Two wedge-tailed eagles found dead and dying just before Christmas have left a property owner near Violet Town shocked and horrified they may have been poisoned.
Wildlife photographer Anita Norris said she and her husband Gordon had watched the breeding pair for about six months as they raised two young eaglets on their property at Earlston.
Ms Norris said she was riding her horse on Friday morning and was excited to see the two young ones in a tree.
‘‘Then I noticed something moving in the bush and there was one of the parents on its back struggling to try and stand up, but unable to. Maggots had closed its eyes and sadly it was not alive for much longer,’’ Ms Norris said.
‘‘Right nearby was the other parent already dead.’’
She said she had spotted the birds two days previously when they looked healthy.
She believed the adults had been poisoned.
‘‘It’s just horrific. I can’t believe people would do this — they are such majestic birds,’’ she said.
Ms Norris said it was the second time they had found wedge-tailed eagles dead or dying on their property.
‘‘This sadly makes three eagles we have found poisoned to death on our property in the last year, so goodness knows how many others are around,’’ she said.
She said the eagles were taken to Benalla Veterinary Clinic, where one of them was euthanased before the carcases were sent to the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning for toxicity testing.
The Earlston incident follows a spate of wedge-tailed eagle deaths around Yea.
DELWP reported four wedge-tailed eagles were found dumped in Black Range State Forest in June, adding to the toll of up to 20 eagles found dead, either shot or poisoned in the area during recent years.
DELWP senior wildlife officer Leigh Murray appealed to the public for information relating to the death of the two wedge-tailed eagles near Violet Town last week.
He said an investigation was ongoing.
Mr Murray warned of harsh penalties for killing native wildlife.
‘‘Illegally destroying protected native wildlife is a serious environmental crime, which carries significant fines and/or imprisonment,’’ Mr Murray said.
The maximum penalty for hunting, taking or destroying protected wildlife is a $7773 fine or six months’ imprisonment or both.
Ms Norris said she and her husband moved moved to Earlston this year from Arthurs Creek, after buying the property four years ago.
‘‘I hate cruelty to animals in any form. You think you’re moving to a wildlife haven of peace and then this happens,’’ she said.
‘‘This was a real shock — it’s ruined our Christmas.’’
Information on this and any other suspicious wildlife deaths can be provided anonymously by phoning DELWP’s customer service centre on 136 186 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 300 000.