Police are warning walkers and outdoor enthusiasts to be on their guard over the next few weeks in an area where there is a history of bird poisonings.
The illegal poison used in the past could kill a child and cause serious harm to members of the public, Devon and Cornwall Police said.
The force said a quarry in the Buckfastleigh area was the site last year of an attempt to poison peregrine falcons.
Police wildlife officer PC Josh Marshall said: “Last year a peregrine falcon was found poisoned within the quarry. It was confirmed to have within its body a banned poison called carbofuran which is extremely toxic, no doubt having ingested the poison from bait.
“More seriously the banned substance is extremely harmful to humans and could easily kill children or pets from contact.”
The incident happened at Whitecleave Quarry and police are asking members of the public to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity. The incidents happened around this time of year.
They said previously a homing pigeon was wing-clipped and had poison spread on its back to make an easy target for peregrines to catch and be poisoned.
In that instance the pigeon failed to reach its target and was found within a childminder’s garden. “Had a child touched the pigeon it could have resulted in serious injury or death,” a spokesperson said.
Police are advising anyone seeing a pigeon in distress or unable to fly not to approach the bird and to call police or the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds immediately.
PC Marshall said his warning was two-fold: for people not to touch any birds and also for those who are responsible to be caught.
“The falcons are a protected species and in killing them anyone found responsible would be prosecuted and could face a fine of up to £5,000 or six months in prison,” he added.
“It goes without saying that if serious injury or death to a person were caused, then the penalty would be far more severe. We will be conducting frequent patrols of the area and dealing robustly with any offenders.”
PC Marshall said that he hoped the community of Buckfastleigh and surrounding areas would take some responsibility for helping the protected species.
“These falcons are still fairly rare and having a site of ornithological interest within the quarry is something to be embraced. We hope that local residents will do their bit and keep an eye out for anyone wishing to harm them.”