Photo: a poisoned golden eagle on a Scottish grouse moor

Thanks to the contributor who sent in these images. This dead eagle was found on a Scottish grouse moor in 2010. Tests showed it had been poisoned with a banned pesticide. Nobody has been charged.

It seems that unless the poisoner is actually seen placing the bait AND unless the eagle is actually seen eating from that bait (how unlikely is that?!) a prosecution will not be forthcoming. We know from experience that even with filmed evidence of illegal activities a prosecution is not guaranteed. This ludicrous situation sends a clear message to the poisoners: carry on, you are immune from prosecution.

Where’s the promised gov consultation on increasing SSPCA powers?

In light of recent events, showing continued evidence that some Scottish police forces are incapable of taking wildlife crime seriously, even though raptor persecution has been identified as a ‘national wildlife crime priority’, the time is right to once again call for additional investigative powers to be given to the SSPCA.

You may remember we’ve blogged about this before (see here and here for detailed background information), after the former Environment Minister, Stewart Stevenson MSP promised a consultation “in the first half of 2012” to consider this option and ask for the views of the various stakeholder groups. Although we already know that the SGA doesn’t support it (see here). It’s now the second half of 2012, so where is this consultation?

Perhaps we should give the new Environment Minister a nudge in the right direction, or at least ask him when we can expect this consultation to open. Email Paul Wheelhouse MSP directly at:

Photo: a Scottish gamekeeper’s illegal gin trap

Thanks to the contributor who sent in this photo and the following information:

Given the appalling news story about a golden eagle found with injuries from a leg-hold trap…here’s my photo of a freshly used gin trap and stake seized by the police and RSPB from a keeper in 2003. One of a bagful.

To my certain knowledge these traps, outlawed finally in Scotland in 1974 (20 years after England…seems it was ok to torture foxes legally up to that point), have been used (and are probably still being used) under a bait to trap golden eagles, wild cats and foxes..

The most likely trap to have been involved in the recent golden eagle case. Eagles are strong enough to rip one of these up and fly or hobble away…if stake isn’t well tied down. They can snap bailer twine (the usual attachment for Fenn/Springer pole traps) like it was thread”.

26 eagles, 6 years, 0 prosecutions

In April we wrote a blog called ’21 eagles, 6 years, 0 prosecutions’ (read it here). It’s now five months later and we thought we’d update it. It’s now called ’26 eagles, 6 years, 0 prosecutions’.

As we discussed before, some of these eagles are just ‘missing’ and may not be dead, although the frequency with which these sat-tagged eagles & harriers are going ‘missing’ is indicative of something more sinister, of that there’s no more doubt. It’s also reasonable to point out that there may be (probably will be) a hell of a lot of other eagles that we haven’t included in this list because we just don’t know about them. We only see the tip of a very very large iceberg, as is becoming clearer to everyone by the day.

So, here we go….

MAY 2006: A dead adult golden eagle was found on the Dinnet & Kinord Estate, near Ballater, Aberdeenshire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Grampian Police launched an investigation. Six years and 4 months later, nobody has been prosecuted.


JUNE 2006: A dead golden eagle was found on Glen Feshie Estate in the Cairngorms. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary launched an investigation. Six years and 3 months later, nobody has been prosecuted.



AUGUST 2007: A dead adult female golden eagle was found on an estate near Peebles in the Borders. She was half of the last known breeding pair of golden eagles in the region. Tests revealed she had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Lothian & Borders Police launched an investigation. Five years and 1 month later, nobody has been prosecuted.



AUTUMN 2007: Tayside Police received a detailed tip-off that a young male white-tailed eagle (known as ‘Bird N’) had allegedly been shot on an estate in Angus. The timing and location included in the tip-off coincided with the timing and location of the last-known radio signal of this bird. Five years later, the bird has not been seen again. With no body, an investigation isn’t possible.

MAY 2008: A one year old male white-tailed eagle hatched on Mull in 2007 and known as ‘White G’ was found dead on the Glenquoich Estate, Angus. Tests revealed he had been poisoned by an unusual concoction of pesticides that included Carbofuran, Bendiocarb and Isofenphos. A police search in the area also revealed a poisoned buzzard, a baited mountain hare and 32 pieces of poisoned venison baits placed on top of fenceposts on the neighbouring Glenogil Estate. Laboratory tests revealed the baited mountain hare and the 32 poisoned venison baits contained the same unusual concoction of highly toxic chemicals that had killed the white-tailed eagle, ‘White G’. Four years and 4 months later, nobody has been prosecuted.

