The Canadian Peregrine Foundation

Peregrine falcon shot dead with crossbow
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Jon Land

A peregrine falcon has been shot dead with a crossbow - prompting fears of an illegal campaign to "kill off" rare birds of prey in some areas of the UK.

The body of the falcon, which is a protected species, was discovered in woodlands near the village of Hartpury, Gloucestershire, at the end of March.

It comes just months after two sparrowhawks were shot dead with a crossbow in the same area.

Police and the RSPB have launched an investigation into the deaths, which have been condemned as "appalling attacks".

Peregrines were once driven to the brink of extinction, but have flourished in recent years thanks to conservation projects and their protected status.

But the RSPB fear peregrines are being targeted by factions who want to see their numbers dramatically reduced or eradicated all together.

Grahame Madge, a spokesman for the charity, said: "Peregrines are often poisoned, shot and trapped, but a crossbow would not be a normal weapon of choice.

"It is silent so they may feel it gives them more than one chance. It does suggest these fabulous birds are being targeted. It's disgusting.v

"There are factions who want to see peregrines removed. There have been occasions when pigeon fanciers have targeted peregrines falcons. Game-keepers are another group who would like to see their numbers go down."

Dozens of the birds, which reach speeds of 100mph, have died after being shot or feeding off poisoned carcasses, in recent years.

There are about 1,400 breeding pairs in the United Kingdom.

Mark Robson, wildlife crime officer with Gloucestershire Police, said: "In late 2006 two sparrowhawks were found dead at Hartpury with injuries to their necks, and now a peregrine falcon has been found with a similar wound to its abdomen.

"A vet who has examined the birds has confirmed the injuries were not caused by other animals, but were most likely caused by a cross bow.

"We are obviously concerned about the fact that someone seems to have deliberately targeted these birds, which are protected under the Wildlife and Countrywide Act 1981, with such an unusual weapon.

"The fact someone has gone into the woodlands with a crossbow is also in itself of great concern."

Anyone with information on who is responsible for killing the birds should ring police on 0845 090 1234 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Copyright Press Association 2007.

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