The last surviving golden eagle in Wales was shot, it has been revealed. The dead bird was found by a walker on a mountainside this summer, after it had survived around 12 years in the country. A post mortem listed the bird’s death as systemic Aspergillosis, a fungal infection, but X-rays released after a Freedom of Information request showed it had been shot at least twice.
BBC Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams was left heartbroken at the news. ‘Having filmed this amazing bird, I was absolutely gutted to find that she had been found dead,’ he tweeted. ‘The landowners in and around Tregaron where the bird set up home are also saddened and, to a person, were delighted to have the eagle around.
‘Unfortunately, the discovery of lead shot in her leg shows that there are still far too many idiots out there with shotguns who will shoot at absolutely anything.’ Iolo said it was ‘highly unlikely’ anyone living locally had shot the bird, claiming they appreciated her beauty.
The presenter had spent weeks tracking the golden eagle as part of a BBC series and was left devastated after she was discovered dead in the Abergwesyn Valley, near Tregaron, Powys. ‘I’ve spoken to so many landowners who were delighted to have the bird in their area. It just goes to show there are some people carrying shotguns who shouldn’t be carrying guns at all,’ Iolo added.
‘I’m absolutely gutted that the bird has gone and can’t help feeling that we’ve lost an opportunity to get a mate for her.’ The eagle was something of a local celebrity with a dedicated Facebook page detailing sightings of her. She would often go unseen for months at a time. Iolo described the bird’s death as ‘more than the death of just an eagle’. ‘Wales has lost one of its greatest characters,’ he added.
He tracked her movements in the remote valleys of the Cambrian Mountains for his latest series Iolo: The Last Wilderness of Wales. The bird, which originally lived in captivity before being released into the wild, was collected by a member of the television crew who got it registered in the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme run by the Welsh Government.
The golden eagle has been largely extinct from England and Wales since 1850, but a stronghold remains in Scotland. It has a wingspan of 2.2 metres. The post mortem report gave the cause of death as asperillosis, and added: ‘Asperillosis is the most common fungal mycosis in birds. Aspergillus fumigatus is a ubiquitous opportunistic organism and factors impairing the birds’ immunity can predispose to disease. ‘No underlying immunocompromising factors were detected on testing.
There were extensive, chronic lesions throughout the carcass likely resulting in reduced feed intake, ill-thrift and dehydration and ultimately death.’ In an email released under the Freedom of Information Act, correspondence from the Welsh Government said: ‘I will be letting [redacted] know the results of the PM but I will leave out the section about the shot. It is evidence that the bird was a target of persecution at some point but not a cause of death.’
This article was first published by Metro on 15 December 2020. Lead Image: The dead bird was found by a walker on a mountainside this summer (Picture: Wales News Service)
What you can do
Support ‘Fighting for Wildlife’ by donating as little as $1 – It only takes a minute. Thank you.