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. ministerforenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

16 thoughts on “26 eagles, 6 years, 0 prosecutions”

  1. Well things can only get worse….Stephen House….the Strathclyde police boss who has run down the role of wildlife crime officers in his patch…is going to be in charge of the new national force….

  2. Yes…………………..e-mail the new Environment Minister “a professional economist and, since 1992, has specialised in higher and further education markets, policy evaluation and economic appraisal and impact assessment of capital projects” and a fat lot of good that’ll do. As a previous “environment minister” wrote to me once the “sporting (game birds) industry contributes significantly to rural enployment and to the Scottish economy in general” I can’t help but feel a professional economist would share this view – so no change there then?
    Neither of these two incumbants has, or had, the slightest qualification for this post other than membership of the SNP and has not the slightest in the environment outside of the chamber – as I said before – Buggins turn next.
    Why bother………………..do you really think he gives a tinker’s cuss?


    1. I have written to the Scottish Environment Minister about these Eagles and wildlife crime in general. Like you Pip, I don’t hold out much hope, however, the more of us voters who make our points known, the more likely there may be some possitive results.

  3. I’m getting sick of the employment and economic benefits argument. If that’s truly the case, then why not legalise the entire drug trade? It would provide many jobs in the manufacturing, delivery and sales of the products and at the same time reduce crime levels significantly. It could get this country out of the economic mess it is in and free up police time, allowing officers to concentrate on real crimes instead of the petty street crimes such as minor drugs possession.

    1. We do – it’s called the legal tobacco and drinks trade. The other drugs trade tends to be illegal and thus run by criminals which usually goes into the authorities “too difficult” basket – a bit like wildlife crime really. Personally I would make all illegal drugs – soft or hard – freely avaliable to those with an addictive personality, who would then quickly remove themselves from the gene pool = sorry, off topic.


      1. I was inferring to the illegal drugs trade. I agree, people will take drugs regardless of the legal status, so I do believe the government should take it out of criminal hands, legalise it all and benefit from the revenue and at the same time the job creation aspect would benefit the many millions of unemployed. Many of the illegal drugs are no worse than alcohol or tobacco, so I don’t see why it can’t be achieved. That’s my final say on this off-topic element.

  4. The species makes no difference to the investigation, it’s the crime that presents the difficulty. Where is the police ,NWCU, PAW and SNH in this equation?

    How long do we continue to go on knowing that something is wrong but do nothing to fix it.

    I do note police are launching operations to combat hare coursing, deer and salmon poaching. Whilst I do not argue that these crimes merit investigation, just exactly whose interests are being protected………..landowners.

    According to the forestry commission, deer numbers are at record highs and SGA report the same for this years salmon catches.

    I can therefore presume these operations have not come about by chance, someone has sufficient leverage to get police to act in these areas.
    Wonder who these people are and why they dont use their influence to direct the police to have raptor persecution operations………..work it out for yourself.

    If Scotland is truly serious about protecting its natural heritage then lets look at how we can improve the chances of investigating this type of crime.

    SSPCA seem to be able to get better results, ask yourself why?

    As the sad tally of dead eagles increases why are we surprised. It is clear that the illegal persecution of predatory birds and mammals is occurring throughout Scotland on an industrial scale in order to protect sporting interests.

    These crimes are primitive, vulgar and anti social lets make sure we report suspected crimes to the RELEVANT authorities……………!

    Well done Raptor Persecution Scotland for continuing to highlight these issues ,give some thought to setting up a ‘keeperleaks’!!

  5. I hope you appreciate that the majority of these cases are simply undetectable…

    From a police investigation point of view. Lets relate it to criminal damage.

    I car gets its near side scratched. In the night, no witness’s, no CCTV… Aggrieved calls the police. States that person over the road is bound to have done it because they had an argument the night before. It will be recorded as a crime but not investigated… There are no viable lines of enquiry. Not even from the person that the aggrieved suspects has done it.

    A Golden eagle gets poisoned… No CCTV, no witness’s. forensics show that a poison has been used…. Big deal, obvious in most cases. The one aspect that will certainly always be lacking is the witness seeing the person lay the bait in the location. And being able to identify that person. That is ESSENTIAL…

    Now information from certain persons may give police enough grounds to obtain a warrant. They find the poison used at that location. You cannot always link that poison to the poison used on the eagle as the poison could have come from anyone/anywhere. The person admits to the possession of the poison. They are charged, cautioned, whatever… The best result you could hope for…

    I completely appreciate the frustrations shown, and obviously don’t know the ins and outs of all the investigations but the majority seem to show ‘bird poisoned, no prosecution’. That’s because there is no physical evidence. I know it’s frustrating, I have to investigate it!

    There are mentions on here and other stories where it is suspected that the information has been withheld by police and other NGO. In my experience it is necessary in certain cases to do this to not compromise the investigation and the outcome you want. But, in others like the above undetectable cases. It is a valid option to release the news and use the press in order to alert the public, sometimes for their safety and other times in an attempt to gain more information. I very much doubt that it is intentional. Certainly not from my experience in my role and that includes working with RPSB and NWCU.

    I’m not Knocking what you are doing here as I think it is great and wish the best with it. But, I felt that a balance in the debate was needed.

    1. Hi Josh,

      Unfortunately, the police in our part of the country do not replicate your proactive response to wildlife crime in Devon & Cornwall.

