Unconvincing statement from Dorset Police on closure of investigation into poisoned eagle

A journalist from one of the nationals contacted me to ask my opinion on a statement he’d been sent by Dorset Police about the premature closure of the investigation into the poisoned white-tailed eagle found dead on a shooting estate in North Dorset in January (see here).

You may recall that Dorset Police published a short public statement on 29th March 2022:

The latest police statement sent to the journalist reads as follows:

Deputy Chief Constable Sam de Reya, of Dorset Police, said: “Dorset Police has responded robustly to allegations that a White-tailed Sea Eagle had been deliberately poisoned and killed by unknown persons. As a result of the sea eagle being found dead on land in the North Dorset area, our team has carried out a full and proportionate investigation under Section 1 of the Wildlife Countryside Act 1981 in conjunction with Natural England, National Wildlife Crime Unit, the RSPB and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation to identify any offences and perpetrators who may be responsible. 

As you can imagine detecting the deliberate poisoning of a bird of prey is extremely difficult without local intelligence and information to support the investigation. GPS data provided information that over an 11-day period the White-tailed Sea Eagle spent time across a multitude of locations in the North Dorset area. Despite working with experts, we have been unable to confirm deliberate intent to kill this beautiful bird or identify potential offenders. A detailed examination and tests have been carried out on the bird, which were inconclusive, and it has therefore not been possible to confirm that any criminal offence has been committed. While high levels of brodifacoum were detected, it has not been possible to establish whether this was as a result of a deliberate act or due to secondary rodenticide poisoning. We would still encourage anyone with new information to come forward to support enquiries.

The Force is committed to keeping everyone in our county safe, including our wildlife, which brings so much to our beautiful countryside and our communities. As part of the police uplift programme and working together with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner we have reviewed our Rural Crime Strategy for the county and allocated increased numbers of officers to the Rural Crime Team to tackle the issues that matter. This includes all aspects of rural, wildlife and heritage-related crime. We will continue to work closely with many different partner agencies in relation to these issues. As always, should any new information be received in relation to this investigation, this will be considered.

We want to make it clear that we take any and all potential wildlife offences seriously and will act to prevent and detect offences wherever possible.”

As you can see, this statement provides a bit more detail than the first, but nevertheless, it’s still full of holes.

I don’t know how they can claim to have ‘carried out a full and proportionate investigation‘ when the planned multi-agency search of the estate where the poisoned eagle had been found dead was pulled shortly after Dorset MP Chris Loder had tweeted his lack of support for the investigation.

Dorset Police say that ‘detecting the deliberate poisoning of a bird of prey is extremely difficult without local intelligence and information‘. Yes, it is difficult but not impossible, and in this case Dorset Police have plenty of local intelligence and information, not least from on-going investigations into alleged raptor poisoning in the same area over the last few years.

Dorset Police say the poisoned eagle’s satellite tag data showed that in the 11 days prior to its death, the eagle had ‘spent time across a multitude of locations in the North Dorset area‘. What the tag data actually showed was that the eagle had visited just 2-3 locations.

Dorset Police say, ‘We have been unable to confirm deliberate intent to kill this beautiful bird or identify potential offenders‘. The high-level of Brodifacoum (x 7 the lethal dose!) is indicative of an illegal act, whether it was mis-used or targeted. And no, if you don’t conduct a search you’re not likely to be able to identify potential offenders, are you!

Dorset Police say, ‘A detailed examination and tests have been carried out on the bird, which were inconclusive…’. That’s simply not true. The eagle clearly died from Brodifacoum poisoning.

Dorset Police say, ‘While high levels of brodifacoum were detected, it has not been possible to establish whether this was as a result of a deliberate act or due to secondary rodenticide poisoning‘. It doesn’t matter if it was deliberate or not, it’s still an offence (mis-use).

There’s more to come on this case…

26 thoughts on “Unconvincing statement from Dorset Police on closure of investigation into poisoned eagle”

  1. Unless the eagle came across a veritable feast of rats that died from poisoning I’d have thought it would have succumbed when x1 the lethal dose was ingested, not x7. Exactly how many rats would constitute a x7 lethal dose through secondary poisoning – 10, 100, 1000,. …?

    When dealing with poisoned birds of prey it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly, isn’t it?

    1. If you read the blog posts you will see that I had posted that, based on body weights only, the level of brodifacoum found in G461 was enough to have killed around 82 Brown Rats.

  2. If we base investigations on the criteria of Dorset police we may as well not bother investigating at all. “There’s nothing to investigate” Where have I heard that before! I recently reported a man doing target practice with what looked like an air rifle. He will no doubt progress to shooting wildlife. I was told “no point in visiting the scene because unlikely the man will be there”. Well you don’t know until you try. I chatted to locals and uncovered a lot of Intel about dubious men in the area. One person told me she has given up reporting because the police do nothing. They are public servants paid by us to NOT do their jobs.

