A rare white-tailed eagle found dead in Dorset was poisoned, police have confirmed – but they have shut the case, in a decision the RSPB has called “baffling”.
The eagle was one reintroduced on the Isle of Wight, where a successful programme has been taking place since summer 2019. The white-tailed eagles had become extinct in the UK in the early 20th century after they were poisoned and shot by gamekeepers.
Those who run shoots are often opposed to birds of prey being in the area, as when they fly over a shoot, the birds scatter. They also occasionally predate on game birds.
The eagle was found dead on an unnamed estate in Dorset in January, and police launched an investigation into its death. Many conservationists in the area suspected it had been poisoned.
The toxicology results have confirmed the eagle had high levels of brodifacoum, a rodenticide, in its system. But police have closed the investigation and will not be naming the estate on which the dead eagle was found.
A spokesperson for Dorset police said: “An investigation under section 1 of the Wildlife Countryside Act 1981 was carried out in conjunction with the RSPB, Natural England, National Wildlife Crime Unit and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation. A detailed examination and tests have been carried out on the bird, which were inconclusive, and it has therefore not been possible to confirm that any criminal offence has been committed.
“While high levels of brodifacoum were detected, it has not been possible to establish whether this was as a result of a deliberate act or due to secondary rodenticide poisoning. As a result, no further police action will be taken in relation to this report.”
The local MP, Chris Loder, a Conservative, was opposed to the police investigation, arguing that looking into the death of an eagle was a waste of funds. He also said that white-tailed eagles were not welcome in Dorset.
An RSPB spokesperson said: “We are completely baffled by the decision of Dorset police to end the white-tailed eagle investigation so prematurely.
“Brodifacoum – the rodent poison that killed the eagle – is highly toxic and it is clear that it was either used incompetently or with intent to kill the eagle – either way an illegal act.”