Published Thursday, 06 March 2014
The eagle died weeks after being shot and riddled with shotgun pellets. (© Golden Eagle Trust)
White-tailed eagles are the largest birds of prey in Ireland and the UK, but needed to be reintroduced after the species became extinct.
A pair of the birds were successfully reared at Lough Derg, near Mount Shannon in Co Clare, and flew from their nest in July.
But just seven months later, one of the young eagles has been found dead on the north-east shore of the lough, near Ballinderry in Co Tipperary.
It is understood that, despite having had one of its legs and a wing broken when it was hit by nearly 50 shotgun pellets, the eagle survived for a number of weeks before dying.
"It would have been unable to fish and forage as normal, and it appears it slowly starved to death as a result," Conservation Officer Stefan Jones, from the National Parks & Wildlife Service, confirmed.
Finding one of the first two young white-tailed eagles to fly from a nest in Ireland shot dead is heart-breaking - it is absolutely incomprehensible.
Dr Allan Mee, Golden Eagle Trust
Shooting or otherwise harming white-tailed eagles is illegal under the Wildlife Act (1976) as they are a protected species and gardaí are investigating the death of the bird in Co Tipperary.
But as far as the conservation project is concerned, the damage has already been done.
"Although all losses impact the project, for me, the loss of this male - the first Irish-bred white-tailed eagle of the reintroduction programme - is especially difficult to take", Dr Allan Mee, from the Golden Eagle Trust, said.
"This bird and its sibling were the hope for the future of the species in Ireland.
"Many people spent months closely watching this bird's progress until it flew from the nest near Mountshannon last year. I feel gutted for these people as well as the bird."
Dr Mee added: "Let's hope its sibling and the other chicks to fly from nests in Ireland in 2014 will see a better fate.
"Ultimately it is up to ourselves to make this happen by cherishing the wonderful wildlife we do have - including eagles, and their habitats."
The dead eagle was found after a tip-off from a member of the public.
Anyone who knows exactly what happened to the bird is asked to pass information to An Garda Síochána or the National Parks & Wildlife Service.
© UTV News