Poison accounted for 71.5% of illegal incidents that impacted raptors since 2007

Use of poison accounted for 71.5% of illegal incidents that impacted raptors since 2007, according to new data.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has today (Wednesday, October 21) published a review of incidents that have been recorded to impact native Irish birds of prey between 2007 and 2019.

The review, called Recording and Addressing Persecution and Threats to Our Raptors (RAPTOR), reveals that a total of 338 incidents were confirmed and recorded on the RAPTOR database during this period. A wide range of causes are listed, including: poisoning; persecution; and road and turbine collisions.

Some of the incidents had multiple issues, such as birds of prey both shot and poisoned, while a number of incidents comprised of multiple birds, such as more than one individual killed by a poisoned bait incident.

294 incidents involved birds of prey, with a total of 301 individual birds of prey impacted. All regularly breeding native Irish raptor species were confirmed to have suffered some form of poisoning, persecution or other direct anthropogenic non-habitat related cause of injury or mortality.

In addition, there were 57 road collision incidents; six wind turbine strike incidents; three “traumatic death” incidents; two disturbance incidents; two fence collision incidents; and one powerline collision incident.

The birds of prey recorded as most frequently impacted were: common buzzard (100 casualties); red kite (46); barn owl (43); and peregrine falcon (36).

The report’s author and coordinator of RAPTOR between 2013 and 2019, Dr. Barry O’Donoghue, said: “Birds of prey are magnificent creatures in their own right and speak to something deep within us about a wild Ireland.

“They are indicators of the health of our eco-systems and countryside, whether a barn owl hunting a hay meadow at night or a hen harrier gliding across a moorland. The help of the public has been central in bringing these incidents to light and for highlighting the support that our native birds of prey need.”

Illegal incidents and prosecutions

Between 2007 and 2019, 199 incidents of that could be termed ‘illegal’ (involving direct persecution or misuse of poisons) were recorded.

Poison incidents (involving poisoned meat bait or illegal poisons) accounted for 71.5% of such cases, while shootings accounted for 28% and trapping/mutilation accounted for 0.5% of such cases.

A total of 392 individual animals were impacted by such incidents, including a total of 164 birds of prey.

Poison and persecution incidents have been recorded in every county, with particular blackspots in the east and south-west.

The highest number of incidents in any 10km grid square was in north Co. Dublin, primarily involving birds of prey that had died with rodenticides in their systems, while a specific area in Co. Laois with 10 incidents had a number of birds of prey illegally targeted for persecution. Co. Wicklow had the highest number of incidents for any county, followed by counties Tipperary, Kerry, Dublin and Cork.

In total, poisons were detected in a total of 197 incidents, involving a total of 510 individual animals killed or injured (including raptors, other animals and domestic animals).

A total of 12 different types of poison were detected and their prevalence. Poisons were regularly found acting in tandem, particularly in the case of rodenticides.