Incidents of illegal poisoning in Ireland are not well recorded and as such the magnitude of the problem is unknown.
It would be naive to think that any more than a fraction of bird poisoning and persecution incidents can be formally recorded, as the chances of finding a bird carcass, considering a varied landscape and terrain, tall vegetation and scavengers, would be slim.

In 2011, a protocol for dealing with suspected poisoning or persecution incidents was agreed between the National Parks & Wildlife Service (Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht), the Veterinary Laboratory Service (Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine) and The State Laboratory (Department of Finance).
The NPWS Bird of Prey Persecution and Poisoning Database was also set up in 2011. The protocol and annual reports arising from the protocol are in response to the EU insisting that Ireland should have formal protocol for assessing and reporting on the impact of poisoning on vulnerable raptor populations.

The first report has provided an initial picture of poisoning and persecution in Ireland. As the monitoring scheme continues and expands in the future, a more complete picture of such threats to our native birds of prey will emerge and this will inform the authorities of where best to target actions to prevent such incidents re-occurring.
From 2011 onwards we should be getting a somewhat clearer picture of Irelands poisoning problem.

Poisons and Irish Law

These are key Irish statutes that deal with the poisoning and persecution of wildlife.

Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is responsible for:

The Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012
European Communities (Wildlife Act, 1976)(Amendment) Regulations, 1986
European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats)(Restrictions on Use of Poison Bait) Regulations 2010
European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is responsible for:
The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013
Use and Control of Biocidal Products Regulations 2001
Common Agricultural Policy

The Wildlife Act, 1976, as amended by the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000
makes it an offence in section 34 (1) to –
(a) hunt any wild bird, wild mammal or protected wild animal by means of any poisonous, poisoned or stupefying bait, or

(b) lay any poisonous or poisoned substance or stupefying bait, being a substance or bait which is calculated or is likely to facilitate the capture of, a wild bird, wild mammal or protected wild animal, in or in the vicinity of any place frequented by wild birds, wild mammals or protected wild animals

In section 34 (3)(cc) the Minister may grant a licence to capture or kill any wild bird or any wild animal in or on, or the removal of any such bird or animal from, any premises or other land by means of poisoned, poisonous or stupefying substance, for the purpose of stopping or preventing serious being caused to –
(a) food (including human food products and animal feeds) livestock, poultry or agriculture crops(including vegetables or fruit) either on pasture or cultivated land,

(b) pen-reared wild birds on any land, (c) other fauna, (d) flora, (e) a woodland or a forest plantation, (f) a fishery (g) buildings and other structures and their contents, or (h) aquaculture installations

European Communities (Wildlife Act, 1976)(Amendment) Regulations, 1986

Where the Minister is of the opinion that wild bird species referred to in these Regulations

  • (i) is a threat to public health and safety
  • (ii) is likely to cause serious damage to crops, livestock, fisheries or forestry
  • (iii) is likely to cause damage to flora and fauna, or
  • where the Minister is of the opinion that a species of wild bird is a threat to air safety

he may declare for the purposes of preventing disease or injury the said species may be captured or killed in any part of the state by means, arrangements and methods (including poisoned bait) specified out in the Regulations by the owner or occupier of such property on which the said threat to public health and safety is represented by such species or to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock etc on such property.
Note: Minister’s declarations under these Regulations are published in national press.

European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats)(Restrictions on Use of Poison Bait) Regulations 2010

makes it an offence to place, caused to be placed or permit to be placed or have with him or her any poisoned or anaesthetic bait that is animal or contains animal substance or other animal derivative in any place to capture, kill, poison, stupefy, anaesthetise, harm or injure or where it is likely to do so;

  • (I) any species of naturally occurring birds in the wild state in the EU
  • (ii) any species of wild fauna listed in Annexes IV (a) and V(a) to the Habitats Directive (includes species such as otter, pine marten, Irish hare)

except in accordance with a licence

European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011

These Regulations related to the conservation of all species of naturally occurring birds in the wild state referred to in the Birds Directive and certain species of fauna and flora referred to in the Habitats Directive and provides for their protection, management and control.
Where there is no other satisfactory solution, the Regulations provides for a grant, in specified circumstances (e.g. for reasons of public health and safety, air safety, protection of crops) of a derogation licence allowing the control of such wild birds and other fauna.
The method of control could allow the use of poisoned of anaesthetic bait.

Animal Health and welfare Act 2013
section 18 provides that a person shall not –
(1)(a) poison an animal kept for farming, recreational, domestic or sporting purposes or that is not living in a wild state
(b) lay poison by a method or in a manner that such an animal would have access to.

