Page last updated at 11:12 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

Sea eagle 'shot' on Lough Neagh

Sea eagle
The sea eagle was released in County Kerry

A white-tailed sea eagle which was found dead in Lough Neagh, County Antrim, is suspected to have been shot.

The bird, a protected species, was released into Killarney National Park in Co Kerry as part of a reintroduction programme which began two years ago.

Dr Allan Mee, who is in charge of the project, said there were two pellet holes in the animal's transmitter.

The transmitter was retrieved from the animal by two canoeists, who were in the Lady's Bay area, on 17 October.

Dr Mee said the canoeists removed the bird's tag before throwing its corpse back into the water.

"Subsequent examination of the transmitter showed it to have two round holes in the antenna consistent with that caused by shot from a shotgun cartridge," he said.

"Unfortunately the carcass of the eagle was left on the lake and extensive searches by members of the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group (NIRSG) along the shore of Lough Neagh on 21 and 26 October failed to locate it.

"It is highly unlikely an eagle dying of natural causes would end up floating in the lough.

"Having spoken to the kayakers, who reported blood and an apparent injury to the neck as well as the marks on the transmitter, I'm convinced the bird was shot.

"I find it hard to understand how someone could recklessly target such an unmistakable and spectacular bird."

Dr Marc Ruddock of the NIRSG, who coordinated searches for the bird, said: "The resources, time and enthusiasm that go into the re-introduction program is phenomenal, the loss of even one of the white-tailed eagles is devastating."

PSNI Wildlife Liaison Officer Emma Meredith urged anyone with information to come forward.

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