Mystery As Two Incredibly Rare White-tailed Eagles Found Dead Miles Apart

Two "incredibly rare" white-tailed eagles have been found dead in mysterious circumstances in the south of England, police have said.

In a statement released on February 10, Dorset Police said the dead bodies were recovered during a multi agency operation. One dead eagle was found in Dorset, while the other was found on the Isle of Wight, an island off the south coast.

The eagles, also known as sea eagles, went extinct in the U.K. in the early 20th century. They have since been reintroduced to Scotland, where they are thriving. However the current population in England is fragile as reintroduction efforts only began in 2019. There are plans to introduce more of the birds in other parts of England over the next three years. So far, 25 have been introduced.

Sea eagle
The police found the bodies in Dorset and the Isle of Wight. They are rare in England because they were only reintroduced in 2019. Dorset Police

Postmortem and toxicological evaluations are currently underway to determine what killed the eagles, Dorset Police said. They told Newsweek on February 15 that the investigation is still underway.

Dorset Police is also urging anybody with information on the eagles to come forward.

There are now thought to be only three white-tailed eagles remaining in Dorset.

White-tailed eagles vanished from the U.K. as a result of of habitat change and illegal killing. Now, all birds of prey in England are protected, meaning that intentionally killing or injuring one is a criminal offense, which could result in an unlimited fine or a six month jail sentence.

White-tailed eagles are a large predatory bird, with a wingspan of eight feet—the largest of any eagle species.

Efforts to introduce the eagles to Dorset have not been universally welcomed. A local politician, Chris Loder, received backlash on Twitter after he said that he does not "condone" Dorset Police spending time and resources investigating the deaths.

He said the eagles could go after lambs as prey, and be a threat to the livelihood of local farmers. "Dorset is not the place for eagles to be reintroduced," he said.

There are thought to be more than 150 breeding pairs of white-tailed eagles in Scotland, and conflict with livestock has been a problem. In March 2021, a local farmer saw the white-tailed eagles feast on newborn lambs annually, Scottish newspaper The Scotsman reported.

Plans to reintroduce the eagles in Norfolk were canceled in October 2021. U.K. newspaper The Guardian reported that this was over concerns from local estate owners, who were worried that the eagles would interfere with hunting and shooting interests by eating pheasants and partridge.