Hunting the Endangered

A Peregrine Falcon – a predatory bird that receives the highest level of protection under Irish and European law – was found shot recently in Co. Wexford.  The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is seeking help from the public with regard to any information that may help find the person who carried out this criminal offense.

This beautiful bird’s name means ‘wanderer’ because of its ability to live anywhere and travel outside of nesting season, from the mountains to the desserts and even bridges and skyscrapers, while it prefers coastlines for the abundance of shorebirds.

A Peregrine Falcon, photographed by Peter Murphy

These birds already suffered a steep decline in numbers during the mid-20th century and are now a protected and endangered species internationally. A fully grown specimen of the Peregrine Falcon has a wingspan of 3.6ft or just over a metre, which is why in my opinion I do not understand how the animal could be accidentally shot. Even a young one of the breed would be large enough to be seen and as they are high flyers, could not be accidently shot through a wooded area either.

This is an x-ray of the falcon with two lead pellets, one in his leg and one in his wing. Photograph by Peter Murphy

It is also my opinion that if the hunter was out for anything other than sport it would have taken the bird with it, yes? In any case the bird was actually left behind and when examined by a vet was beyond rehabilitation. It had to be euthanised.

The NPWS’s Dominic Berridge said: “There seems to have been an increase in the deliberate killing of peregrines in recent years with several unexplained nest failures in the south-east.  The finding of this bird is not an isolated incident.  There have been attempts to poison and shoot birds at a number of nests,” while the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, called out the practice as “barbaric”.

On my walk home yesterday I also noticed a fully grown and lifeless fox lying in the ditch. Someone had clearly hit it with such force that it was projected into the ditch. This is a regular occurrence on my walks. There are always numerous new animals being killed on our country roads. While not always having been a vegetarian or animal welfare activist, I have always been an animal lover and the sight of a dead animal is enough to reduce me to tears. I’ve never understood the senseless killing of animals, especially hunting for sport or the ‘hit and run’ incidents on the road. While I completely understand that accidents happen, for those of you who may not care about a dead fox or hare on the road, it could have been a person, or a child. If enough harm was caused to kill an animal due to speed or lack of concentration, it could easily happen to a human too, or at least harm them quite severely.

People might consider me much too sensitive and even ask how I can compare the death of a wild animal to that of a human, but we are part of the animal kingdom too. We all have a central nervous system just like those animals. We feel the same hunger, thirst, affection and even pain. I don’t believe their lives are any less valuable.

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