      1. Depending on where the target shooting has taken place, then it could well be illegal.
        Sect 19 Firearms Act makes it an offence, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse to have a loaded air weapon, or loaded shotgun in a public place. (It is enough to simply have a Sect1 firearm with its ammunition, whether loaded or not to commit this offence.)
        It is also an offence to trespass on land with a firearm.- Firearms Act 1968 sect 20.
        It is also an offence to discharge a firearm within 50 feet of the centre of a highway.- Highways Act 1980. A Highway includes footpaths, bridleways and roads – anywhere where the public have a right to pass and re-pass.
        So depending on exactly where and what has taken place- target shooting could well be illegal.

        Hopefully you don’t possess firearms of any category, because you clearly don’t seem to understand the legislation governing their use.

  3. Is it possible to find out or do you have any information on, how quick a 7 times lethal ingestion would take to act?
    As you stated, the last 3 days of tracking would be the only places of interest.
    They also state working with RSPB & RDWF. Any more news from them? I seem to remember the RSPB being surprised at the investigation being called off so quickly.

    1. “As you stated, the last 3 days of tracking would be the only places of interest.”

      I cannot see that stated anywhere.

  4. The fact that Chris Loder had £14000. from the Ilchester Estate says it all really. It stinks of corruption.

  5. FYI – Full is not Proportionate. It’s Full or Proportionate. You wouldn’t expect a murder-type scene for a theft from a car, for example; you would be lucky if a cop turned out. The former is Full, the latter Proportionate.

  6. So which estate is it and who owns it ? As I said before, I’ve never seen a police request for information that didn’t have a location – can you imagine a request for a road traffic accident that didn’t say where it was ? the idea that the quantity of poison ingested could have been accidental secondary poisoning seems rather far fetched. It probably isn’t worth pursuing what undue influence may have been exercised in this case as only a complete idiot would have left any sort of email or other trail.

  7. It seems to me that to take in 7 times a lethal dose of rodenticide it would need to be in a deliberate bait rather than in poisoned rats. If the police think this is unlikely then it at the very least be total misuse of this poison and as such a clear breach of the law. Then again if you don’t look you are unlikely to find and certainly the truth would elude discovery. even if this bird visited 3 places it is not beyond the wit of man even a senior policeman to organise with the help of others an appropriate search. Only after that could they possibly conclude that their is no evidence out there to discover. It is at the very least awful policing and the people of Dorset deserve better, as of course does the protected wildlife and anyone correctly and legitimately using such poisons. So it is a fail on all counts.

    1. I’d like to suggest that it is in the interest of all that, if Dorset Police thinks ‘accidental’ poisoning to be the cause, then they need to act further. Someone is careless in their use of poison by not removing dead rats, but leaving them outdoors in a clear breach of the rules. Which might include Safety at Work.

  8. Well from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brodifacoum, For birds an LD50 is between 1 and 20 mg/kg and for rodents 0.27 mg/kg. So assuming rodents die after reaching 0.27 mg/kg and the average rat weighs 500 g, each dead one will probably have about 0.14 mg of the substance in them. Even if the white tailed sea eagle is on the light side at 4 kg, for the minimal lethal dose of 1 mg/kg, that would be 4 mg required, but this had x7 the minimal lethal dose which is 28 mg. 28/0.14 = 200. That is 200 x 500g rats. This is all beginning to sound quite implausible and surely a search would have revealed if this was the case or not.

    1. Thanks for that. I believe that no rational, honest, Police Officer would have abandoned the investigation with the statement “A detailed examination and tests have been carried out on the bird, which were inconclusive, and it has therefore not been possible to confirm that any criminal offence has been committed.” when the tests had shown such a huge amount of brodifacoum had been ingested.

      Hence the response from the RSPB that the decision was ‘baffling’.

      Fearful situation in Dorset!

    2. Just a technical note on the calculation. LD50 means a lethal dose that kills the rats or birds in 50 % of cases. I would imagine that in preparing rat baits you want a lethal dose that will kill 100 % of rats so it is probably prudent to double the LD50 dose to knock out all but the most Rasputinised of rats. But this still gives 100 X 500 g rats for a 7 mg/kg dose on a very light sea eagle.

  9. ….Chris Loder needs to be investigated more! He’s obviously got a thumb or two in this pie😡😡

  10. I feel North Dorset police have been ordered to stop the investigation by some land owner who can influence the chief constable of the area. The old boys’ network.
    If a raptor has been found dead in suspicious circumstances on a private estate all activity on that estate must cease until the incident is fully investigated

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