Posts Tagged ‘golden eagle


Golden eagle with trap dangling from its leg: statement from Environment Cabinet Secretary

In August Police Scotland published a photograph of a young golden eagle that had been seen flying in the Cairngorms National Park with an illegally-set trap clamped to one of its legs.

This photograph, along with the Police’s appeal for information, went viral and was reported on news channels around the world (e.g. here), highlighting Scotland’s shameful record of illegal raptor persecution.

There’s been no further update on the fate of this eagle. Undoubtedly it’ll be dead and if it had been found by anyone associated with the criminal element of the game-shooting industry the corpse and trap will be long gone….nothing to see, deny, deny, deny, it was all a set up, fake news, it never happened, etc etc.

Meanwhile, those who aren’t fooled by the propaganda and know exactly what goes on on game shooting estates have been asking pertinent questions.

Step up Colin Beattie MSP (SNP: Midlothian North & Musselburgh) who lodged the following written question on 2 September 2019:

Question S5W-25069 – 

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of reports of a golden eagle found with an illegal trap on its legs, what action it is taking to protect wild birds as a matter of urgency ahead of the publication of the findings of the Grouse Moor Management Group (the Werritty report).

A brilliant question. Forget ‘waiting for Werritty‘ which has been the Scottish Government’s default response to every single raptor persecution crime since May 2017, Colin wants to know what action is being taken NOW.

The Government’s response came from Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham on 12 Sept, as follows:

The Scottish Government is strongly committed to safeguarding the welfare of all animals, including wild birds such as raptors.

The illegal persecution of our birds of prey is an extremely serious issue and, as we announced in our Programme for Government for 2019-2020, we will bring forward a Bill increasing the maximum penalties for certain wildlife offences, including those associated with illegal killing or injuring of wild birds. This will deliver a commitment to implement the recommendation to increase wildlife crime penalties in the review undertaken by Professor Poustie.

We also committed in the Programme for Government that we will respond to the independent review on grouse moor management. The review is examining how we can ensure that grouse moor management is sustainable and complies with the law and it would not be appropriate to make decisions in advance of its report. We will carefully consider the recommendations in the report and other relevant evidence when deciding our response.

The measures on wildlife crime penalties build upon a range of other work we have undertaken to tackle this issue, including: supporting the use of satellite tags to monitor birds of prey; introducing new offences for harassing birds of prey or damaging their nesting places; setting up a poisons disposal scheme to remove poisons used to kill wild birds; strengthening Police Scotland wildlife crime resources, including in the Cairngorms; and introducing vicarious liability so that landowners can be held responsible for crimes against wild birds committed by their employees.

Roseanna’s response carefully avoids answering Colin’s question directly. Colin asked what Scot Gov was doing ‘as a matter of urgency ahead of the publication of the Werritty report’. Roseanna’s response confirms, in effect, that Scot Gov is doing absolutely nothing at all in advance of the Werritty report.


And guess what? We’re still waiting for Werritty, despite being told by Scot Gov at the end of July that the report was due ‘in the next few weeks’. What an embarrassing fiasco it has become.

Whoever wrote Roseanna’s response was surely having a laugh, judging by the last paragraph. Yes, Scot Gov has introduced new offences for harassing birds of prey or damaging their nesting places but as far as we’re aware, there have been no prosecutions for these offences even though there have been a number of reports of raptor nests being deliberately burned out on grouse moors.

And yes, Scot Gov set up a poisons disposal scheme (two, in fact) to remove poisons used to kill wild birds and yet still we’re seeing raptors being illegally poisoned and still gamekeepers are being found guilty of possessing these illegal poisons.

And yes, Scot Gov did support a pilot scheme for a number of police special constables (essentially volunteers working in their own time) in the Cairngorms National Park but there has been no (public) assessment of the scheme’s impact and raptor persecution crimes were still reported in the National Park during the scheme’s duration.

