An extraordinary row has broken out over the death of a white tailed eagle in Dorset

In a brief statement, Dorset Police said: “Sadly, two of the Sea Eagle England Isle of Wight reintroduced white-tailed eagles have recently been recovered dead on multi-agency operations in the south of England, including one in Dorset in late January. An investigation is underway to ascertain the causes death of both birds, who are undergoing post mortem and toxicological examination.”

Shooting Times understands the other bird was recovered in East Anglia in October last year. Multi agency operations involving police officers, RSPB staff and staff from the health and safety executive, DEFRA or the Animal and Plant Health Agency are the usual approach in the case of sudden deaths of birds of prey. This allows a range of technical expertise and powers to be used.

The news of the birds’ deaths was met with concern from the shooting and farming communities. Meanwhile leading anti-shooting activists were quick to claim that gamekeepers were responsible for the birds’ deaths with one leading blog saying they were found on ‘game shooting estates.’ As far as Shooting Times is aware, there is currently no evidence that the birds were illegally killed and natural mortality is very high among young birds of prey.

We have also been unable to verify the claim that they were found on land managed for game shooting, however given the prevalence of shooting in Dorset and East Anglia it is likely that they were. Ordinarily the sudden deaths of raptors polarises discussion between pro and anti-shooting factions, however an extraordinary intervention by the local MP has united both sides in criticism. Conservative MP Chris Loder took to Twitter to voice his views on the investigation. Mr Loder said: “I’m not challenging government for more money for Dorset so it goes on this. I don’t condone this at all, but I want Dorset Police to focus on county lines rather than spend time and resources on this.”

His view was met with heavy criticism from anti-shooting campaigners, shooters and also from his former parliamentary colleague Richard Benyon. Mr Benyon, who is a DEFRA minister and shoot owner, said: “If this was a crime it should be investigated and the criminal punished.”