Victoria’s environment department is hunting the culprit behind what has been dubbed the largest slaying of wedge-tailed eagles in the state’s history.
The carcases of 136 wedge-tailed eagles and four other protected bird species were recently found hidden as 10 investigators combed 2000ha of bushland and scrub on rural East Gippsland properties over three days.
DELWP is throwing its full weight behind the ‘‘devastating’’ case, which has sparked community outrage.
‘‘Our department has over 30 investigators involved in this case alone,’’ DELWP investigations manager Iain Bruce said.
‘‘It’s our highest priority and we’re making every effort to leave no stone unturned.’’
Mr Bruce said the scale of the deaths and scattered nature of the carcases meant the slayings were ‘‘clearly intentional’’.
‘‘This is the biggest case of wedge-tailed eagle deaths that we’ve ever seen,’’ he said.
‘‘I spoke to a recently retired officer that was in charge of this district and he said this is at a whole new level.’’
A person is assisting with the investigation, but the department has urged anyone with information to come forward given the circumstantial nature of the case.
DELWP would not confirm how the birds died, citing the ongoing investigation, but virtually ruled out wild dog bait poison as a cause.
The investigation was taking its toll with wildlife carers reduced to tears and members of the public reaching out to encourage the department to adopt a hardline stance, Mr Bruce said.
‘‘It’s very difficult to see,’’ Mr Bruce said.
‘‘These are beautiful, majestic birds.’’
Wedge-tailed eagles are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 and deliberately killing them carries maximum penalties of $7928.50, and/or up to six months’ jail, as well as an extra penalty of $792.85 for each destroyed bird.