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

Timothy Charles Hopkins, Gabriela Peniche, Stephen Murphy, Ian Carter, Guy Shorrock, Stuart Kearns, Gordon Blunn, Allen Goodship, Anthony W. Sainsbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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been 45 confirmed incidents of shooting of hen harriers since records began (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds unpublished data).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.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000241
Number of pages3
JournalVeterinary Record Case Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2015


  • wildlife
  • trauma
  • conservation medicine
  • imaging
  • forensic medicine
  • wild birds

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