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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Falcon deaths blamed on pigeon fanciers
Police discovered two live and two dead chicks in a nest
A third chick has since died
Pigeon fanciers are being blamed for the deaths of two rare peregrine falcons in County Antrim.

Police discovered two live and two dead chicks in a nest in the Cloughmills area at the weekend. A third chick died on Sunday.

Detectives believe the breeding pair of falcons have been shot or poisoned.


They have a history of persecution throughout the years and some of that blame goes to pigeon fanciers

Mark Mason
PSNI Wildlife liaison officer

A substantial reward has been offered for information leading to those responsible.

Pigeon fanciers believe the falcons prey on their birds.

Police wildlife liaison officer Chief Inspector Mark Mason said the falcons were the top predators in the wild.

"They have no natural enemies and they have a history of persecution throughout the years.

"Some of that blame goes to pigeon fanciers.

"The most likely cause of their disappearance is human intervention.

"This is the time of the year when people would persecute peregrines simply because adults are tied to the nest to feed the chicks.

"Throughout the rest of the year they would be much harder to track down."

Mr Mason added the fact that the crime took place in the countryside could make it difficult to catch those responsible.

Peregrine falcons are an endangered species - Northern Ireland has only 69 breeding pairs left. In the past ten years more than 30 pairs have been lost to shooting or poisoning.

Democratic Unionist Party assembly member Jim Wells, who is also a bird enthusiast, said it was a terrible act of cruelty.

He appealed for public help in identifying those responsible and said the offenders faced a 60,000 fine and the loss of any firearms license.

See also:

09 Jun 02 | N Ireland
07 Nov 01 | England
30 May 01 | UK
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