The last golden eagle known to live in England could be gone forever, according to wildlife officials. The unnamed male eagle hasn’t been spotted in his normal springtime hangouts, leading authorities to fear that the bird may have died. Nobody has seen the bird since November, and he was expected to re-emerge around this time to build a nest and search for a mate. Officials theorized that the bird may have died of natural causes due to his age.

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The golden eagle lived in the Lake District at Riggindale near Haweswater, Cumbria, and had been observed regularly in the area since 2001. He was thought to be around 20 years old. Wildlife officials say he has lived alone since the death of his mate in 2004. Lee Schofield, the site manager at Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Haweswater, said officials were concerned when the bird didn’t show up in March. “When the eagle didn’t appear last month we thought there was a chance he might be hunting in a nearby valley but over the past few weeks we’ve been gradually losing hope.”

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The iconic eagle will be missed by the public as much as by wildlife rangers. “His disappearance marks the end of an era as he has been an iconic part of the Haweswater landscape for the past 15 years,” said Schofield. “During this time, thousands of visitors have travelled from across the country hoping to catch a glimpse of him at the Riggindale eagle viewpoint.”

A shortage of food and habitat make the Haweswater Lake District unattractive to golden eagles, Schofield said, so it’s unlikely another eagle will move in any time soon. However, rehabilitation efforts in the area may someday restore the habitat for future bird populations.

Via The Guardian

Images via David H. Webster/Flickr and Wallpaper Cave