Tony Whitehead, RSPB South West
  • Information is handled in the strictest of confidence and can be passed directly to PC Marshall by calling 101.