Searches were conducted on all farm properties near where hundreds of dead wedge-tailed eagles and birds of prey were found, a court has heard.
Hold tight - we’re checking permissions before loading more content
Carcasses of 271 dead birds and animals – with the majority being either wedge-tailed eagles or other birds of prey – were found in 2019 after the then Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning launched an investigation into the poisoning of the birds in the Violet Town area.
Dorothy Sloan, 83, of Violet Town, is facing a contested hearing in the Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on charges related to the deaths of eagles and other medium-sized raptors, such as falcons and whistling kites.
She is accused of baiting the birds using other dead birds that had been injected with a pesticide generally used on crops.
Mrs Sloan has pleaded not guilty to 20 charges of poisoning medium-sized raptors with bait, poisoning 11 wedge-tailed eagles with bait, seven counts of animal cruelty that resulted in the death of six wedge-tailed eagles and a whistling kite, poisoning a whistling kite, and five counts of possessing wildlife.
She has pleaded guilty to 26 charges of wildlife possession – including four kangaroo joeys and 22 birds, mainly galahs and ducks.
The charges before the court do not relate to all the bird deaths, only those that died from July 2019 onwards.
On Tuesday, December 5, day two of the contested hearing heard about searches of Mrs Sloan’s land as well as searches on neighbouring properties from leading chemical standards officer of the then Department of Jobs Precincts and Regions, Alex Perera, and wildlife management officer of the then Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Alexander Burton.
Ms Perera told the court of her involvement in three days of searches at properties owned by one of Mrs Sloan’s neighbours, as well as properties owned by Mrs Sloan and her sons Kevin and Bryan, in August 2019.
She told how she was tasked to look for any dead birds as well as the chemical omethoate, which was believed to have been ingested by dead birds that had undergone pathology tests.
Ms Perera spoke of a search of sheds at one of the Sloans’ neighbour’s properties that turned up two containers of Le-Mat pesticide, which contains omethoate.
It is used to treat red-legged earth-mites in wheat and barley crops.
She said both containers were “covered in dust, which suggested it hadn’t been used in quite some time”.
Ms Perera said the containers were not seized as officers saw a nearby wheat or barley crop and “due to the cropping on that property believed they had a legitimate reason to have them”.
On leaving the property, she spoke of finding six carcases of dead birds of prey, with some seen from the road.
One was on the border of that property and land that belonged to the Sloans, while at least three others were on the Sloans’ property.
Two of the birds on the Sloan property were in a log lying on the ground and were covered with branches, with three dead kangaroos only metres away.
Ms Perera also said she saw what she believed were two chemical containers in the paddock.
She also spoke of a search at the home owned by the late Kevin Sloan – who died on July 27, 2019, and his wife on September 18, 2019, that saw a container of dimethoate insecticide seized.
Mr Perera said she saw a tractor with a spray unit attached to it, when officers searched Bryan Sloan’s property at Goomalibee.
She said it was “covered in cobwebs and dust and appeared as if it hadn’t been used in a long time”.
Cross-examination by defence counsel Charles Morgan questioned why the paddocks were not searched at the neighbour’s property and the pesticide not seized.
He also asked why a locked shed at the neighbour’s property was not searched, and said the spray unit at Bryan Sloan’s property had a wet patch under it which he suggested meant it had been used recently.
Mr Burton told the hearing of searches he participated in on several properties in the Violet Town and Earlston area in August 2019.
Many were systematic line searches where officers spread out and systematically searched paddocks for dead birds, turning up many of them, while at other times he found carcasses while not being involved in the line searches.
The carcasses were mainly all found at properties owned by the Sloans.
He also spoke of being part of a search of Mrs Sloan’s house where animals and birds were taken from a freezer.
He also told how he saw a dead kangaroo adjacent to a dog pen at the property, that Mr Morgan suggested was being used to feed the dogs.
The court case continues.