Last surviving golden eagle in Wales died after eating rat poison

Last surviving golden eagle in Wales which was shot twice before it died had eaten rat poison, tests reveal – but experts rule out bird being targeted deliberately

  • The bird was found by a walker last year after surviving around 12 years in Wales
  • Post mortem revealed eagle shot twice before it was found dead near Powys
  • Toxicology tests further show rat poison may have contributed to bird’s demise
  • Report gave bird’s cause of death as systemic Aspergillosis – a fungal infection

The last surviving golden eagle in Wales was found dead after eating rat poison, tests have revealed.

The majestic bird was discovered by a walker last summer after surviving around 12 years swooping the remote valleys and hills of Wales.

A post mortem revealed the bird had been shot twice before it was found dead in Abergwesyn Valley near Tregaron, Powys, but survived being blasted by pellets.

Further toxicology results showed rat poison may have contributed to the bird’s death after a ‘high concentration’ was found in its liver.

But the Welsh Government said the poisoning was probably accidental, and the amount was ‘similar to those seen in other raptor species, such as buzzards’.

The last surviving golden eagle in Wales which was shot twice before its death in Abergwesyn Valley near Tregaron, Powys, had eaten rat poison, toxicology tests have revealed 

The golden eagle pictured in full flight. The Welsh Government said the poisoning was probably accidental, and the amount was ‘similar to those seen in other raptor species’

It added that the death ‘reinforces the need to follow correct practice when using rodenticides to avoid contaminating non-target species’.

Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams previously spent weeks tracking the golden eagle as part of a BBC series, and was heartbroken after its death.

The post mortem listed the bird’s death as systemic Aspergillosis – a fungal infection – but x-rays revealing the bird had been shot at least twice were later released after a freedom of information (FOI) request.

Williams said: ‘Having filmed this amazing bird, I was absolutely gutted to find that she had been found dead.

‘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.’

Williams said it was ‘highly unlikely’ anyone living locally had shot the bird because they appreciated her beauty.

He added: ‘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.

The post mortem listed the bird’s death as systemic Aspergillosis – a fungal infection – but x-rays revealing the bird had been shot at least twice were later released

Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams (pictured above) previously spent weeks tracking the golden eagle as part of a BBC series, and was heartbroken after its death

‘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 bird was already something of a local celebrity – with a dedicated Facebook fan page detailing sightings but often going unseen for months at a time.

Williams described the death of Wales’ last golden eagle in August as ‘more than the death of just an eagle’.

He tracked the movements of the originally captive bird in the remote valleys of the Cambrian Mountains for his latest series Iolo: The Last Wilderness of Wales.

‘Wales has lost one of its greatest characters,’ he said.

The golden eagle – with a wingspan of up to 2.2 metres – has been largely extinct from England and Wales since 1850 with the only UK stronghold remaining in Scotland.

But the last one in Wales was originally captive but was freed to live over the Cambrian Mountains around Tregaron, Powys. 

 The bird was already something of a local celebrity – with a dedicated Facebook fan page detailing sightings but often going unseen for months at a time

The golden eagle – with a wingspan of up to 2.2 metres – has been largely extinct from England and Wales since 1850 with the only UK stronghold remaining in Scotland

TV naturalist Iolo said: ‘The demise of this magnificent bird is more than just the death of an eagle.

‘The Tregaron area has lost one of its great characters and Wales has lost a palpable link to its distant past. We are a poorer country without her.’

The eagle was collected by a fellow member of Iolo’s television crew who has ensured its registration in the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme run by the Welsh Government.

The post mortem report gave the cause of death as aspergillosis, adding: ‘Aspergillosis 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 FOI request, 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.’

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