Serious concerns about Dorset Police’s rumoured response to poisoned white-tailed eagle

Dorset has become a bit of a raptor persecution hotspot in recent years following the discovery of a shot buzzard (here), the suspicious deaths of two barn owls and several more buzzards (here), the disturbance of nesting peregrines (here), the suspected poisoning of a number of buzzards and an owl in two separate locations (here) and the poisoning of a red kite, which led to a multi-agency raid where banned poisons and several more dead raptors were discovered (here).

Fortunately, Dorset Police has one of the best-equipped and most experienced wildlife & rural crime teams in the country, or at least it did have.

In January this year, the corpse of a white-tailed eagle was found dead on an unnamed shooting estate in Dorset (here). When the story broke in February it made national news (e.g. here, here, here), not least because this eagle was from the inaugural reintroduction project on the Isle of Wight and it was one of two dead eagles that had been found in suspicious circumstances in recent months (another is believed to have been found dead in Sussex in October 2021).

[The dead white-tailed eagle found in Dorset in Jan 2022. Photo by Dorset Police]

Dorset Police’s wildlife crime team led a multi-agency search to find this satellite-tagged eagle and they were pro-active in quickly releasing a public statement, even though toxicology results were still awaited, to reflect their understandable concern for the safety of three other satellite-tagged eagles known to be in the county at that time:

This level of proactivity stood in stark contrast to Sussex Police, who still haven’t managed to make any statement about the eagle that was found in suspicious circumstances on a shooting estate in that county in October 2021.

However, the high profile dead eagle in Dorset led to some unwarranted criticism of the police wildlife crime team by local MP Chris Loder, who argued, extraordinarily, that Dorset ‘wasn’t the place for eagles’ and the police should be focusing their resources on other types of criminality (see here) and not on suspected wildlife crime. And it wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark made in haste; he continued his tirade for sometime afterwards (e.g. see here).

I don’t know whether it was a coincidence but by early March the Twitter account belonging to Dorset Police’s Rural Wildlife & Heritage Crime Team had a name change. The words ‘wildlife’ and ‘heritage’ were completely removed from the name:

Here’s the pre-March Twitter account name:

And here’s the post-March Twitter account name:

That seems a bit strange. What prompted this change?

A further ‘coincidence’ is that the former Rural Wildlife & Heritage Crime team leader has been on indefinite leave since early March.

Hmm.

And there’s another ‘coincidence’. In late February Dorset Police’s wildlife crime team was making arrangements with partners to conduct a multi-agency search of the estate where the dead white-tailed eagle had been found. By early March those plans had been shelved. Why was that?

Yesterday rumours were circulating amongst conservationists that the toxicology results from the dead eagle found in Dorset had revealed the cause of death was rodenticide poisoning. Apparently this wasn’t the low-level background trace amount that is often found in raptor post-mortems; I understand the amount found inside this eagle was many, many times higher than the lethal dose.

Rumours were also circulating that Dorset Police is planning to release a public statement to announce the discontinuation of the investigation into the death of this white-tailed eagle. That would be astonishing.

In my view, if this is what Dorset Police intends to do, it is of very, very serious concern. Rodenticides are known to have been used recently in a number of suspected raptor persecution incidents (e.g. see here and here) and I’m told that the use of ‘higher than normal doses’ may be a new tactic employed by those who want rid of raptors but don’t want the risk of being caught using banned substances.

The legal use of the most commonly-used rodenticide, Brodifacoum, has been relaxed recently, allowing pest controllers to use it outside buildings. It’s so toxic to wildlife that government advisors actually trained pest controllers how to use it legally. The misuse of this rodenticide is a crime.

Now, in the case of this poisoned white-tailed eagle in Dorset, there might be a perfectly legitimate explanation for why it had ingested such a high dose of rodenticide; it may well have been the result of a terrible but accidental secondary poisoning. But equally plausible is the possibility that it ate deliberately-laid out baits containing doses many times higher than the lethal dose, placed with the intention of targeting raptors (a crime).

But how can this be assessed if Dorset Police is discontinuing its investigation?

And more importantly, what if the substances that killed that eagle are still on the ground? We know that other satellite-tagged eagles are in the area, now at serious risk.

It seems there’s something very odd going on here.

I’ve also recently received an FoI response from Dorset Police about its correspondence with the anti-eagle MP, Chris Loder. I’ll blog more about that in due course.

UPDATE 13.21hrs: Dorset Police does the unthinkable & confirms no further investigation into poisoned white-tailed eagle (here)

UPDATE 15.05hrs: RSPB ‘completely baffled’ by Dorset Police decision to prematurely end poisoned eagle investigation (here)

UPDATE 16.40hrs: Question to be tabled in House of Lords about Dorset Police’s decision to close eagle poisoning investigation (here)

UPDATE 30th March 2022: Poisoned eagle in Dorset had 7 x lethal dose rodenticide in its liver (here)

UPDATE 1st April 2022: Another eagle suspected poisoned on a Dorset shooting estate (here)

UPDATE 4th April 2022: Buzzard and red kite suspected poisoned on North Dorset Estate (here)

UPDATE 14th April 2022: Dorset Police refuse FoI request for correspondence between them & Chris Loder MP on poisoned eagle (here)

UPDATE 20th April 2022: Unconvincing statement from Dorset Police on closure of investigation into poisoned eagle (here)

