Police investigate after sudden death of white-tailed eagle on Isle of Wight

Another white-tailed eagle has died in southern England and another police investigation has been launched. This is the third one since October 2021 and all three investigations are focused on eagles from the Isle of Wight Reintroduction Project.

[A young white-tailed eagle, photo by Garth Peacock]

Hampshire Police have become involved after this latest eagle’s ‘sudden death’ on 24th February 2022. A post-mortem has revealed the eagle was carrying avian flu but this has not been confirmed as the cause of death and other evidence, not yet in the public domain, suggests there may be more to this than meets the eye.

Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, partners on the eagle reintroduction project, have issued a very carefully-worded statement:

A satellite-tracked White-tailed Eagle from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme was found dead on the Isle of Wight on 24 February 2022. Circumstances surrounding the sudden death of the bird are being investigated by Hampshire Police and partners.

During a post mortem examination it has been identified that the bird was carrying avian influenza, although it is unknown at this stage if this is related to the bird’s death and enquiries are continuing‘.

A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary said:

We were called shortly after 5pm on Thursday 24 February to a report of a dead sea eagle on Bowcombe Road on the Isle of Wight.

The investigation into the circumstances surrounding the animals death is ongoing.

We are not linking this to any other investigations at this time‘.

We are still waiting for the post-mortem and toxicology results to be published from the two other young sea eagles that have died in suspicious circumstances (see here). Both eagles were found dead on game-shooting estates, one in Sussex in October 2021 and one in Dorset in January 2022. Neither of them tested positive for avian flu.

There is ongoing police activity on both these cases, which may account for Dorset and Sussex police’s reluctance to release the post mortem results, but the longer this secrecy goes on, the more damaging to those force’s reputations when the results do finally emerge. And emerge they will, you can be sure of that.

UPDATE 9th February 2023: Death of white-tailed eagle on Isle of Wight recorded as ‘uncertain’ as presence of avian flu restricted toxicology tests (here)

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