Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Red squirrel-hunting hawk sought on Isle of Wight

Red Tailed Hawk - generic Image copyright Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Image caption Red tailed hawks are not indigenous to the UK

An escaped bird of prey which is believed to have killed red squirrels on the Isle of Wight is frustrating efforts to capture it.

The red tailed hawk escaped from a private owner and is known to have killed at least two of the island's protected population of red squirrels.

Falconer Steven Hain said "everything possible" had been tried in an effort to catch it.

He said traps had been tried but shooting it would be a "last resort".

The hawk, native to the US where it is also known as a chicken hawk, was first spotted in the Seaview area in the late spring.

Image copyright Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Image caption The Isle of Wight is a stronghold of the red squirrel

"We've been going for several months, we've tried all sorts. Bait, traps, literally running after it through the countryside to try and tire it out. We've tried everything possible.

"It doesn't belong here. Our nature isn't designed to cope with the red tailed hawk.

"I don't want to see any bird of prey shot, that would be a last resort."

He appealed for help from local residents in reporting sightings.

Hampshire Constabulary dismissed press reports that armed police were on stand-by to shoot the bird.

A spokesman said officers had helped trace the owner but would not be involved in any operation to shoot it.

The island is a rare stronghold of the red squirrel as the Solent has acted as barrier preventing grey squirrels overrunning them.

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