JUNE 2009: An adult golden eagle was found dead at Glen Orchy, Argyll, close to the West Highland Way. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Strathclyde Police launched a multi-agency investigation. Three years and 3 months later, estate employee Tom McKellar pled guilty to possession of Carbofuran stored in premises at Auch Estate, Bridge of Orchy and he was fined £1,200. Nobody has been prosecuted for poisoning the golden eagle.

JULY 2009: A two year old female golden eagle known as ‘Alma’ was found dead on the Millden Estate, Angus. Tests revealed she had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Alma was a well-known eagle  – born on the Glen Feshie Estate in 2007, she was being satellite-tracked and her movements followed by the general public on the internet. Tayside Police launched an investigation. Three years and 2 months later, nobody has been prosecuted.

AUGUST 2009: A young white-tailed eagle was found dead on Glenogil Estate, Angus. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Tayside Police were criticized in the national press for not releasing a press statement about this incident until January 2010. Three years and 1 month later, nobody has been prosecuted.

MAY 2010: Three dead golden eagles were found on or close to Skibo Estate, Sutherland. Tests revealed they had been poisoned; two with Carbofuran and one with Aldicarb. Northern Constabulary launched a multi-agency investigation. One year later (May 2011), Sporting Manager Dean Barr pled guilty to possession of 10.5 kg of Carbofuran stored in premises at Skibo Estate. Two years and 4 months later, nobody has been prosecuted for poisoning the three golden eagles.

JUNE 2010: Leg rings with unique identification numbers that had previously been fitted to the legs of four young golden eagles in nests across Scotland were found in the possession of gamekeeper James Rolfe, during a multi-agency investigation into alleged raptor persecution at Moy Estate, near Inverness. It is not clear how he came to be in possession of the rings. The bodies of the eagles from which the rings had been removed were not found. No further action was taken in relation to the discovery.

JUNE 2010: A golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle were found dead on Farr Estate, Inverness-shire. Tests revealed they had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Northern Constabulary apparently did not search the property until July 2011. Two years and 3 months later, nobody has been prosecuted.


DECEMBER 2010: A decomposing carcass of a white-tailed eagle was found and photographed on Logie (Lochindorb) Estate, Morayshire. It was reported to Northern Constabulary. By the time the police arrived to collect it, the carcass had disappeared. The police said they couldn’t investigate further without the body.

MARCH 2011: The body of a young golden eagle was discovered on North Glenbuchat Estate, Aberdeenshire. Tests revealed it had been poisoned by the illegal pesticide, Carbofuran. Grampian Police launched an investigation and raided the property in May 2011. One year and 4 months later, we are not aware of any pending prosecutions.

APRIL 2011: The body of a white-tailed eagle was found at the base of cliffs on Skye. The person who discovered it (a professional medic) considered it to have been freshly shot with a rifle, decapitated with a sharp implement and thrown from the cliff top. He took photographs and alerted Northern Constabulary and RSPB. There was a delay of two weeks before the now probably decomposed carcass was collected. A post-mortem was inconclusive. This incident was not made public until one year later after a tip off to this blog. We are not aware of any pending prosecutions.

NOVEMBER 2011: The signal from a satellite-tracked young golden eagle (hatched in 2010) stopped functioning when she was at a location in the Monadhliaths, a well-known raptor persecution black spot in the Highlands. Her last known location was checked by researchers but there was no sign of the bird. Another technical malfunction of a satellite transmitter or another ‘disappearance’ in suspicious circumstances?

MARCH 2012: The body of a young golden eagle being tracked by satellite was discovered in Lochaber. Tests revealed it had been poisoned with the banned pesticides Aldicarb and Bendiocarb. Information about this incident was not made public until three months later. As far as we are aware nobody is being prosecuted for poisoning this bird.


MARCH 2012: The signal from a satellite-tracked young golden eagle (hatched in 2011) stopped functioning when the bird was in the eastern glens, a well-known raptor persecution blackspot. Another technical malfunction of a satellite transmitter or another ‘disappearance’ in suspicious circumstances?


MAY 2012: The dead body of a young satellite-tracked golden eagle (hatched in 2011) was discovered near a lay-by in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire. The data from its satellite tag & the injuries the bird had when found (2 broken legs) suggests it had been caught in an illegal trap in the Angus glens and then removed, under cover of darkness, to be dumped in another area where it was left to die, probably a slow and agonising death. Information on this incident is only released almost five months later, by the RSPB. It appears the police failed to properly investigate this incident as no search warrants were issued. As far as we are aware, nobody is being prosecuted for killing this bird.

MAY/JUNE 2012: The signal from a young satellite-tracked golden eagle stopped functioning when the bird was north-east of the Cairngorms National Park. Another technical malfunction of a satellite transmitter or another ‘disappearance’ in suspicious circumstances?


If reading this list has left you wondering how can this still be happening in 21st century Scotland, and questioning why it seems to be impossible to prosecute anyone for these killings even with what appears to be plenty of supporting evidence to back the cases, then you probably want to ‘do’ something about it. The best thing you can do, right now, is to email the new Scottish Environment Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP. Tell him that this scandalous situation has to stop once and for all and ask him how he intends to address the problem. Tell him you are sick of being asked to consider all possibilities to explain these dead or missing eagles except the most likely one. Tell him that the Scottish Government is in a position to bring in changes to stop this disgrace and that they haven’t already speaks volumes. Tell him enough is enough and you want to see ACTION. He probably agrees with all these sentiments already but it’s important that he hears it from us all directly. Think about the details of the slow and agonising death of that poor young golden eagle that we read of yesterday and make it’s death mean something.

why is it so difficult to investigate the illegal killing of a golden eagle?

Way back in June, we blogged about a golden eagle that had been found dead in suspicious circumstances in Grampian in May (see here). Four and a half months after the dead bird was found, a press release has now been issued by the RSPB which provides the sickening details of how this eagle is believed to have been destroyed (read it here, if you’ve got a strong stomach).

Yet again, as in so many other alleged persecution cases, there has been an unexplained and lengthy delay in releasing this information to the public. It should not take this long, especially for such a high-profile incident of such an appalling nature. Isn’t investigating wildlife crime a supposed ‘priority’ amongst Scottish police forces? That’s what we’re told! The reality still seems somewhat removed from that ideal, even after all this time and all these other cases with which to fine tune a response. Note that it’s the RSPB that has released this information today; not Tayside Police and not Grampian Police.

We’ve been given some interesting information about this incident. The press release states that this eagle’s satellite tag sent signals from “a hillside overlooking Glen Esk” and those data apparently suggested the eagle didn’t move from that precise spot over a 15-hour period, until it inexplicably moved, under cover of darkness, close to a layby 15 km north over the border into Grampian. Well, according to the grid reference provided by the sat tag, which may or may not be accurate because accuracy can be affected by a number of variables, this location is on Millden Estate. Millden Estate may be a familiar name to some as it was where a young sat-tagged golden eagle named ‘Alma’ was found poisoned in 2009 (see here). Nobody has ever been charged in connection with her death.

It appears the police trusted the accuracy of the sat tag data enough to pinpoint a location for an informal ‘search’ on Millden although the extent of this ‘search’ was apparently limited to the precise grid reference  from the sat tag. We understand that a search warrant was not requested to examine vehicles or the wider estate for potential evidence. Why not? It’s also worth noting that there are two other sporting estates in Glen Esk – were either of these also searched as part of this inquiry? If this eagle had been caught in an illegal spring trap in Glen Esk, as is being alluded to in the media, who’s to say on which estate the trap was located? (although that assumes the trap was un-anchored, which would be highly unusual). That’s where a wider search, especially of vehicles, might have come in useful.

So here we are again. YET ANOTHER eagle persecuted in Scotland and YET ANOTHER profoundly unsatisfactory response from those with a  statutory duty to investigate. How many more of these (e.g. see here for a long list of others) do we have to endure before we see a fundamental change in the way these offences are investigated and prosecuted?

UPDATE 25th September: If you would like to use your anger about this case in a positive way, please send an email to the new Scottish Environment Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, to tell him how you feel about this disgraceful crime: He already knows about the incident – he tweeted about it last night: @PaulWheelhouse “Absolutely appalling – disgusted with whoever did this“. What he might not know is the strength of feeling of the rest of us.

Langholm harrier disappeared already?

In August we blogged about the publicly-available maps showing the dispersal movements of the two satellite-tagged hen harriers from Langholm (see here). We also blogged about a map update earlier in September (see here).

Since then there’s been a further update (Weds 19th Sept) although mysteriously, the update (see here) only discusses the movements of the male harrier (Barry). There’s no mention whatsoever about his female sibling (Blae). Suspicious?

Time will tell. Although anyone going to the public hen harrier seminars at the Watson Bird Centre tomorrow (see here for programme) might just want to ask there.

Dear Diary…

Here’s a rare opportunity to look into the world of  the ‘modern’ gamekeeper. These are extracts taken from a Scottish gamekeeper’s diary. We were shown these diaries by someone from within the keepering world who wishes to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons. Worryingly, the diary-writer is still currently employed as a full-time gamekeeper. We’ve split the entries into different years – the following is from 2008. See how many wildlife crime offences you can spot:

Thurs 3rd January: set baits in Glen S & right hill

Sat 5th January: John P came for rabbits & Alpha

Weds 16th January: Gassed fox at Black Brae Lower

Fri 25th January: Eggs out on Top Moor + rabbit for crows by Big Wood

Fri 1st February: Lifted eggs Top M & set out at edge of Middle.

