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‘A wicked thing to do’: Injured birds released from Highland rescue centre during break-in

The barn owl that escaped the rescue centre during the break-in. Picture from Blue Highlands Bird Rescue
The barn owl that escaped the rescue centre during the break-in. Picture from Blue Highlands Bird Rescue

Two injured birds of prey were released during a pair of break-ins at a rescue centre a week apart – with one requiring emergency care following a suspected dog attack.

On Wednesday last week, a barn owl that was being treated for an injured foot escaped from Blue Highlands Bird Rescue in Brora, through a hole that had been cut in the mesh panelling of its recovery aviary.

Due to the bird’s condition, it was not able to fly very far, and it was found the following day in the garden of a neighbouring property with a broken right wing and crush injuries.

Bosses at the centre believe a dog may have “grabbed” it while it was on the ground outside, and wrote in a Facebook post: “We don’t know if he can fully recover.”

The second incident took place on Thursday night, when a kestrel was able to escape from its aviary due to the removal of a padlock.

The kestrel, which had been brought to the centre with an injured wing after it was believed to have been hit by a vehicle, was found on a patch of grass by a dog walker on Friday morning.

‘Pets could be at risk’

Centre Manager Jane Wilson said: “The huge wave of support that we’ve had from our amazing supporters straight after this event has been incredible, we’re very grateful for the offers of help and support that we’ve received.

“If there’s somebody in our village going around, doing this kind of thing, we want our neighbours and community to be careful because perhaps pets could be at risk.

“Because we don’t understand why it’s happened, and who this person is and why they would do something like this, we just want all our neighbours and our community to be careful – there is somebody out there that is happy to do harm to animals.”

A police spokeswoman said: “Inquiries are continuing in to reports of vandalisms and the unauthorised release of birds from a bird reserve in Brora between Wednesday, 19 January and Friday, 28 January, 2022.”

Behaviour is ‘unthinkable’

The Blue Highlands Bird Rescue, which is run by Lady Hadassah Broscova-Righetti, was previously targeted in March 2020 when a Eurasian eagle owl named Maximus and a herring gull named Buster were stolen.

Both were returned to the facility by the following day.

Ms Wilson added: “Purposefully releasing injured birds that aren’t able to fend for themselves is a wicked thing to do to animals.

“It doesn’t achieve anything apart from the risk of greater injury, and the work we’re doing is to try and put right some of the damage that’s been done to birds because of vehicle impacts, window strikes, predator attacks.

“We’re trying to repair the damage that’s been done, so for someone to wilfully and mindlessly release those birds, putting them at greater risk of injury and even death is unthinkable.”

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