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Scanning electron microscopy and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) confirms shooting of a hen harrier (Circus cyaneus)


The hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) remains severely restricted as a breeding species in England despite sufficient habitat for over 300 breeding pairs. Human persecution is the main limiting factor and in the UK, there have been 45 confirmed incidents of shooting of hen harriers since records began (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds unpublished data). The authors report the pathological examination of a hen harrier, the detection of suspected ballistic fragments by radiograph and explain how scanning electron microscopy and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) was used to confirm (i) the composition of one ballistic remnant and (ii) that the remnant had been projected into and had damaged the bone. The authors report the use of post-analysis software to discriminate apparent anomalies produced by the proprietary SEM-EDX software package and discuss broader uses of SEM-EDX for wildlife crime investigation.

  • Wildlife
  • Trauma
  • Conservation medicine
  • Imaging
  • Forensic medicine
  • Wild birds

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