Campaigners are demanding answers from Dorset police after it prematurely closed its investigation into the poisoning of a white-tailed eagle. The raptor was found dead on a shooting estate in north Dorset in January 2022. 

It was one of two eagles that were found dead at around the same time; the other was found in Sussex. Both of the eagles belonged to a group that was part of a reintroduction project on the Isle of Wight.

A postmortem found that the Dorset eagle’s liver had seven times the amount of brodifacoum required to kill a bird of its size. Brodifacoum is a highly lethal pesticide, often used as a rodenticide. Such high amounts of poison would suggest that this was a deliberate wildlife crime. But Dorset police insists that the eagle could have accidentally ingested such a massive dose. The police force said:

“A detailed examination and tests have been carried out on the bird, which were inconclusive, and it has therefore not been possible to confirm that any criminal offence has been committed.”

It continued: “While high levels of brodifacoum were detected, it has not been possible to establish whether this was as a result of a deliberate act or due to secondary rodenticide poisoning.”

 Suspiciously closing the investigation

Conservationists are suspicious of the circumstances into which Dorset police closed their investigation, and are questioning MP Chris Loder’s influence in the decision. Loder is MP for west Dorset. 

He has been very vocal about his opposition to the reintroduction of eagles, using social media to spread his own propaganda about the raptors. In February, he tweeted that “Dorset is not the place for eagles to be reintroduced…”, arguing the Dorset police shouldn’t “spend time and money” investigating the death of the sea eagle. 

He went on to tweet stock photos of an eagle in captivity eating an already-killed lamb, saying:

“For local people asking why I don’t want eagles in Dorset, killing our lambs and plaguing our farmers…. These pictures say a thousand words…”


Looking out for the rich

While Loder claims to be concerned for the welfare of lambs—which are raised to be murdered for profit anyway—it is more likely that he is looking out for the interests of his game-shooting friends on Dorset’s estates. Indeed, Dr Ruth Tingay, raptor conservationist and author of Raptor Persecution UK, has pointed out

“A quick look at Chris Loder’s Register of Interests on the Parliamentary website showed that his local Conservative party had received large donations from at least one shooting estate in North Dorset.”


Loder received a £14,000 donation from game-shooting Ilchester Estates during his election campaign in 2019.

Suspicious of Loder’s interference into the eagle investigation, Tingay went on to submit an FOI request, asking for copies of all correspondence between Loder and Dorset Police “on the subject of wildlife crime, police wildlife crime officers, and eagle reintroductions, from 1 January 2022 to date”. 

Dorset police refused her request, stating that it would take up too much time. On 18 April Chris Packham went on to submit a similar, narrowed-down FOI request. He is awaiting a reply. 

Loder is, unsurprisingly, a vocal supporter of the government’s annual badger cull. It is currently unclear how much influence he has had on Dorset police’s investigation, or how much he is looking out for the interests of his game-shooting friends. But campaigners are unlikely to rest until they get proper answers.

Dorset police’s unwillingness to properly act is particularly worrying for other raptors in the county and beyond. If police forces aren’t willing to crack down on wildlife crimes like this, raptors such as eagles could become extinct in the UK once again. 

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