(2)The owner, occupier or person in charge of land shall not lay or caused to be laid a poison or a substance containing a poison on land unless, before the laying the poison or substance, he or she erects or causes to be erected, and maintains, a notice or notices of the laying of poison upon the land so that at least one notice is clearly visible from every public adjoining or being upon the land
Note: In this Act “land” means land on which animals kept for farming, recreational, domestic of sporting purposes or not living in a wild state is kept or has access to but does not include areas within the structure of a building or used for purposes ancillary to the use of the building
(3) The owner, occupier or person in charge of land on which poison or a substance containing poison is laid shall give –
(a) at least 7 days’ notice in writing in advance of the laying of the poison or substance, or
(b) if the poison or substance is being laid as part of a programme for the control of vermin in crops, at least 7 days’ notice in writing in advance of the commencement of the programme accompanied by details of when it is proposed to lay the poison or substance to the local authority for the functional area in which the land is situated.
Note: This section is in addition to and not in substitution for any enactment to the laying of poison.

Poison Regulations 2008 and Use and Control of Biocidal Products Regulations 2001

The Pesticide Registration and Control Divisions and the Pesticide Control Laboratory of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) are responsible for implementing the regulatory system for plant protection and biocidal products (these latter include disinfectants, preservatives, pest control products, antifoulants etc.)

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The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is a system of subsidies for agriculture from the European Union. To receive a payment under one of the CAP schemes; the ‘Single Payment Scheme’, a farmer must comply with Cross Compliance Measures.

Cross Compliance Measures are a variety of regulations on environmental and public health, animal and plant health, and animal welfare.
Failure to meet or breaches of the requirements may result in payments being withheld.

Breaches of Cross Compliance Measures:

  • Killing or poisoning any Bird of Prey, or other protected species without an NPWS licence or permission


The Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) promotes best practice and responsible rodent control, to minimise the exposure of wildlife and other non-target animals that can die from eating the poisoned rodents.

Poisons, Symptoms & Disposal

The following section helps you recognise signs of illegal poisoning, and provides information on disposal.

Recognise poisoned animal symptoms
Disposal of poisons
Poisons / biocides explained

Identify and Recognise Illegal Poisoning

Poison is often used in such small quantities that it can’t be seen. If you find a dead bird of prey with no obvious injuries (gunshot wounds, leg injuries from illegal traps) from a health perspective it is safest to assume that it may have been poisoned and may still be hazardous so DO NOT TOUCH.

  • A poisoned bait may take the form of a pigeon (live or dead) or rabbit carcass/piece of meat
  • Dead birds, animals or insects may be found close to the bait
  • Small granules of poison may sometimes be identifiable on the carcass

Modern poisons like the banned agricultural pesticide carbofuran are extremely dangerous in even tiny quantities. Just a few grains will kill a bird of prey by breaking down its nervous system, and the poison can be absorbed through our own skin. If you are walking a dog get them out of the area immediately. If you suspect they may have ingested some poison (perhaps they found the bird or bait) contact a vet immediately.

Most commonly used illegal poisons in Ireland:

Alphachloralose (Chloralose)
Pure (100%) Alphachloralose is a deregistered (illegal) biocide*; it is an anaesthetic drug used for killing birds and rodents.
4% alphachloralose however is currently a legal ingredient in registered rodenticides

Description of mode of action; and consequential possible presentation of casualty:

  • Ataxia, muscle tremors, salivation, seizures and coma
  • Causes a stupefied condition followed by loss of consciousness
  • Lowers the body temperature so animals sometimes die from hypothermia
  • Affected animals may recover if found early, kept warm and brought to a vet ASAP

Nitroxinil (Trodax)
Antiparasitic veterinary drug for use on cattle, sheep and goats for the treatment of flukes and roundworms.

Description of mode of action; and consequential possible presentation of casualty:

  • Increases the body temperature
  • Causes abnormally deep or rapid breathing
  • Causes shaking, excitability, restlessness
  • Affected animals normally die within hours

Carbofuran is a deregistered (illegal) biocide; a highly toxic pesticide used to control insects in field crops. In its granular form, a single grain will kill a bird. Birds often eat numerous grains of the pesticide, mistaking them for seeds, and then die shortly thereafter.

Description of mode of action; and consequential possible presentation of casualty:

  • Hyperthermia (high temperature)and hyperpnoea (increased depth of breathing)
  • vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive salivation
  • Affected animals normally die very shortly after consuming the poison

Poisoned pets
Poisoning of domestic pets is not always malicious but can be accidental; often through carelessness on behalf of the owner.

