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Native birds found dead, believed poisoned, on northern Victorian property

ABC Shepparton By Rhiannon Tuffield Warwick Long and Bronwen O’Shea

Authorities have discovered more than 120 dead native birds, believed to have been poisoned, on a rural property in northern Victoria.

Police and officers from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) raided a property near Violet Town after receiving multiple reports from the community.

They found the carcasses of 76 wedge-tailed eagles, a number of kites, hawks, falcons and other species including a kookaburra, a cockatoo and a number of kangaroo joeys.

Some of the dead animals were found in a freezer, while the skeletons of dozens of birds were found in a paddock.

Test results determined the species had been poisoned, leading DELWP to broaden its investigation.

The discovery follows multiple reports and investigations into bird deaths in the region in the past five years, and is the second mass killing of wedge-tailed eagles in Victoria in two years.

“We’ve had reports going back at least 12 months and indicate there are varying stages of decay, and all that is left is skeletons and some feathers,” DELWP spokesman Greg Chant said.

“Other birds were fresh, indicating this activity unfortunately has been going on undetected for a while.”

Community warned of deaths for years

Members of the nearby Sheep Pen Creek Land Management Group wrote to the Environment Minister and the DELWP on August 1, voicing their frustration that more hadn’t been done to stop wedge-tailed eagle deaths in their region.

The letter said that for many years there had been knowledge about the illegal killing of wildlife and warnings to authorities about who was suspected.

“When our group or concerned landholders have contacted your department, we have been told that there is nothing they can do without clear evidence showing that the landowners allegedly responsible for these deliberate killings have committed the crime,” the group wrote.

“As farmers and progressive landholders, we do not think that this response is adequate, as it perpetuates a culture where it is possible for a minority of landowners to continue poisoning these wonderful animals because the chances of being caught or prosecuted are so small.”


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Native birds found dead, believed poisoned, on northern Victorian property

ABC Shepparton By Rhiannon Tuffield Warwick Long and Bronwen O’Shea

Updated yesterday at 4:46pm

Close up of a wedge-tailed eagle skull in a green paddock

PHOTO: The discovery was described by one official as “horrific”. (Supplied: DELWP)RELATED STORY: Farm worker jailed for 14 days and fined for poisoning 406 wedge-tailed eagles

Authorities have discovered more than 120 dead native birds, believed to have been poisoned, on a rural property in northern Victoria.

WARNING: This article contains images that people may find disturbing.

Key points:

  • More than 100 animals, mostly wedge-tailed eagles, found in varying stages of decay during raid in regional Victoria
  • Police also found dead joeys, a kookaburra and a cockatoo in a freezer
  • Residents want harsher penalties for people found to have killed native animals for financial gain

Police and officers from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) raided a property near Violet Town after receiving multiple reports from the community.

They found the carcasses of 76 wedge-tailed eagles, a number of kites, hawks, falcons and other species including a kookaburra, a cockatoo and a number of kangaroo joeys.

Some of the dead animals were found in a freezer, while the skeletons of dozens of birds were found in a paddock.

Test results determined the species had been poisoned, leading DELWP to broaden its investigation.

The discovery follows multiple reports and investigations into bird deaths in the region in the past five years, and is the second mass killing of wedge-tailed eagles in Victoria in two years.

“We’ve had reports going back at least 12 months and indicate there are varying stages of decay, and all that is left is skeletons and some feathers,” DELWP spokesman Greg Chant said.

“Other birds were fresh, indicating this activity unfortunately has been going on undetected for a while.”

The skeleton of a native bird in a green, leafy paddock

PHOTO: Some of the skeletal remains found on a property at Violet Town. (Supplied: DELWP)

Community warned of deaths for years

Members of the nearby Sheep Pen Creek Land Management Group wrote to the Environment Minister and the DELWP on August 1, voicing their frustration that more hadn’t been done to stop wedge-tailed eagle deaths in their region.

The letter said that for many years there had been knowledge about the illegal killing of wildlife and warnings to authorities about who was suspected.

“When our group or concerned landholders have contacted your department, we have been told that there is nothing they can do without clear evidence showing that the landowners allegedly responsible for these deliberate killings have committed the crime,” the group wrote.

“As farmers and progressive landholders, we do not think that this response is adequate, as it perpetuates a culture where it is possible for a minority of landowners to continue poisoning these wonderful animals because the chances of being caught or prosecuted are so small.”

Person with blue gloves loads feathered remains of eagle into a grey plastic bag

PHOTO: Investigators collected the remains of dozens of wedge-tailed eagles. (Supplied: DELWP)

The group’s chairman, Doug Robinson, said he was happy to see something being done, but that authorities needed to listen more to communities that feared native animals were being killed.

“I think it has just left people feeling powerless, that they suspected and reported it and not seen action take place [for years] as a result,” he said.

“In that sense we are delighted that the department has responded so effectively in this case now.”

He said the group wanted formal inspections and warnings for those suspected of breaking the law, as well as harsher penalties, including bans on farmers growing crops or livestock, if they’ve been found to have killed native animals for financial gain.

