flock shock Hundreds of birds of prey killed by shooting, poisoning and man-made hazards
HUNDREDS of birds of prey have been killed by shooting, poisoning and various man-made hazards in recent years, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has reported.
Buzzards were the most common casualty, accounting for 100 recorded deaths, but the fatalities also included kites, owls, falcons, hawks, kestrels, hen harriers, 18 white-tailed sea eagles, two golden eagles and a merlin.
A total of 338 incidents were recorded between 2007 and 2019, but Dr Barry O'Donoghue, who coordinates the recording system, said the true number was likely to be "much higher".
Most of the deaths involved illegal acts, including 214 poisonings and 58 shootings. One bird was trapped and one died by 'mutilation'.
There were also 57 deaths by road collision, six from striking wind turbines, one powerline collision, two fence collisions, two by nest disturbance and three by unspecified trauma.
While deaths were recorded in all counties, Wicklow had the highest number of incidents with 57 over the period.
Tipperary had 33, Kerry had 30, Dublin had 28 and Cork had 22.
Risk varied with the seasons, with most poisoning incidents in spring and shootings in late summer, autumn and winter.
While an average of 16.5 illegal incidents were detected each month over the 12 years, just seven prosecutions were initiated and only four proceeded to conviction.
One is still ongoing while the others resulted in fines as low as €50 or donations to charity of €300. In a case involving several defendants, fines of €600, €700 and €7,500 were imposed.
Pádraic Fogarty of the Irish Wildlife Trust described the fines in general as "pathetic" and said they were no deterrent to wildlife crime.
Heritage Minister Malcolm Noonan has promised to set up a dedicated wildlife crime unit within the NPWS.
He said the incident in the past year where 23 buzzards were poisoned in west Cork had been an "eye-opener".
"These incidents, particularly the deliberate persecution of our native raptors, are an abhorrence to us all and should be condemned," he said.
Dr O'Donoghue said the birds were important indicators of the health of the countryside and ecosystems and he praised the public for helping to highlight the attacks by reporting the deaths.
"Birds of prey are magnificent creatures in their own right and speak to something deep within us about a wild Ireland," he said.