POLICE investigating the killing of almost 20 birds of prey in Ross-shire swooped on a series of farms yesterday as the reward for information on the incidents rose to £26,000.
The searches were carried out as officers revealed 14 red kites and five buzzards have now been found dead near Conon Bridge in the Highlands.
Post-mortem tests show 12 of the raptors had swallowed poison. Toxicology results have yet to be released for the others.
All the farms targeted were within a two-square-mile area south-east of Conon Bridge, around Conon Brae, Balvail, Leanaig and Alcaig.
Scottish Land and Estates and the NFU Scotland pledged £12,000 to the reward fund yesterday on behalf of landowners and farmers along the Moray Firth.
This has been added to the £5,000 on offer from RSPB Scotland, another £5,000 from an anonymous donor and more than £4,000 from the public.
The RSPB said it was the biggest reward offered for a crime of this kind and demonstrated the “outrage” of nature-lovers.
A public protest is planned for Inverness at the weekend. Supporters will march through the streets of the city on Saturday carrying life-sized replicas of the 19 birds found dead.
Deaths probe, Pages 2 and 3