Discovery horrifies neighbours

Violet Town resident Libby Woodward said she was “horrified” by the discovery.

“I hope the people responsible are caught and punished, and I hope that that will be a lesson to other farmers not to do it,” she said.

“Mostly I just want them to stop, because it’s just a terrible blight on our lives.”

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Native birds found dead, believed poisoned, on northern Victorian property

ABC Shepparton By Rhiannon Tuffield Warwick Long and Bronwen O’Shea

Updated yesterday at 4:46pm

Close up of a wedge-tailed eagle skull in a green paddock

PHOTO: The discovery was described by one official as “horrific”. (Supplied: DELWP)

Authorities have discovered more than 120 dead native birds, believed to have been poisoned, on a rural property in northern Victoria. Police and officers from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) raided a property near Violet Town after receiving multiple reports from the community.

They found the carcasses of 76 wedge-tailed eagles, a number of kites, hawks, falcons and other species including a kookaburra, a cockatoo and a number of kangaroo joeys. Some of the dead animals were found in a freezer, while the skeletons of dozens of birds were found in a paddock. Test results determined the species had been poisoned, leading DELWP to broaden its investigation.

The discovery follows multiple reports and investigations into bird deaths in the region in the past five years, and is the second mass killing of wedge-tailed eagles in Victoria in two years.

“We’ve had reports going back at least 12 months and indicate there are varying stages of decay, and all that is left is skeletons and some feathers,” DELWP spokesman Greg Chant said. “Other birds were fresh, indicating this activity unfortunately has been going on undetected for a while.”

The skeleton of a native bird in a green, leafy paddock

PHOTO: Some of the skeletal remains found on a property at Violet Town. (Supplied: DELWP)

Community warned of deaths for years

Members of the nearby Sheep Pen Creek Land Management Group wrote to the Environment Minister and the DELWP on August 1, voicing their frustration that more hadn’t been done to stop wedge-tailed eagle deaths in their region. The letter said that for many years there had been knowledge about the illegal killing of wildlife and warnings to authorities about who was suspected.

“When our group or concerned landholders have contacted your department, we have been told that there is nothing they can do without clear evidence showing that the landowners allegedly responsible for these deliberate killings have committed the crime,” the group wrote. “As farmers and progressive landholders, we do not think that this response is adequate, as it perpetuates a culture where it is possible for a minority of landowners to continue poisoning these wonderful animals because the chances of being caught or prosecuted are so small.”

Person with blue gloves loads feathered remains of eagle into a grey plastic bag

PHOTO: Investigators collected the remains of dozens of wedge-tailed eagles. (Supplied: DELWP)

The group’s chairman, Doug Robinson, said he was happy to see something being done, but that authorities needed to listen more to communities that feared native animals were being killed.

“I think it has just left people feeling powerless, that they suspected and reported it and not seen action take place [for years] as a result,” he said.

“In that sense we are delighted that the department has responded so effectively in this case now.”

He said the group wanted formal inspections and warnings for those suspected of breaking the law, as well as harsher penalties, including bans on farmers growing crops or livestock, if they’ve been found to have killed native animals for financial gain.

Discovery horrifies neighbours

Violet Town resident Libby Woodward said she was “horrified” by the discovery.

“I hope the people responsible are caught and punished, and I hope that that will be a lesson to other farmers not to do it,” she said. “Mostly I just want them to stop, because it’s just a terrible blight on our lives.”

Wildlife officer wearing black gloves takes photos of a plastic bag held up by second wildlife officer.

PHOTO: The dead birds were discovered during raid on a property near Violet Town. (Supplied: DELWP)

Ms Woodward said farmers needed to be better educated about the role eagles played in the ecosystem.

“The eagles do more good than they do harm, because they kill rabbits and hares and young foxes and feral cats,” she said. “The fact that we have less of them is just a terrible thing because we have more problems with rabbits and hares. It’s causing us to have erosion and all sorts of problems because they’re missing, and farmers need to be educated that they’re not the problem that they think they are.”

Eagle deaths harm environment

The native wedge-tailed eagle — a legally protected species — is on the endangered species list due to a negative stigma that has seen it butchered by farmers in the past. All native birds are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 and deliberately killing them carries a penalty of up to $39,652 and/or six to 24 months’ imprisonment.

Mr Chant said there was a common misconception that the eagles swooped down and carried livestock away, adding that he was concerned the killings were impacting the bird population.

“I’d like to think this [is the only case], because if it’s more widespread than we think, well the impact it’s having on wedge-tail populations in Victoria might not be sustainable for much longer if we keep seeing these mass killings.”

He said he believed that in the absence of the dominant eagle, other birds were attracted to the area which was causing more birds to die.

“It’s horrific. Our officers have taken this job on because they have a love and a deep appreciation for nature, and to be walking across paddocks and finding the iconic eagle species dead and curled up in paddocks, it’s quite difficult.

“We’re very keen to determine why these eagles died or how they died, and we are very determined to find out who is responsible for this activity.”

No charges have been laid and the department is still investigating.