Slug pellets (e.g. metaldehyde) and rodenticides (e.g. warfarin) are dangerous to all mammals and birds, and are common causes of poisoning in pets. Pets and wildlife may be poisoned directly from baits or indirectly by consumption of poisoned slugs or rodents.

Some general symptoms your dog MAY have ingested poison:

  • Staggering, dizzy or disoriented
  • Persistent vomiting, excessive salivation
  • Watery, loose, yellow, green or black faeces

If you believe your pet has eaten anything poisonous, don’t wait for symptoms but seek veterinary attention immediately

Please also contact the Gardai and the Golden Eagle Trust if you suspect your pet was illegally poisoned.

Human First Aid
In case of accidental poisoning get medical attention immediately!

Ingestion: An emetic to cause vomiting is advisable but only if administered immediately and then only by a qualified nurse or doctor. Keep patient warm and roused.
Inhalation: Remove from exposure.
Skin contact: Wash with plenty of warm water and rinse thoroughly.

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DISPOSAL of poisons/hazardous waste

Deregulated biocides (poisons) / ‘hazardous waste’ e.g. carbofuran, should be safely disposed of as soon as practicably possible for the safety of both humans and animals who may accidentally come in contact with them.

Farm Hazardous Waste
Teagasc has teamed up with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine and Local Authorities to operate bring centres for Farm Hazardous Waste across the country in Autumn (dates announced in the Farmer’s Journal, EPA and Teagasc website).

Household Hazardous Waste
These include such items as batteries, paint, pesticides, corrosives and herbicides, and can be taken to your local County Council recycling centres, and many County Councils have specially organized “hazardous waste collection” days every year. Details of collection dates are advertised on their websites and in local press.

Poisons / biocides description and definition

Poisons are substances that cause disturbances to organisms, usually by chemical reaction or other activity on the molecular scale, when a sufficient quantity is absorbed by an organism. The term “poison” is often used colloquially to describe any harmful substance. Most biocides, including pesticides, are created to act as poisons to target organisms.

Biocides: all substances or mixtures consisting of, containing or generating one or more active substances with the intention of destroying, deterring, rendering harmless, preventing the action of, or otherwise exerting a controlling effect on harmful or undesired organisms.

Biocidal substances: pesticides, rodenticides, insecticides, disinfectants, preservatives and anti-fouling products (highly toxic substance used to prevent organisms from growing on painted structures e.g. the bottom of a boat)

Examples of biocides: alphachloralose, carbofuran, warfarin, brodifacoum, aldicarb, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)

The Biocidal Product Register is issued by the Pesticide Registration and Control Divisions and the Pesticide Control Laboratory within the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. All biocides placed on the market in Ireland must be on this register.

All biocides/poisons not listed on the Biocidal Product Register are classed as deregulated and are illegal to use.
However; possession of deregulated substances e.g. carbofuran is not illegal as long as the owner can prove that none of it has been used since it became deregulated (after which time it becomes known as ‘hazardous waste’)

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Recording evidence at the Crime Scene

Assessing whether a criminal offence has taken place may not always be straight forward and other possibilities such as natural deaths, predation and legal hunting should be considered.

If you come across a wildlife crime scene or a dead bird or object that may be related to a wildlife crime, every piece of information is – or might be – important, but it needs to be recorded properly and accurately for the authorities to have a chance of prosecuting an offender.

Reporting a poisoning incident

To report suspected illegal wildlife poisoning activity contact the National Parks & Wildlife Service
Tel: 01-888 3242 or LoCall 1890 383 000

For a pdf of contact numbers for your local NPWS Conservation Ranger click HERE

If you can’t reach NPWS personnel OR if the poisoning victim is a domestic pet, and foul play is suspected, call An Garda Síochána

If the crime is in progress (i.e. you come across someone laying a poison) or about to happen, or if the offender is still at the scene or has just left call 999 or 112

If the event is finished then either call your local Garda Station (Garda Stations Directory) or the Garda Confidential Telephone Number 1800 666 111

[Although it will assist the NPWS and Gardaí if you provide as much information as possible, you do not have to give your name if you ring to report an incident.]

If the animal is alive and is injured, also call a wildlife rehabilitator / vet from the contacts page of   Irish Wildlife Matters
If you witness any crime involving a bird, you can also report it to   Birdwatch Ireland
If you witness any crime involving specifically a bird of prey (e.g. eagle, red kite), or you suspect your pet was illegally poisoned please also report it to   Golden Eagle Trust