CRIMINALS used a banned industrial grade poison to kill two endangered peregrine falcons and severed one of their head to keep as a “trophy”.
The birds of prey were found dead at a quarry in West Lothian after being poisoned by lethal pesticide aldicarb.
And specialist wildlife investigators believe the killings were clearly deliberate.
The investigation only came to light after a government report into pesticide deaths was published yesterday (Wed).
Police have insisted that they will keep the case open until the culprit is caught.
The incident last year was among the worst in the Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture report.
It also details a series of incidents last October in Bathgate where cats were poisoned with antifreeze.
PC Ruaraidh Hamilton, wildlife crime coordinator for Lothian and Borders Police, said: “Peregrines are a species that feed only on other birds, so it’s very tricky and unusual to find they have been poisoned.
“They don’t eat carrion or animals on the ground. Someone would have to have put poison on a bird that they know peregrines hunt and then wait for them to make contact with that bird for this pesticide to be passed on.
“It takes a lot of specialist knowledge to poison a bird that hunts in the sky.”
He said that it may be possible that the culprits were collectors of pigeons who have taken issue with the peregrines.
The dead birds were found in April and May last year and so far police have not identified any suspects.
PC Hamilton added: “This is a pair of birds that could have raised three to four young a year. We will not close this case until someone is caught and we need the public’s help in reporting any more incidents of this nature.”
Bob Elliot, head of investigations for RSPB Scotland, said that every year peregrines are being killed in attacks.
He added: “This is a pattern I’m afraid to say we’re seeing every year now, not just poisoned but shot peregrines as well.
“There are various motivations to doing something like this. We’ve had incidents before with people interested in pigeon racing, being convicted of egg theft for collections, stealing chicks that would be laundered abroad.
“Peregrines are of great importance and are a litmus test for many problems with the environment, which become apparent by examining their behaviour.
“They are a fabulous species.”