Tues 5th February: Shot dog Glen S.

Mon 11th February: Lifted eggs Top M. Shot kestrel.

Tues 19th February: Baits out at Harry’s, rabbits & hares

Thurs 21st February: Pick up gins from Glen side. Got female peregrine.

Fri 29th February: Done traps at S Corner and more eggs out. Saw pair peregrines at Millers.

Sat 1st March: baits out with Jim at Middle. Missed a cock harrier. Staked pigeon at Millers.

Sun 2nd March: Got peregrines at Millers. Eggs out on Broadfield.

Tues 4th March: Got 2 buzzards, 2 rooks + 9 crows. Rabbit out for others.

Fri 7th March: Got a vixen at T Moor. Put out birds by low fence.

Sun 9th March: Eggs at Glen side again.

Weds 12th March: Eggs up, tracks seen. Done baits at Gordon’s. Sheep shot for midden 3.

Thurs 13th March: Got buzzard at Becks. More rabbits out. Alpha.

Sat 15th March: Picked ups crows & eggs Langsmere. Saw 2 harriers.

Tues 18th March: Set eggs JB & baits southside.

Weds 19th March: Got a cat on Red moor.

Thurs 20th March: Got SE owl & set 59 eggs Lower bank.

Sat 22nd March: 1 harrier at Langsmere. Merlins at Merv’s.

Mon 24th March: Snares at Glen side. 26 foxes so far.

Tues 25th March: Missed harrier at Langsmere. Baited Broadfield again.

Thurs 27th March: Got a badger with John S. He heard gos behind Big Wood.

Fri 28th March: Lifted eggs Lower bank. More set at Harry’s.

Mon 31st March: Crow cages out Big Wood.

Wed 2nd April: Harrier trap empty.

Thurs 3rd April: Pair eagles seen southside.

Fri 4th April: Put eggs T Moor. Shot rabbits for baits.

Sun 6th April: Crow cages done. Eggs checked.

Weds 9th April: Baits out Glen side. Tom collected pigeons.

Fri 11th April: Got buzzards at JB.

Tues 15th April: Gos in crow cage. Gave it to PL.

Fri 18th April: Baited traps & re-did snares.

Tues 22nd April: Eggs & hares out in the Sloughs.

Sun 27th April: Eggs lifted Sloughs.

Fri 2nd May: Put out more baits.

Sat 3rd May: Pigeons staked upper side. Got tiercel.

Weds 7th May: Set eggs.

Thurs 15th May: Put baits out at Bothy.

Sat 17th May: 3 buzzards in crow cage. Re-set.

Thurs 22nd May: Two Peres at Glen side. Got one.

Weds 28th May: Eggs lifted more baits out. Rabbit gone at Bothy.

Mon 2nd June: Set pheasant eggs at Big Wood. Did crow traps.

Sun 8th June: Litter of foxes gassed behind GateBridge.

Fri 13th June: Partridges into pen.

Mon 23rd June: Put eggs out Broadfield.

Weds 2nd July: Gassed another litter with Paul at Stebb’s.

Fri 1st August: Got a short eared owl. Lifted eggs Broadfield.

Tues 5th August: Moved crow cages to RT.

Sun 10th August: Spar caught. Trap re-set.

Fri 12th Sept: 42 brace at Sam’s but harrier seen.

Fri 26th Sept: New snares out.

Thurs 2nd Oct: Two eagles seen Glen S. 1 buzzard in crow trap at T Moor.

Tues 7th Oct: Hare baits out Langsmere.

Thurs 16th Oct: Shot sheep for midden 3.

Mon 20th Oct: Pigeons 5pm

Weds 22nd Oct: Shot a kestrel at Sam’s.

Fri 31st Oct: Merlin pair done North Bothy.

Sat 8th Nov: 6 pigeons put out Big Wood.

Tues 25th Nov: Baits out with Paul.

Fri 19th Dec: Put grouse on T Moor.

Langholm harriers on the move

Very pleased to see regular updates are being made available to show us the movements of the 2012 sat-tagged Langholm harrier chicks. Well done Cat Barlow, the project officer at the Langholm Moorland Education Project, who is providing these updates on her blog, called ‘Making the Most of Moorlands’ (see here for latest maps).

The latest update (Sept 10th) reveals the male (Barry) has headed south while the female (Blae) has gone north. Things should start to get interesting now…

’36th buzzard found dead’ in persecution blackspot

Thanks to @EimearRooney1 for the following tweet:

36th buzzard found dead at Drumbanagher, Co. Armagh, this week. Coincidence? Unlikely. The PM will be interesting“.


Previous post about this area here.

UPDATE: Buzzard testing positive for Alphachloralose.