Archive for the '2018 persecution incidents' Category


“It can’t go on” – Mark Ruskell MSP speaks out against illegal raptor persecution

Press release from white-tailed eagle species champion Mark Ruskell MSP (19/4/18), following the recent suspicious disappearance of sea eagle Blue X in grouse moor dominated Glen Quaich, Perthshire:


Green MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife Mark Ruskell has branded Highland Perthshire a wildlife crime hotspot after a further disappearance of a White Tailed Eagle around the Glen Quaich area and called on the Scottish Government to finally act by bringing in a licensing regime for driven grouse shooting estates.

Raptor Persecution UK highlighted Perthshire North, as a hotspot for raptor disappearance. Six satellite-tagged eagles have disappeared in suspicious circumstances in what is a relatively small area. Green MSP Mark Ruskell called on the Scottish Government to face up to Perthshire’s shame and ensure those responsible for eagle disappearances face justice.

The individual eagle who recently vanished was named Blue X and was fledged in NE Fife. In his role as the Parliament’s White Tailed Eagle champion Mr. Ruskell last year visited the nest site where the bird fledged and spoke to volunteers who had spent hundreds of hours guarding the site from wildlife criminals. Mr. Ruskell also sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee which last year agreed that a licensing regime for driven grouse moor estates should be put in place.

Mark Ruskell said: “Highland Perthshire is renowned for the beauty of the landscape and phenomenal wildlife, but this latest incident brings shame to the area. It’s quite clear from the satellite tags that these birds are disappearing around driven grouse moors. Some disreputable estates and gamekeepers have a bizarre Victorian attitude that wildlife should be exterminated, despite wildlife tourism bringing millions into the Scottish economy. Driven grouse estates in particular are attempting to deliver unsustainable levels of grouse populations which lead them to cull mountain hares for example.

It can’t go on; the Scottish Government is prevaricating over the setting up of a licensing scheme for driven grouse moor estates that would separate the good from the bad. Wildlife crime is notoriously difficult for the Police to track down and there is a wall of silence in communities, no-one wants to call out the illegal actions.

I’m particularly gutted to see this bird disappear, volunteers had spent months on end guarding its nest site in Fife and I even saw the bird myself from afar last year.


Well done, Mark, and thank you.

UPDATE 21 April 2018: Green MSP angers gamekeepers over missing bird of prey (article in The National, here)


Why shooting estates should fear eagle disappearances

An interesting and insightful Leader Comment in today’s Scotsman: (whoever wrote this, well done!) –

As the RSPB Scotland points out, the disappearance of a fourth satellite-tracked eagle in a part of Perthshire that’s home to several shooting estates over four years is “highly suspicious”.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association complains its members are the “first to be accused when any bird of prey goes missing”, but the illegal killing of raptors undoubtedly happens, as a 2016 report on red kites by Scottish Natural Heritage found, and few others have a motivation. Each case is a further challenge to the rule of law that will eventually force parliament to react.

And that could lead to the licensing of shooting estates – with the threat of licences being revoked over killings of birds of prey – or a strict liability offence so that a landowner would be found responsible for the unnatural death of any raptor on their land.

Both are measures that estates would – and should – fear.

The sooner the shooting community realises that the death of a sea eagle represents a greater threat to their business than a live bird, the better the chances will be of protecting these magnificent creatures.


Deputy First Minister’s constituency a hotspot for ‘disappearing’ sat-tagged eagles

Following the recent news that satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘Blue X’ has ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in the grouse moor dominated Glen Quaich, Perthshire, we’ve taken a closer look at this area.

It was one of the areas identified as a hotspot for ‘disappearing’ satellite-tagged golden eagles in last year’s expert review of Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Data, with a cluster of five golden eagles vanishing without trace in recent years:

It turns out that this area sits within the constituency boundary of North Perthshire, held by John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education:

Another star now needs to be added to this map, representing the last known position of white-tailed eagle ‘Blue X’, although unlike the missing golden eagles we don’t know the precise location of her last known fix, other than it being in Glen Quaich.

That’s six satellite-tagged eagles that have vanished in suspicious circumstances in a small area of John Swinney’s Perthshire North constituency.

We have no idea of John Swinney’s views on illegal raptor persecution and its undisputed link to driven grouse moor management but as a respectable, law-abiding member of society we’d expect him to be as outraged as the rest of us.

What’s different about John Swinney is that he’s a senior member of the Scottish Government and so he’s in a much stronger position than the rest of us to push the Government in to action.

