A POLICE investigation has been launched into the illegal killing of a protected bird of prey in Fife.
The buzzard was found dead in a forest north of Ballingry in late April.
It was initially thought to have died of natural causes, but toxicology tests now show it had swallowed a banned pesticide.
The death is believed to have been caused by deliberate poisoning.
It is thought the bird, a carrion feeder, was attracted to an animal carcass that was spiked with poison and left as bait in Benarty Wood.
Detective Inspector Colin Robson, who is leading the inquiry, said: “The bird was found on land in an area commonly used by dog walkers.
“From the toxicology results, I believe it is probable that the bird has fed on an animal carcass deliberately laced with this poison.
“Such an act is both illegal and highly irresponsible in an area regularly used by members of the public, and the placing out of poison baits like this is indiscriminate in its victims.”
He also warned of the dangers of this kind of baiting for other wildlife and domestic pets.
“This illegal chemical is highly toxic, and the ingestion of even minute quantities by a wild animal or a pet is likely to have fatal consequences,” he said.
“Although relatively remote, I would urge anyone who frequents this area to contact the police if they saw anyone or anything suspicious around this time or have knowledge of this or similar incidents.
“Since the discovery there have been no reported linked incidents locally and the area where the bird was found has been searched and there has no trace of the poison or other carcasses.
“Police Scotland are committed to tackling wildlife crime and this matter is being robustly investigated in close collaboration with partner agencies.”
The banned poison used to kill the buzzard was identified in tests carried out at a Scottish Government laboratory but the investigation team said is treating the information as “specialist knowledge”.
Benraty Wood is managed by Forestry Commission Scotland and is a popular .
This latest incident comes after a spate of raptor poisonings in the Highlands resulted in 16 red kites and six buzzards being found dead in an area near Muir of Ord.
Ian Thomson, head of investigations at RSPB Scotland, said: “The recent incident on the Black Isle, where 22 birds of prey were killed, showed very clearly the horrendous impact that the illegal use of poisons can have on wildlife.
“It is of great concern that someone has placed a bait laced with this illegal chemical out in the countryside in an area well-used by the public and close to our own nature reserve at Loch Leven.
“I urge anyone who has information about this incident to contact the police as soon as possible.”
Buzzards are the most common bird of prey in the UK, with around 40,000 breeding pairs. They usually breed on the fringes of woodland and hunt over open land.
They are sometimes known as the tourist’s eagle, often being mistaken for the larger, rarer bird of prey.
They eat mainly small mammals and birds, but will also feed on the flesh of dead animals and even earthworms and insects when other prey is scarce.
Brent Meakin, Forestry Commission Scotland’s district manager for the Lowlands, said: “It is appalling that individuals are carrying out this illegal and barbaric practice.
“The persecution of raptors must stop. Any poisoning of these birds is one too many, no matter the species.
“We will continue to work with the police and other agencies to stamp out this activity.
“The Commission would also like to ask the public for their help as they too can be our eyes and ears and report any suspicious activity.”