Rescuers sickened over 'despicable' act on iconic native animal

·News and Video Producer
·4-min read

“Souvenirs” are suspected to have been taken from a dead eagle found dismembered by the side of the road in Tasmania.

Discovered by a passerby on Sunday in Fingal, on the island’s east coast, wildlife volunteers who examined the wedge-tailed eagle said they believed a “tomahawk or similar” may have been used to remove its large feet. 

Those responsible for the act have been labelled "rednecks" by social media users after pictures of the dead bird were shared to Facebook by not-for-profit group, Raptor Refuge.

A wedge-tailed eagle was found on Sunday with its feet hacked off. Source: Raptor Refuge
A wedge-tailed eagle was found on Sunday with its feet hacked off. Source: Raptor Refuge

“What a despicable act! I can’t believe these people walk among us,” wrote one person.

“Sickening and heartbreaking,” added another respondent.

“These majestic birds are already battling so much,” someone else wrote.

A threatened species both federally and in Tasmania, taking parts of protected wildlife is prohibited without a permit.

Tasmania's department of environment (DPIPWE) told Yahoo News Australia their Investigation and Enforcement Section is currently "seeking further information in order to be able to undertake an investigation".

'It's ugly': Rescuer frustrated by eagle deaths

Raptor Refuge said postmortem x-rays did not find any evidence that the animal had been shot, and it was likely hit by a car, with its feet removed after its death.

While the dismemberment is "unusual", the lack of respect shown to the bird was not, and according to the group's director Craig Webb, they “need more help”.

The discovery in Fingal was just one of three wedge-tailed eagles he can confirm were killed over the weekend.

The dead eagle found on the side of the road at Fingal is just one of many rescuers attend to each year. Source: Raptor Rescue
The dead eagle found on the side of the road at Fingal is just one of many rescuers attend to each year. Source: Raptor Refuge

The two other eagles, found in Richmond and Dolphin Sands, are believed by Mr Webb to have died as a result of coming into contact with power lines. 

Mr Webb believes power lines are killing approximately 100 wedge-tailed eagles every year, adding that the situation is "ugly".

His estimate exceeds that provided by Tasmanian electricity provider TasNetworks who, using a "probability-based" approach, conclude the highest annual number of incidents involving threatened birds since 2014 was 33. 

"While TasNetworks acknowledge there is likely to be a level of incident under reporting, more investigation and evidence is needed to understand the exact number," a spokesperson for the company said.

Mr Webb estimates that approximately 100 wedge-tailed eagles die as a result of contact with powerlines each year. Source: Getty
Mr Webb estimates that approximately 100 wedge-tailed eagles die as a result of contact with powerlines each year. Source: Getty

TasNetworks have been installing "bird mitigation devices" across areas frequented by wedge-tailed eagles, grey goshawks and white-bellied sea eagles since 2016, focussing on areas where incidents have occurred. 

They report having invested $3 million over the last four years and say they have "proactively mitigated" 120km of their existing network over the last two years.

"The Wedge-tailed eagle is a Tasmanian icon and every death is treated seriously," a spokesperson said.

'Tiny little twinkle steps': Call to hasten work to stop eagle deaths

Despite working in partnership with TasNetworks to reduce eagle deaths, Raptor Refuge's Mr Webb characterises the progress the company has made as “tiny little twinkle steps”.

"I want to acknowledge that something has been done, but the tip of the iceberg's just not enough," he said. 

Mr Webb believes electrocution and collision are still killing too many birds and he wants work sped up to reduce fatalities.

“We deal with this on a weekly basis,” Mr Webb said.

“With the power lines, it’s an ongoing sh*t fight quite frankly.”

TasNetworks say they are currently transitioning to a "bird friendly overhead power line configuration" on their distribution network as well as installing bird flight diverters on lines (flappers) and perches on top of power poles to reduce deaths.

Devices such as flappers need to be added to more powerlines argues Mr Webb. Source: Getty
Devices such as flappers need to be added to more powerlines argues Mr Webb. Source: Getty

For Mr Webb, who is dealing with eagle deaths on a weekly basis, the speed of the roll out is "frustrating". 

“We know what to do, we know how to do it, we know where to do it, we’ve just got to do it,” he said.

“It’s up to TasNetworks to do it and they’re not doing enough.”

Anyone with information about the dismemberment of the wedge-tailed eagle is urged to report it to DPIPWE on 0417 661 234 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Information can be provided anonymously.

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