And yes, Scot Gov did introduce vicarious liability so that landowners could be held responsible for crimes against wild birds committed by their employees but so far this has only resulted in two successful convictions in 7.5 years and only last month yet another landowner avoided any charges of alleged vicarious liability and the Crown Office chose not to explain this decision to the public.



Raising awareness of eagle persecution at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Many thanks to multi-award-winning author Gill Lewis for inviting us to share the stage with her at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival to raise awareness about eagle persecution on Scottish grouse moors.

Gill was there to present on a couple of her new books, including Eagle Warrior, which was inspired by the suspicious disappearance of golden eagle Fred in the Pentland Hills in 2018. She generously shared an hour-long slot so the audience could hear not just just about her book but also about the long-term killing of golden eagles on driven grouse moors and the Scottish Government’s apparent reluctance to do anything much about it.

[Photo by Olivia Robertson]

[Photo by Olivia Robertson]

Thanks also to Kirsten Lamb of publishers Barrington Stoke who turned up to the event with a big pile of postcards, pre-addressed to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, allowing audience participants to draw pictures of eagles and write a personal message to Ms Sturgeon urging her to take action.

We ended up with 42 postcards, some created by children as young as five years old and others created by a Professor and Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh! It was brilliant to meet nine-year-old Freddie (now ten!) who’d previously drawn a postcard and had managed to get a response out of Ms Sturgeon, which is more than the rest of us had managed. Here are some of the cards drawn at the Festival:

At the end of the session a few of us decided to walk across the road to Bute House to hand deliver the cards but we were told at the door that we’d need to post them. The cards are all now individually stamped so hopefully someone in the First Minister’s office will make sure they land on the right desk. Perhaps Golden Eagle Species Champion Andy Wightman MSP should call in to her office and ask to see the cards and could put them on display somewhere at Holyrood, along with all the other cards that have been sent in in recent months.

Thanks again to Gill, Jane Sandell (Chair), Kirsten Lamb and everyone at the Book Festival who made us so welcome. Thanks also to the fantastically engaged audience who responded with such energy and purpose. We’re aware that some audience members were intent on taking cards back to their schools to encourage further participation.


Eagle persecution to be highlighted at Edinburgh International Book Festival

The illegal killing of eagles on Scottish grouse moors will reach a new audience on Friday when its highlighted in an hour-long session at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Multi-award-winning children’s author Gill Lewis will be featuring her latest book, Eagle Warrior, which was inspired by the suspicious disappearance of satellite-tagged golden eagle Fred in January 2018.

You can learn more about Gill in this fascinating recent podcast with Charlie Moores here

Gill will be joined on stage by raptor conservationist and RPUK blogger Ruth Tingay, who’ll place Fred’s suspicious disappearance in to context with all the other eagles that have either been found shot, trapped or poisoned on grouse moors in Scotland, or have ‘vanished’ on those moors without a trace, despite wearing the most advanced satellite trackers available.

Ruth and Gill be on stage in the Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre at 15.45hrs.

This event will also provide an excellent opportunity to hand out some more postcards, featuring a golden eagle photographed by Chris Packham, encouraging festival-goers to sign the petition to ban driven grouse shooting, currently at 73,470 signatures (100,000 needed).

Incidentally, if anyone would like one of these postcards to show to friends, family, work colleagues etc to encourage them to sign the petition, (just use the camera on your smartphone to scan the QR code & the link to the petition will appear), Wild Justice can send you one. Please follow the instructions here.


Wild Justice launches new petition to ban driven grouse shooting

Just in case anyone has missed this, yesterday Wild Justice (Mark Avery, Chris Packham & Ruth Tingay) launched a new petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting.

The petition was actually submitted six weeks ago but strange goings on at Westminster led to it being inexplicably delayed. By sheer coincidence, it went live yesterday afternoon at the same time as distressing news was emerging about a young golden eagle that had been photographed flying around Deeside in the Cairngorms National Park with an illegal trap clamped to its leg.

