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Magpies euthanised over attacks that left people with severe eye injuries

A man who was one of two people that required emergency eye surgery after a recent spate of magpie attacks in a Victorian town says he may yet require cataract surgery, as authorities confirmed two birds had been euthanised “as a last resort”.

Retired businessman and aircraft electrician Mr James Glindemann, 68, still has poor vision and six sutures in his left eye after suffering a penetrating corneal wound as he sat to eat lunch near the Gippsland Centre plaza in Sale, about 200km east of Melbourne, nearly six weeks ago.

He was among five people reportedly attacked by magpies in the area during the past two months, in what was thought to be an apparent scare tactic to acquire food from people. Just days before his incident, fellow Victorian Ms Jennifer Dyer was targeted in similar circumstances at the same location. According to the ABC, she required multiple eye operations, including one to remove her lens after a cataract formed.

In response to questions over the Sale magpie attacks, this week the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) confirmed it had issued two approvals to the Wellington Shire Council to euthanise wildlife in October and then November.

“Wildlife is protected in Victoria under the Wildlife Act 1975 and it is illegal to wilfully disturb or destroy wildlife without authorisation from the Conservation Regulator,” a DELWP spokesperson said. “Land managers must exhaust all practical non-lethal options before applying for an Authority to Control Wildlife for lethal control, which is a last resort.”

James Glindemann required a two-hour operation to repair a corneal wound to his left eye after the magpie attack on 13 October, and has since visited The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital at least four times.

A Wellington Shire Council spokesperson said a DELWP-approved contractor performed the work.

“Council [also] erected 12 warning signs, six asking people not to feed the birds – it’s thought that feeding is linked to the attack behaviour – and six signs erected with DELWP alerting people to swooping magpies,” the spokesperson said.

Risk of cataract forming 

Glindemann, a retiree who has a small side business as an aviation electrician, said he could legally drive, but his vision was still poor out of his left eye which prevented him from performing detailed, near vision tasks such as wiring and assembling connectors.

“The left eye has still got six sutures in it. If my overall eyesight was as bad as my left eye, I have vague feeling I might be considered blind. Basically, I can see shapes with it, and if they put a pin hole lens arrangement in front of my eye, I can still see quite well, so the back of the eye is just fine, but the cornea and the lens are distorted and opaque at the moment,” he said.

“I’m not too sure if I will require a lens in the left eye, and I don’t know if the doctors know yet either. But my impression is that there is a greater risk of a cataract forming, and if my eyesight doesn’t improve in the next six months or so, I’d prefer to have a lens put in.”

Although his right eye only sustained an injury to the eyelid, Glindemann said he was now having some focussing issues and struggled to read as well.

“It would be a terrible thing if I wasn’t retired from my normal job, then it would be extremely frustrating, in fact I don’t think I could do the job at all,” he said.

Glindemann had mixed feelings when it came to euthanising the birds, and understood the arguments for and against.

He was surprised to learn two magpies had been destroyed over the incidents after initially thinking only one bird was responsible. According to the ABC, the first bird was put down in October, and the council was given approval to destroy the second magpie after another three people were attacked in the same spot outside the Sale mall last week.

“I’m not too sure where second bird came from or whether in fact they had got the correct bird the first time around. In saying that, one of my fears was that if one bird’s doing it, then the others will pick up on it,” Glindemann said.

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