Dorset Police have explained their decision to drop an investigation into the death of a white-tailed eagle.

The force has been criticised over the past 24 hours by wildlife experts including the RSPB who said they were "baffled" by the decision.

Officers launched an investigation earlier this year into the death of the bird of prey, one of 25 eagles that have been released on the Isle of Wight as part of a reintroduction scheme, after its body was recovered in the county.

But examinations and tests on the bird were deemed to be “inconclusive”.

While high levels of rat poison brodifacoum were detected, it was not possible to establish if it was a deliberate act of poisoning the bird, police said.

Read more: No further police action into eagle death despite high levels of poison found

The RSPB said it was “completely baffled” by the decision to end the white-tailed eagle investigation prematurely.

They warned the poison was clearly being used incompetently or with intent to kill raptors, and was an illegal act.

The wildlife charity also said a land search of the estate where the bird was found for evidence of poison baits or misuse had been “recently and unexpectedly called off”.

Read more: 'We are completely baffled by Dorset Police's decision'

Now, in a lengthy statement, Deputy Chief Constable Sam de Reya, has said: “Dorset Police has responded robustly to allegations that a White-tailed Sea Eagle had been deliberately poisoned and killed by unknown persons.

"As a result of the sea eagle being found dead on land in the North Dorset area, our team has carried out a full and proportionate investigation under Section 1 of the Wildlife Countryside Act 1981 in conjunction with Natural England, National Wildlife Crime Unit, the RSPB and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation to identify any offences and perpetrators who may be responsible.

“As you can imagine detecting the deliberate poisoning of a bird of prey is extremely difficult without local intelligence and information to support the investigation.

"GPS data provided information that over an 11-day period the White-tailed Sea Eagle spent time across a multitude of locations in the North Dorset area.

"Despite working with experts, we have been unable to confirm deliberate intent to kill this beautiful bird or identify potential offenders.

"A detailed examination and tests have been carried out on the bird, which were inconclusive, and it has therefore not been possible to confirm that any criminal offence has been committed.

"While high levels of brodifacoum were detected, it has not been possible to establish whether this was as a result of a deliberate act or due to secondary rodenticide poisoning. We would still encourage anyone with new information to come forward to support enquiries.

“The Force is committed to keeping everyone in our county safe, including our wildlife, which brings so much to our beautiful countryside and our communities.

"As part of the police uplift programme and working together with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner we have reviewed our Rural Crime Strategy for the county and allocated increased numbers of officers to the Rural Crime Team to tackle the issues that matter.

"This includes all aspects of rural, wildlife and heritage-related crime. We will continue to work closely with many different partner agencies in relation to these issues. As always, should any new information be received in relation to this investigation, this will be considered.

“We want to make it clear that we take any and all potential wildlife offences seriously and will act to prevent and detect offences wherever possible.”