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German Police Look Into Killing of Rare Bird and Vigilantes’ Payback

“They are very stress-sensitive and so isolated that there is no more exchange between the birds,” said Leonie Weltgen, a scientific officer for wildlife and nature conservation at the German Animal Welfare Federation.

Two years ago, Swedish grouses were moved to the eastern German state of Thuringia to boost the numbers, and deepen the gene pool, of birds there.

“These birds are very tough,” said Mr. Sütfeld, the forest ranger, who was called to the scene by the police in Titisee-Neustadt to examine the capercaillie’s body. It had been beaten severely, he said, “there were feathers missing from the chest and the neck,” and the ultimate cause of death was a broken neck.

“I think it was sheer stupidity — somehow they didn’t realize what they were doing,” he said.

But he added that the men recorded a video of their clash with the bird.

After witnessing the death of the bird from afar, several people in a group of about ten punched, kicked and poured beer over the two men, according to the police. The group also called the police and held the men until officers arrived.

“We are now talking to everyone involved to see how many actively engaged in the violence,” said Jerry Clark, a police spokesman.

The two men had spent an afternoon at the Laurentiusfest, a well-known festival in the region. They took a roughly 250-yard shortcut straight through the forest, likely cutting right through the grouse’s territory.

“If they had only stayed on the path, none of this would have happened,” Mr. Sütfeld said.

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