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: email@example.com 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.