UPDATE 20th April 2022: Tediously predictable response from Minister to Natalie Bennett’s House of Lords question on poisoned eagle (here)

UPDATE 21st April 2022: Chris Packham submits FoI requests to Dorset Police & the Crime Commissioner about poisoned eagle (here)

UPDATE 22nd April 2022: More questions asked about Dorset Police’s mishandling of the poisoned eagle investigation (here)

UPDATE 26th April 2022: The Office of the Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner: incompetent or something more sinister? (here)

UPDATE 27th April 2022: Dorset Police Chief Constable and the Police & Crime Commissioner on a futile damage limitation exercise (here)

UPDATE 29th April 2022: Another dead buzzard in Dorset – Police warn public of suspected poisoned baits (here)

UPDATE 29th April 2022: Email correspondence between Chris Loder MP and Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner re: poisoned eagle (here)

UPDATE 16th May 2022: Poisoned eagles in south of England feature in The Telegraph (here)

UPDATE 19th May 2022: Wildlife Crime Working Group seeks explanation from Dorset Police about failure to investigate poisoned eagle incident (here)

23 thoughts on “Serious concerns about Dorset Police’s rumoured response to poisoned white-tailed eagle”

    1. The conclusion I came to many years ago is that the police are there to protect the elites/super wealthy. Every protest against government/corporation is met with the police bashing protesters heads in. Regardless if they are peaceful or not. Soon the law will change so the police can arrest you for looking like you might cause trouble. In the case of wildlife crimes, a lot of the time the people committing the crimes or at least the people who order the crimes to be committed (wealthy land owners) are best friends with the local police and local politicians so any crime just gets covered up and not investigated. I don’t know what we can do as this is so ingrained, maybe a change in government would make a massive difference with tougher regulations and punishments for crimes and the people who order them along with more inspectors and a separate wildlife crime agency that is city based with officers that have zero connection with the people they are investigating.

  1. A quick perusal of the Dorset Police website shows that it still mentions ‘…Rural, Wildlife & Heritage Crime.’, but when you access the ‘Animals and Wildlife’ dropdown menu (https://www.dorset.police.uk/help-advice-crime-prevention/rural-crime/) the ONLY topic is ‘Poaching’ i.e. wildlife crime that irritates farmers and landowners. Not a word about other wildlife crime/persecution e.g. illegal fox-hunting, raptor persecution etc. Funny that…

  2. There’s the stench of undue influence in high places amounting to corruption here that has a disturbing resonance well beyond this case alone. I hope it is picked up by the national media and the can o’ worms prised open.

    1. This whole government and all of its branches are corrupt as hell. The pandemic showed this to everyone. No morals, no principles, no humanity and no shame, pretty much sums up the UK government.

  3. When police officers are sworn in the oath includes ” without fear or favour” This seems to be undue political pressure resulting in that being broken in terms of favour. It sounds horrible and corrupt, we shall see what does or does not develop. Loder is an prejudiced oaf but it seems he may have been listened to. It is said we get the services we deserve, well Dorset and its wildlife deserve better than this.

  4. Such a sorry state of affairs.
    I can’t say I have very much faith at all in BJ’s government at present, and I can’t see that opinion changing soon.
    So much for this government’s statement that they would be strong on wildlife crime and protection.
    That doesn’t seem to be panning out at all; not like they haven’t had plenty of time to get those affairs in order.

  5. I could share with you the unedifying correspondence I have had with Philip Wilkinson, PCC for Wiltshire, and my MP, James Gray, member for North Wiltshire. Apparently wanting the police to act appropriately in matters of wildlife crime shows that I am prejudiced (true – I am prejudiced against wildlife crime) and that all policing in Wiltshire is done on an unbiased basis, despite mountains of evidence, freely available on social media, to the contrary.

  6. What is going on here might become a lot clearer if the estate was named. Why hasn’t it been ? Apart from anything else it undermines the request for information – and what other crime can you think of where the police would not name the location ? Would you try and find information about a car crash, for example, without naming the location ?

  7. At present, anti wildlife MP’s like the Dorset one here probably feel on safe grounds with the Boris idiot as their leader given that his leadership campaign was bank rolled by a grouse shooting moor owner. Rishy Sunak is easily the most impressive of future Tory party leader candidates. His performance yesterday at the select committee was brilliant compared with Boris’s bumbling waffle at past sessions. If he becomes Prime Minister, I hope he has a better attitude towards wildlife as this could greatly improve the behaviour of Tory MP’s.

    1. Sunak spoke at the first Westminster Hall debate on grouse shooting some years ago. It was the first time I’d heard him. He came across as nothing but a spokesperson for the moor owners, with no real understanding of the issues himself. I remember thinking that if he could be that poor on a topic where he’d clearly been specifically briefed, he probably had little to offer in the more unpredictable world of day-to-day politics. And so it proved.

      1. Thanks. Very disturbing. His constituency contains a lot of moorland. His predecessor, William Hague, once instigated the prosecution of someone illegally owning protected parrots, one of the few times I have been impressed by the actions of a Tory MP.

  8. Is there any possibility to start a private investigation and if evidence was found of laws being broke, a private prosecution? If the funds were to be found from somewhere.

  9. I wonder how many other animals have been poisoned by mistake if this is left out for birds of prey by gamekeepers hidden no doubt in a carcass

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: