‘Vaporised’ golden eagles


The author and golden eagle 'Alma' found poisoned on Millden Estate, Angus, in 2009.

The author and golden eagle ‘Alma’ found poisoned on Millden Estate, Angus, in 2009.

Poisoned white-tailed eagle 'White G' recovered by the author in 2008 near to poisoned baits on Glenogil Estate boundary fence, Angus

Poisoned white-tailed eagle ‘White G’ recovered by the author in 2008 near to poisoned baits on Glenogil Estate boundary fence, Angus

It is crushingly disappointing and frustrating news that yet another satellite-tagged golden eagle has disappeared in the Monadhliaths. In less than five years eight satellite-tagged golden eagles have disappeared, all in this grouse moor area. As I’ve said in an earlier blog on missing satellite-tagged hen harriers these devices are reliable and the chance of them all suddenly failing after working perfectly normally is a coincidence that even the most naïve amongst us would not accept.

The latest bird, named Brodie, was two years old and vanished last month. I assume the procedure would still be for the RSPB to discuss the disappearance with Police Scotland and get the green light to attempt to find the bird somewhere near its last known location. In this case there may have been no ground search; more likely a search in the area to attempt to track a signal. Until the search is concluded the fact that the bird is missing in a particular area is unlikely to be made public.

Gamekeepers maintain that golden eagles are not a problem, yet I was told by a former head keeper that an eagle flew over a grouse drive one day and was seen by the landowner, who told him it better not be there on the next shooting day. Eight golden eagles known to be missing in an area of grouse moors, together with a further golden eagle found poisoned in the same area in 2010 tend to confirm that golden eagles are still being eliminated.

I was pleased to see that Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish environment secretary, has ordered a review, stating “I have instructed officials to analyse the evidence from around 90 surviving and missing satellite-tagged eagles, to discover if there is a pattern of suspicious activity.

“Grouse moor management does help species such as curlew and golden plover as well as generating much needed rural employment and income but this cannot be at any price.

“The public rightly expects all businesses in Scotland to obey the law. Let me be clear: grouse shooting is no exception.

“As previously stated, the Scottish Government is prepared to introduce further regulation of shooting businesses if necessary. It will be unfortunate if the activities of a few bring further regulation on the whole sector, but that is the risk those who defy the law and defy public opinion are running.”

The review cannot have any other outcome but to indicate highly suspicious activity. Hopefully it will be conducted in double-quick time as the list of poisoned, shot, trapped and vaporised golden eagles is growing ever longer. Given the current climate of understandable distrust of driven grouse moors, the now over 85,000 signatories to the petition to ban driven grouse shooting and the latest petition to license game shooting we may at last see some meaningful ‘further regulation.’ As I have said many times, despite often lengthy investigations by wildlife crime officers, the only solution lies outside the current wildlife legislation.

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