The suspected shooting of a peregrine falcon which had been one of a breeding pair on the Fylde coast for several years has been greeted with anger and dismay.
The female bird, which for seven years had been a welcome sight in the St Annes area, where it raised chicks each season, was reportedly found with a firearm pellet in its body.
Terry Pickford, of the North West Raptor Protection Group, said the falcon was found dead on the roof of St Thomas’ Church in St Annes this week.
As a protected species it is an offence to kill peregrines, and other birds of prey, generically known as raptors, with a possible penalty of a £5,000 fine or six months in prison.
However, Mr Pickford, whose group is trying to protect these endangered birds, says the culprit is unlikely to be caught.
He said: “This latest incident is heartbreaking and I know a lot of people around St Annes will be furious and upset about it.
“People had been keeping an eye on this pair over the years and last year the female raised two chicks.
“These two birds were known to be the only breeding pair in the area, covering a 20 mile radius. It is a big concern to the raptor group that peregrine falcons are being targeted.”
Mr Pickford, of Elswick, said 18 breeding pairs of peregrine falcons had disappeared completely from the Forest of Bowland since 2010, believed to have been shot.
He added: “They have just vanished – it has to be suspicious. The trouble is, it is hard to catch these people.”
The death of the bird came to light when telecom inspectors went on to the roof of the church and found the bird in the gutter, 70 feet above ground.
It is now feared the surviving male may not be able to find another female in time for the breeding season, in late March and April.
Peter Rhind, of the Fylde Bird Club, said: “Raptors are targeted for a number of reasons, sometimes because of the birds they prey on, sometimes for sport, but I cannot get into the head of someone who would want to kill such beautiful creatures. This is awful news.”
Chris Collett, from the RSPB in northern England, said: “We are saddened to hear the report of a shot peregrine in St Annes.
“Killing a peregrine is a serious crime and we would ask anyone with any information to contact the police.”
Mr Pickford said he had unsuccessfully attempted to contact Lancashire Police to report the incident.
The force said last night it had not been made aware of the bird’s death.
Mr Pickford added: “We believe this is the first illegal shooting of a Peregrine in Lancashire to have taken place inside a town, marking a new and worrying trend. This is why we need as much publicity as possible to get the public on our side to support our GoFundMe campaign.”
To find out more, visit; https://www.gofundme.com/help-save-the-peregrine-falcons