Thanks to the contributor who sent us a copy of the following article, published in the (County) Down Recorder, 23 July 2014. We’ve shortened it slightly:
The poisoning of a raven at Killard Nature Reserve, County Down, has prompted a police investigation and raised serious concerns amongst environmentalists.
The dead bird was found on 15th March 2014 but it has only now been confirmed that it was poisoned with the banned pesticide, Carbofuran.
Situated at the mouth of Strangford Lough opposite Ballyquintin, where walkers are attracted by the area’s rich wildlife and interesting rock formations, the site is managed by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
An NIEA spokeswoman said they were “deeply concerned” and advised members of the public at Killard not to pick up any dead wildlife in case they are poisoned. She explained that the raven, protected by the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985, was found by one of their wildlife officers on the cliff top above Benderg Beach.
“The dead raven was found in an unnatural posture which, from experience, led the officer to believe that it may have been poisoned”, said the spokeswoman. “Despite a thorough search no evidence was found that poison had been laid in the reserve. Tests completed in early July revealed that the raven had died as a result of ingesting Carbofuran, a poison banned for use throughout the EU. It is likely that the bird picked this up from a poisoned bait within 100 metres of where the raven was found.
“NIEA is deeply concerned, not only the poisoning of a protected species nesting locally, but also that it took place on or near a protected site where wildlife should be safe”.
NIEA said it wasn’t aware of any other incidents at the reserve but issued the following advice: “Members of the public visiting Killard are asked to avoid handling any dead animals such as rabbits or birds in case they may have been poisoned or baited with poison. Dogs should be kept on the lead and prevented from approaching any such corpses, and dogs are not permitted on the Reserve when livestock graze there over the winter months.
“If members of the public in the Killard and Ballyhornan area do come across any dead crows, birds of prey or foxes, or find any suspicious carcasses or rabbits or chickens covered in granular or powdered substances, or see any suspicious activity which could relate to illegal poisoning, they are asked to contact Downpatrick PSNI”.
A spokeswoman for the RSPB in Northern Ireland said the incident was “very disappointing”.
“All cases of birds or wildlife being poisoned by an illegal substance are worrying, but this incident is particularly concerning because the County Down area is a stronghold for the threatened red kite”, she said.
“Having been persecuted to extinction in Northern Ireland more than 200 years ago, kites were reintroduced here in 2008. Sadly, last year alone around 30% of the breeding population were confirmed poisoned, making it more difficult for the species to thrive.
“Leaving out poisoned bait is an illegal practice as it is indiscriminate and can affect not only scavenging birds like red kites, but also pets, livestock and humans”.