Hecatombe of raptors victims of hunters’ shootings

During the opening of the hunting season, discoveries of raptors riddled with lead are multiplying, while these species are strictly protected, notes the League for the Protection of Birds.

On November 6, 2021, a European sparrowhawk was the target of a rifle shot in the Hérault. Saved by a veterinarian, it will however remain paralyzed. A few days later, a Kestrel was found in similar circumstances in the Vaucluse. Last month, two other hawks and two other kestrels were found dead in the PACA region. In September, it was a golden eagle in Ardèche, a common buzzard in the Gard, a short-toed Eagle, etc. In October 2020, a rare Bearded Vulture was shot in the Cevennes. This macabre list is, unfortunately, already long and yet very far from being exhaustive: these victims are only the visible part of the iceberg as the probability of finding the killed animals is very low.

More frequent shooting during the hunting season

During the last 3 years, 87% of the 109 leaded birds of prey taken in charge by the 7 care centers managed by the LPO were received between the beginning of September and the end of February, that is to say between the general opening and closing dates of hunting in France. Although these are not acts of hunting strictly speaking, raptors being indeed fully protected since 1976, the ammunition and weapons used are indeed the same. Mistaken identification or deliberate malice, shooting of raptors is much more frequent when hunting is open.

Complaints of the LPO

Their authors are rarely identified and in spite of numerous complaints of the LPO, the majority of the cases are classified without continuation. When there is a judgement, the sentences pronounced are most often lenient and not very dissuasive, while the number of raptors killed remains almost constant, year after year. The destruction of a protected species is however punishable by 3 years of imprisonment and a fine of 150.000 €.

The LPO appeals once again to the hunting leaders so that they do what is necessary with their members and stop denying their responsibility in the multiplication of these acts. It also asks for a reinforcement of the means of investigation of the nature police of the French Office of Biodiversity (OFB), as well as the training of judges on this subject.

Years of protection put at risk

There have always been beliefs and prejudices surrounding birds of prey, long considered as “harmful” species attacking game or herds, even children. Victims of shooting and poisoning, several of them almost disappeared from France a century ago. Thanks to important efforts in terms of conservation and awareness, their populations are today in better health, but remain vulnerable, threatened by pesticide poisoning used by intensive agriculture, the reduction of their habitats caused by the artificialization of natural areas, as well as by the development of linear transport and energy infrastructures (power lines, wind farms, road network).

For Allain Bougrain Dubourg, president of the LPO “Predators or scavengers, these majestic birds are essential to the balance of ecosystems. It is crucial to fight to preserve them. And that obviously means preventing thugs from shooting them, while heavily punishing offenders.”