Foul play has been confirmed in the death of a white-tailed eagle injured near the island of Aegna late summer, nurtured back to health and released into the wild, only to be found dead in October.
The bird of prey, a formerly endangered species and still uncommon, had been injured in a scrap with other eagles. It was nurtured under supervision at the Estonian University of Life Sciences in Tartu and was set free near the Emajõe delta reserve, equipped with a tracking device, reported Postimees. When the device stopped transmitting data, eagle researcher Urmas Sellis conducted an investigation and found the bird dead in a ditch near the border of Lääne-Viru County and Jõgeva County.
Initial x-rays of the corpse revealed traces of metal, which was confirmed by an expert's report this week, indicating illegal hunting was the reason for the bird's demise, wrote Eesti Päevaleht. The investigation continues as the metal fragments have been sent to chemical analysis to determine the projectile type.
An autopsy revealed the bird's layer of fat was over a centimeter thick, indicating it was self-reliant after being released back to the nature.
The case gained some international attention as Finnish and Swiss naturalists wrote a letter to Estonian Environment Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, asking that efforts be made to find the hunters and avoid similar future incidents.