A shot buzzard was left wounded and in pain by the edge of a countryside road – and the hunt is now on for whoever pulled the trigger.
The protected bird of prey was spotted by a member of the public between Innerleithen and Heriot.
The shot-up bird was taken to a local vet, but its injuries were so bad it couldn’t be saved.
A team from the Scottish SPCA has launched a probe and appealed for information – but have so far drawn a blank.
The buzzard was found on July 24, but the discovery was only made public this week.
The shooting has been condemned by Scotland’s minister for the environment, climate change and land reform, Aileen McLeod.
She blasted: “The illegal persecution of birds of prey is always unacce[table, but this case – with the pain and suffering caused to the buzzard – is particularly abhorrent.”
An undercover inspector from the SSPCA commented: “A post mortem examination revealed that the buzzard had been hit with a shotgun, with a pellet in its head and damage to its wing.
“As the bird did not die outright it would have suffered a great deal of pain and distress.
“We believe this was a deliberate act which would constitute an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.”
The inspector added: “Unfortunately our enquires so far have not resulted in any leads.
“If anyone has any information that may help our investigation we would urge them to come forward.”
Ms McLeod added:“I am resolute in my determination to do all I can to put a stop to crimes such as this, with the Scottish Government working with law enforcement and others through the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime in Scotland (PAWS).
“I expect all right-minded people involved in the countryside, including with shooting, to support our efforts.
“The Scottish Government has already put in place new and strengthened measures to crack down on wildlife crime, including vicarious liability prosecutions and general licence restrictions, for example.
“But let me be absolutely clear – I will consider taking further action if necessary and the licencing of shooting businesses in Scotland remains an option.”
Anyone with information can contact the Scottish SPCA animal helpline on 03000 999 999 or Police Scotland on their 101 number.
The SSPCA inspector said “Calls to our helpline are in strict confidence and can be made anonymously.”