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Hard life Swiss vulture: shot by a hunter, killed by a golden eagle

A bearded vulture in flight

A bearded vulture in western Switzerland in 2017


A bearded vulture’s life is obviously not an easy one in Switzerland. One bird found dead in eastern Switzerland was injured by gunshot but probably died after losing a fight with a golden eagle. 

The bird’s body was discovered in Val Chamuera, canton Graubünden, in May. The results of the autopsy, published on Tuesday by the cantonal office for hunting and fishing, show that the 12-year-old male bird of prey was probably killed by the eagle after a fight over hunting territory. 

The vulture’s 12th cervical vertebrae had been broken and his neck muscles and oesophagus showed signs of injury, said specialists at the University of Bern. 

The authorities said it was not possible to determine when the bird was hit by three lead shots from a hunting rifle. The shooter has not been identified. 

Bird population 

Bearded vultures, the largest bird in the Alps with a wingspan of almost three metres, mate for life. 

This bird was identified by the cantonal authorities as GT047. They said he was born 12 years ago in Val Tantermozza and was one of the first bearded vultures born in nature in Switzerland after their reintroduction. 

In 2012 and 2013 he and a female formed the “Val Foraz” pair, while from 2014 he was part of the “Chamuera” pair. This year he was replaced by another male but remained in the valley. 

The bearded vulture was exterminated in the 19th century and is a vulnerable species today. Starting in 1986, they were reintroduced in Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France. Now there are roughly 200 in the Alps, and the population is doing well. In Switzerland, there are about a dozen breeding pairs. 


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