Residents in one Lebanese town near the country's border with Israel thought they had outsmarted Israel's Mossad intelligence gatherers when the captured a vulture carrying a transmitter and marked with tags, believing the bird to be a spy.

Except it wasn't. The vulture turned out to have been tagged and fitted with the device as part of an ongoing conservation project in the Golan Heights. Local media in Lebanon reported that the suspicious bird was captured in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbail on 25 January.

"It would not be the first time residents of south Lebanon have found birds, including birds of prey, that serve Israel for research purposes," reports stated. The bird was returned to nature after it was not being used for espionage.

Haaretz newspaper reported the transmitter had been attached by staff at Tel Aviv University. Israel's Nature and Parks Authority has said the bird was recently released in an Israeli nature reserve. Conservationists are working to try to increase the local vulture population which is currently considered an extinction risk in the Middle East.

In 2013, Shia militant group Hezbollah captured an eagle with an Israeli tag and labelled it a spy, while a number of other animals in recent years have been accused of working for Mossad. They have included another vulture in Saudi Arabia and even a dolphin.