This is probably the fifth (I think) petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting – Mark Avery has previously raised three, then Gavin Gamble raised another one. This time though, it seems to have struck a chord with the British public. In just 24hrs of going live, the petition has received an incredible 27,000 signatures. People are clearly very very angry.

The speed with which people are signing this petition is sending a strong message all of its own:

We’ve had enough.

If you’d like to support it, please SIGN HERE and then share the petition with others.

Thank you


Young golden eagle flying around Cairngorms National Park with an illegal trap clamped to its leg

This is beyond what is tolerable.

Police Scotland have issued the following statement this evening:

Appeal to trace golden eagle in Aberdeenshire

Officers are appealing for information to help locate a Golden eagle which was seen flying in the Crathie area of Deeside with what appears to be a trap attached to its leg.

Concerns were raised about the first-year eagle on Thursday August 8, 2019, by a tourist and there are serious concerns for the bird’s welfare.  Enquiries are ongoing in conjunction with our partner agencies including the RSPB.

Sergeant Kim Wood said: “We would encourage anyone who has information which could help to locate this eagle to contact the Police on 101 or another relevant authority as soon as possible.”


This is an area where illegally-set spring traps were found on a driven grouse moor in 2016 (here). There was no prosecution (see here).

The photograph of this eagle has re-ignited a fury that’s been gathering strength for several months.

It began with the suspicious disappearance of two of our satellite-tagged golden eagles, Adam and Charlie, who vanished on the same April morning, on the same grouse moor, within a few hours of one another.

A short time later we learned that an RSPB-satellite-tagged hen harrier had been found dead on a nearby grouse moor with its leg gripped by an illegal trap.

A few weeks later we learned of another hen harrier caught in an illegally-set spring trap. This time it was a breeding male and the trap had been set by his nest. He was still alive when raptor workers found him but in great distress. His trapped leg was almost severed. A specialist wildlife vet from the SSPCA did his very best to save this bird, but unfortunately the harrier’s injuries were just too severe and he didn’t make it. A second trap was found actually in the harrier’s nest, placed next to two eggs. There was no sign of the breeding female.

The Scottish Government’s response to these horrendous crimes? Absolute silence for weeks, and then acting under huge public pressure, a pathetic statement that said ‘We’ve got to wait for the Werritty Review‘ – that’s the report on grouse moor management that we’ve been waiting for since May 2017.

And now this. A young golden eagle flying around with an illegal trap clamped to its leg. It’s quite likely this eagle is already dead.

I’m sorry, Nicola Sturgeon, Roseanna Cunningham and Mairi Gougeon, as much as I admire you as strong, intelligent female politicians, I am no longer prepared to make excuses for you. It is your collective failure to act decisively that has led to these continuing atrocities.

If any blog readers share this sense of fury and exasperation, now is the time to act. Here are two things you can do:

  1. Send an email to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and let her know, clearly but politely, that as the leader of the Scottish Government she needs to step up, show some leadership and take immediate action. Please send your emails to:
  2. Sign this new petition (launched tonight by Wild Justice) calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting – see here.

Thank you


Disaster hits South Scotland Golden Eagle Release Project

The South Scotland Golden Eagle Project has been hit by disaster in an unprecedented set of circumstances.

This is a project to translocate golden eagles from the Scottish Highlands and release them in south Scotland in an attempt to boost the remnant sub-population in the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway. The first three birds were released in 2018 and all have survived so far.

However, this year’s cohort of translocated eagles (three of them) were released in the last week and now one of them is dead, one of them is injured (but recaptured) and one of them is ‘missing’.

The project team believe that one of last year’s birds, a large female called ‘Beaky’, has been the source of the problem. She is known to have been 10 miles away from the release site when this year’s birds were released, and despite not having visited the project’s food dumps for months, she suddenly made a bee-line there and began to display dominant behaviour towards this year’s three (smaller) males. The males responded by cowering in nearby undergrowth and not visiting the food dumps.

