POLICE investigating the poisoning of birds of prey in Ross-shire have confirmed the death toll has risen to 19.
The 14 red kites and five buzzards were located within an approximate two square mile area to the south east of Conon Bridge around Conon Brae, Balvail, Leanaig and Alcaig.
Following analysis of the birds’ remains, twelve - nine red kites and three buzzards - have been confirmed as having digested a poisonous substance.
Post mortem examinations and toxicology work continues into all the birds seized.
Police Scotland is working in close collaboration with the RSPB, SSPCA, Scotland’s Rural College and the Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA).
Landowners and farmers in the local area are also co-operating with the ongoing police enquiries.
Police carried out searches of farm properties in the Conon Brae area earlier today (Wednesday).
The RSPB has issued a reward of £10,000 for any information that leads to a successful conviction.
A group of farmers and landowners from the Moray Firth area have come together and pledged a reward of £12,000 for information regarding the deaths.
Anyone who finds any further dead birds or animals in the area are asked to make a note of its location and inform the police on 101.
Under no circumstances should anyone touch or attempt to recover any dead animal.
Police are keen to speak to anyone who has any information about the incident and would encourage them to contact Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org/.