We haven’t seen any commentary from John about the suspicious disappearance of sea eagle ‘Blue X’ in his constituency and it may be that as a busy senior politician it has escaped his attention.

If you are one of John Swinney’s local constituents and you want to know what he thinks, and more importantly what he intends to do about these missing eagles, please drop him an email:

If you are not a constituent but would still like to bring this issue to his attention, and register your disgust that such blatant lawlessness is apparently allowed to continue without sanction, please use this email address and mark it for the attention of John Swinney:

UPDATE 4pm: John Swinney has responded on Twitter as follows:

Photo of missing sea eagle ‘Blue X’, by RSPB Scotland.

UPDATE 20 April 2018: “It can’t go on” – Mark Ruskell MSP speaks out against illegal raptor persecution (here)


Pointless search for missing sea eagle ‘Blue X’

Yesterday’s police search for missing satellite-tagged sea eagle ‘Blue X’ was a complete waste of time.

Why? Because Police Scotland invited some gamekeepers (also known as potential suspects) to join the search. Since when has inviting potential suspects to help search for potential evidence of a potential crime been a good idea?

[Photo of white-tailed eagle Blue X, by RSPB Scotland]

Some might think that calling gamekeepers ‘potential suspects’ is a bit harsh, but we’d disagree, and here’s why:

Blue X’s satellite tag had been working perfectly since it was deployed last summer. Suddenly, and inexplicably, it stopped working last month when Blue X was visiting the grouse moor-dominated Glen Quaich, in Perthshire. Had this been the first tagged eagle to ‘disappear’ on a grouse moor in Scotland, then sure, it might be reasonable to assume it was just a rare faulty tag and that nothing untoward had happened to this eagle. But Blue X wasn’t the first sat-tagged eagle to disappear in such circumstances – she is one of over 40 tagged eagles to have mysteriously vanished in recent years, the majority of them on or close to a driven grouse moor. Oh, and Blue X  just happened to vanish in an area where three other sat-tagged eagles had also disappeared. Clearly, Blue X’s disappearance was highly suspicious.

[Red stars indicate last known fixes of sat-tagged golden eagles, orange circle denotes area where Blue X vanished; data from Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review]:

The government-commissioned analysis of where these eagles have been disappearing (mostly on or near to driven grouse moors) was so unequivocally damning that in response to the report, the Scottish Government urgently convened a special panel to review grouse moor management practices with a view to introducing sanctions for those who continue to defy the law. It was the Government’s view (and the view of every other intelligent observer) that some grouse moor gamekeepers were under reasonable suspicion of involvement with the disappearance of these eagles, and thus its reasonable to refer to them collectively as ‘potential suspects’. [NB: this does not imply any level of guilt on any individual; for that, we’d need to see a criminal conviction and as yet there hasn’t been a single successful prosecution for the illegal killing of an eagle in Scotland. Ever.]

You’d think, then, given this bigger picture of eagles routinely disappearing in suspicious circumstances on or near grouse moors, that Police Scotland, on learning of Blue X’s disappearance, would follow the protocol as devised by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) to treat this disappearance as suspicious and NOT alert the landowner(s) or their employees prior to any search:

So what did Police Scotland do? Ignored the PAW protocol, notified the potential suspects several weeks ago that a tagged eagle had ‘disappeared’ in the area (thus allowing any potential suspect to hide any potential evidence of a crime) and then invited the potential suspects to ‘help’ on the search several weeks later when the snow had melted. Genius.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Scottish Gamekeeepers Association issued a press release yesterday, while the search was underway (so against PAW protocol), telling the world that a search was taking place. This information was leaked on Twitter by some half wit, thus allowing any other potential suspect in the area the chance to remove any potentially incriminating evidence.

Is there any wonder there has never been a successful prosecution for the illegal killing of an eagle in Scotland?

Politicians need to be asking some serious questions about this farcical and pointless investigation.

UPDATE 19 April 2018: Deputy First Minister’s constituency a hotspot for ‘disappearing’ sat-tagged eagles (here)


Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘disappears’ in grouse moor blackspot in Perthshire

Press release from RSPB Scotland (17/4/18):


Another satellite tagged eagle has disappeared in highly suspicious circumstances. RSPB Scotland has today (17th April 2018) been assisting Police Scotland in the search for the white tailed eagle in the Glen Quaich area of Perthshire.

Photo of White-tailed eagle ‘Blue X’, by RSPB Scotland

[RPUK map. Red stars indicate last known fixes of satellite-tagged golden eagles that have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances. Orange circle indicates area of interest. Data from the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, published last year]:

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland said: “This is the fourth satellite tagged eagle (three golden eagles and now one white-tailed eagle) to disappear in highly suspicious circumstances in this very area since 2014. This location around Glen Quaich is dominated by driven grouse moor estates, and has been highlighted previously as a ‘black hole’ for wildlife crime against raptors”.