One of the eagles has since been found dead and is currently undergoing a post mortem to find out the cause of death. It’s believed he had injuries but it’s not clear whether those injuries were the cause of death or whether he starved to death.

[This is the eagle that is believed to have died. Photo by South Scotland Golden Eagle Project]

A second eagle has been recaptured and is undergoing treatment. The project team has yet to decide the next course of action but if this eagle is to be released it’s probably safe to say it’ll be released at a different site.

The third eagle is apparently ‘missing’, although it is fitted with a satellite tag.

This situation is devastating for the project team (and for all those who helped source the eagles from the Highlands) and to be fair to them, it’s not something that could ever have been predicted. Adult eagles are well known for territorial disputes and these can sometimes result in death, but it’s exceptional for such a young bird (Beaky – one year old) to display such aggressive territorial behaviour that results in death. It’s virtually unheard of.

The future of the project will be under serious scrutiny as a result of this week’s events – it may be that a new release site has to be found – but that’s for another day. At the moment the priority is to rehabilitate the injured eagle and to locate the ‘missing’ eagle. Hopefully the project team is seeking expert help from those with experience of searching for ‘missing’ sat tagged raptors.


First Minister finally writes to 9 year old boy about golden eagle persecution

At the beginning of July the news emerged that two satellite-tagged golden eagles, named Adam and Charlie, had vanished from the same grouse moor, on the same morning, in highly suspicious circumstances (see here).

In response to this news, and prompted by children’s author Gill Lewis, quite a number of people drew pictures of golden eagles and sent them to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, urging her to finally take action against the grouse shooting industry. One of those people was a nine-year-old boy called Freddie Blackman, who drew this fantastic picture:

After almost a month of silence from the First Minister, not just about these suspiciously ‘missing’ eagles but also about a ‘missing’ hen harrier and two other hen harriers (here & here) that were found on grouse moors with illegal spring traps gripping their legs, Nicola Sturgeon has now finally responded to Freddie with this letter:

Nine-year-old Freddie seems a pretty savvy young man and is unlikely to be impressed with The First Minister’s suggestion that she doesn’t yet know why golden eagles and other raptors are ‘going missing or being hurt’ but that she’s waiting for a report from a ‘special group of people’ (Prof Werritty et al) to find out!

He’ll also be pretty unimpressed if he checks out the SNH website, as Ms Sturgeon suggests, to find out ‘what we are doing to protect wildlife in Scotland’. Er, here’s what you’re doing, Nicola – thinking about putting ravens on the General Licence so that gamekeepers and farmers can slaughter as many as they like, when they like, without any level of accountability whatsoever.

Freddie wasn’t the only one who wrote to the First Minister urging action against the grouse shooting industry. Andy Wightman MSP, the Scottish Parliament’s Golden Eagle Species Champion also wrote to Ms Sturgeon following the disappearance of Adam & Charlie. He told her it was ‘long past time for reviews and inquiries’ and he asked for some very specific action:

  1. Provide clear leadership in condemning these organised crimes;
  2. Commit to legislate to ban or to regulate driven grouse-shooting;
  3. Meet with me and others concerned with raptor conservation to discuss how your Government can take further action to eradicate wildlife crimes;
  4. Invite the Justice Secretary to convene a high-level task force of law enforcement officials to step up prevention and detection of wildlife crime and improve the admissibility of evidence in court.

The First Minister’s response to Andy’s letter? To ignore his specific requests for action and to delegate back to Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham who simply regurgitated the standard response that’s been sent to all those who wrote to the Scottish Government about the ongoing persecution of raptors on Scottish grouse moors:

Without a shadow of doubt, the Scottish Government’s continued procrastination about dealing with the criminals within the grouse shooting industry will be high up on the agenda of many of us attending the Revive conference today.

Watch this space……

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