A young peregrine falcon believed to have been on one of its first flights was found shot, Irish environmental chiefs have said.
The protected bird of prey, the fastest creature on earth, had to be put down after it was discovered with gunshot pellets in a wing and leg at Ballynastraw, near Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) claimed it was a further sign that the deliberate killing of the native birds is on the increase.
Dominic Berridge, based at the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, said: “There seems to have been an increase in the deliberate killing of peregrines in recent years with several unexplained nest failures in the south-east.
“The finding of this bird is not an isolated incident.”
An identification ring, which had been placed on the bird’s leg in June, showed it was a young bird on one of its first flights, the NPWS said.
Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said such incidents were harming Ireland’s reputation for protecting wildlife.
“It is intolerable for birds of prey and other wildlife to be persecuted, poisoned or shot,” she said.
“Not only is this activity illegal and barbaric, it also harms our reputation as a country that values its wildlife. I would urge anyone to report such incidents to the National Parks and Wildlife Service in my department.”
Peregrine falcons receive the highest possible legal protection under Irish and European law and killing them is a criminal offence.
Earlier this year two live pigeons were found tethered to a pole at a peregrine falcon nesting site in Dalkey quarry in south Dublin. It was believed they had been baited with poison.
Mr Berridge added: “There have been attempts to poison and shoot birds at a number of nests and if people see anything suspicious like tethered pigeons or a trap, NPWS staff should be called.”
The National Association of Regional Game Councils in the Republic of Ireland said that it was outraged over the falcon being shot.
Director Des Crofton said: “The NARGC condemns the illegal killing of any protected species as being not only irresponsible, but damaging to the interests of all responsible, law-abiding firearms owners in Ireland.
“The vast majority of Irish firearms owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens and would not have a licensed firearm in their possession if they were not.
“Whatever the intent was, to commit such a serious offence, any right-minded firearms owner will find this illegal act completely irresponsible and blatantly unacceptable.”
The NARGC urged anyone with information to contact the gardai or the NPWS.