[Google map of Glen Quaich, surrounded by driven grouse moors]

Duncan continues: “A report published by the Scottish Government last May, prompted by the regular disappearance of satellite-tagged eagles, provided unequivocal evidence that the sudden disappearance of these birds when reliable tags suddenly stop transmitting is highly suspicious.

This is the third of five white-tailed eagle chicks to have fledged from the first successful nest in East Scotland –  the product of a Scottish Government-sponsored reintroduction project – to have disappeared in such circumstances, suggesting it has also been illegally killed.

We call on the Scottish Government to introduce a robust licencing system for driven grouse shooting with sanctions for removal of licences where criminal patterns of behaviour are established to the satisfaction of the authorities. Those that obey the law and conduct their operations within it have nothing to fear from such a regulatory framework.


Eagle Blue X was the 5th chick to fledge from the well known Fife pair. Only one is still alive: one died after landing on power lines (and was recovered for post mortem) and two others disappeared under suspicious circumstances. This is a very high attrition rate for the most important generation in the reintroduction project.

In 2017, 21 volunteers gave up a total of 815 hours to watch the Fife nest and make sure the breeding attempt was successful. They stopped a photographer from continuing to disturb the incubating female and undoubtedly saved the eggs from chilling.

Blue X hatched in 2017 and she was ‘gone’ by March 2018.

Here she is in the nest as a chick (photo RSPB Scotland). All that effort, for nothing.

For how long do you think the Scottish Government will tolerate this blatant criminality that brings shame and embarrassment to the decent, law-abiding citizens of Scotland?

They’ll tolerate it for as long as we allow them to.

Please, consider writing to Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, who undoubtedly will be as appalled as we all are about this ongoing, out of control lawlessness, and ask her to act. Emails to: 

UPDATE 18 April 2018: Pointless search for missing sea eagle ‘Blue X’ (here)

UPDATE 19 April 2018: Deputy First Minister’s constituency a hotspot for ‘disappearing’ sat-tagged eagles (here)

UPDATE 20 April 2018: “It can’t go on – Mark Ruskell MSP speaks out against illegal raptor persecution (here)


Buzzard found shot dead at Leadhills, south Scotland

From the Carluke Gazette (13/4/18):


Police Scotland officers at Lanark are seeking the public’s help as they investigate the shooting of a bird of prey.

A deceased buzzard was found near to Station Road in Leadhills. Examination of the bird showed that it had likely been shot, had managed to recover, before then being shot a second time and killed.

Officers are seeking witnesses to any shooting activity which is suspicious.

Those with information on the dead bird are urged to contact police on 101, or Crimestoppers on 0800-55511, quoting incident number 0571 of 03/04/18.


There is no information about when this buzzard was found dead although a local source advises it was earlier this year.

Here is a photo of Station Road, surrounded on either side by the grouse moors of Leadhills Estate:

Here is the position of Leadhills Estate (and the neighbouring Buccleuch Estate boundary in red dashes) in south Scotland. [Boundary details from Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website]. It’s in close proximity to the Moffat Hills, the proposed release site for the South Scotland Golden Eagle Project, due to begin later this year.

Leadhills is a notorious raptor persecution hotspot, with over 50 confirmed crimes recorded in the area since 2003. Only two of these have ever resulted in a successful prosecution (gamekeeper convicted in 2004 for shooting a short-eared owl; gamekeeper convicted in 2009 for laying out a poisoned bait).

Last year, witnesses reported the alleged shooting of a hen harrier on Leadhills Estate (here) and the alleged shooting of a short-eared owl (here). We’re not aware of any pending prosecutions in relation to these incidents.

We have been waiting to see whether SNH would impose a General Licence restriction but so far SNH has refused to comment, saying it’s not in the public interest to explain these decisions.


Injured buzzard rescued from trap, rehabbed & released back to the wild

Great partnership working by North Yorkshire Police, RSPCA and Jean Thorpe (Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre) resulted in an injured buzzard being released from a trap, rehabilitated and then released back to the wild.

There’s no information about the type of trap, whether it was illegally-set, or the extent of the buzzard’s injuries, but still a job well done by all concerned.

Read the full press release and watch the video of the buzzard’s release on North Yorkshire Police website here

Police Wildlife Crime Officer Jez Walmsley prepares to release the buzzard (photo by Jean Thorpe)

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