Earlston residents shocked at eagle deaths

By Geoff Adams

Residents of Earlston, near Violet Town, have been shocked to discover the bodies of more poisoned wedge-tailed eagles.

The police and a government department are investigating the deaths.

Residents are worried the most recent discoveries are continuing a pattern of killings which started several years ago.

Wildlife photographer Anita Norris reported the poisoning of three wedge-tailed eagles, including a breeding pair, on her Earlston property in 2017.

Since then, she said she and her husband Gordon had been delighted to see a breeding pair return to their property.

‘‘Just a few weeks back we were so excited to see a pair return and circle around us for a few days with a young one with them,’’ Mrs Norris said.

‘‘We were so happy to think a family had returned.’’

However, the couple was distressed to find a dead adult eagle near Kellys Lane on Sunday, July 21, followed by a second dead adult near Luscombe Lane on Monday, July 22.

A third carcase was discovered in Kellys Lane last Thursday.

‘‘It really is making me feel sick,’’ Mrs Norris said.

‘‘We love this area so much and to see these majestic birds flying and then to find them dead is disgusting.’’

One of their neighbours, Libby Woodward, said she found three dead wedge-tailed eagles on her property in the past six years.

Mrs Woodward said bird killings had been happening for an extended time in the area and were not confined to the eagles.

Mrs Norris said including the two recent deaths, 11 eagles had now been found dead on the couple’s property in four years.

‘‘We’re just sickened that this is still going on,’’ she said.

Leading Senior Constable Patrick Storer of Violet Town Police confirmed the spate of eagle deaths, including the most recent pair.

‘‘It’s been going on for some time,’’ Leading Sen Const Storer said.

‘‘It’s really pretty ordinary activity. Any killing of native wildlife is highly illegal.’’

He said police were assisting DELWP with an investigation into the bird deaths.

DELWP program manager for compliance operations Greg Chant said the department was investigating the reports of eagle deaths over the past 18 months.

‘‘The information we have collected so far does indicate that the harming of wedge-tailed eagles appears to be an ongoing issue in the area,’’ Mr Chant said.

‘‘Carcases have been removed from the area and have undergone testing to determine the cause of death.’’

The department considers the deaths are unlikely to be accidental poisonings.

Mr Chant said wedge-tailed eagles were protected under the Wildlife Act 1975, and there were significant penalties for deliberately injuring or destroying protected wildlife, including imprisonment.

Deliberately killing native wildlife carries a maximum penalty of $8261 and/or up to six months’ imprisonment, and an additional penalty of $826 for each bird destroyed.

Last year a Gippsland man was jailed for 14 days and fined $2500 for poisoning 406 wedge-tailed eagles at three remote properties in Victoria’s east.

Mr Chant said they were now seeking information from the community to help find the person or persons responsible.

■Information can be provided anonymously by phoning DELWP’s Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 300 000.