      An example. In 2010, two eagles are found poisoned on a grouse moor. No press statement from Northern Constabulary. Also unreported in the press, the four poisoned red kites found by hillwalkers in the same area, one each spring from 2008-2011. The police eventually conduct a search, in July 2011, many months (and years) after some of these discoveries. The result? Unsurprisingly, no evidence found. Would you call that good policing?

      Let’s look at another one. Glen Orchy. The farm manager admits to laying poisoned bait “in the past” but denies poisoning the golden eagle. COPFS decide not to charge him with anything other than possession of a banned substance. Why? A second individual is found to be in possession of banned substances but is not charged. Why?

      Let’s look at the latest one. Can you explain what operational police procedure was being protected by withholding news about this case for almost five months? Why wasn’t a warrant requested to search the vehicles and premises in this glen? No physical evidence, you say. Sure, if you don’t go looking for it you won’t find any! If this eagle was as badly injured as the report suggested, don’t you think that there might have been a possibility of finding blood/feathers in a vehicle that could be linked to the dead eagle using basic DNA testing?

  6. PC Marshall.. you have raised many valid points and to many ( including yourself) it would seem as though these crimes are undetectable. This is definitely not the case.

    It may have been some time ago but there has been some tremendous results, ask yourself how this was achieved.

    These crimes need specialist investigation and not the hap hazard approach adopted by almost all police forces.

    I also think your views are unfair to the wildlife crime officers who have in the past been successful in detecting these types of offences. Shame that these officers don’t last long being squeezed out by the lack of support from senior officers or simply giving up due to frustration and despair. I would like to thank these officers (all from the past)…….you know who you are!

    I also suspect that you yourself PC Marshall have had little or no success in detecting these offences. Why not speak to the people who have. I am sure they will only be to keen to provide you with help and advice.

    Your thoughts are likely to lead to the common misconception that enforcement has failed so lets try something else…….usually talking (threatening) landowners. This most definitely does not work and often leads embarrassing complaints made against police by top lawyers. Ask Tayside police they know all to well about this approach and have had their fingers burned on numerous occasions by using this approach.

    If nothing else lets remember these offences are solvable but require well trained specialist investigators and above all joint working with the correct agencies.

    1. I think you have been hugely disrespectful to PC Marshall by what you have written you only have to look elsewhere on this blog to see the proactive approach he takes to his work. There is far too many people on here think it should be easy to link poisoned birds to individuals but they aren’t the ones (thank god!) whose job it is to do so. It is the same with every crime and like it or not that’s the way the law works. What kind of faciest country would we live in if we could just run about having everyone prosecuted on a whim and allegation!

  7. Hmmmm – Let me see – CCTV or video evidence is deemed “not admissable” in a (very) recent case, witnesses (presumably 2 for corroboration) to actually see criminal in action, and he can see them, well that’s bound to work – can’t link found poison to poison carcass (and I don’t believe that for a minute} – illegal weaponry found (no charge). So to sum up (as m’lud would have it) why bother? Poisioners 26, eagles 0. When the law can’t (or won’t) act maybe it’s time for a Boojum……………excuse the cryptic imagery butI have no wish to cop (excuse pun) 3 years for enticement.
    For all that, keep up the good work (no results) but good work nevertheless…………….


  8. To repsond to both Jack Black and Pips comments.

    I have not been unfair to previous police officers that have dealt with successful cases. I was commenting on the cases mentioned in this post (which was based on the brief details mentioned)and attempting to give a bit of insight.

    Jack – I including on my post my blog which documents a little of what I have done in post in just under 2 years of being a WCO (may be worth reading). But, yes thanks always good to seek extra help and guidance. All WCO’s in Devon and Cornwall take the role on (including myself) in a voluntary capacity alongside their regular duties. They do noot get extra time to investigate. I myself as you will see do it because I have a love of wildlife in particular birding. So inessence I agree that these types of crimes do need specialist investigators but in most forces they do not have specialist WCO’s. They like myself work with the NGO’s to the best of their ability.

    Pip – See my blog for a recent SUCCESSFULL (i.e result) case I investigated involving the use of CCTV. It is possible but just needs to be done in the right manner. These cameras were part of an operatioN I set up and ran off my own back with funding from the Devon Birdwatching and Preservation Society. It caught 2 offenders within 48hrs.

    Both please take a minute to look at what is being done in Devon and Cornwall in respect of wildlife crime (birds) on my blog. We had a really bad year last year with poisoning and egg theft and I was determined not to let that happen again this year. So far after running operation WILDERNESS this year we have had no reported posionings or nest robberies. Is it due to the cameras being placed at undisclosed locations around the county? Impossible to quantify but with the massive media release publishing the Op i like to think that this may have assisted.


    Mods – Cant comment on the procedures used. Just tried to give a bit of an insight on as I know from experience sometimes people just want offenders plucked out of thin air. I get upset and frustrated as much as the readers of this blog about the crimes that are being committed …

  9. I would hope that all of us commenting here would like to see the same end result – no more killed raptors, of whatever species..and no more illegal trapping, shooting and poisoning whatever the target or victim…The lack of resources/enthusiasm/ability/professionalism/committment [fill in depending on individual or Force involved] are all worrying aspects of the fight against wildlife crime but far more worrying is when those factors are seen higher up the justice system. If the Crown Office [in Scotland] or the CPS arent encouraging and/or cooperating with the on the ground investigators, whether Police/RSPB/SSPCA, then nothing will improve….and dont start me on Sheriffs and Judges!…..Good to see a recognition here that some police officers have done a fine job in the past, almost universally when working with NGOs and using professional systems set up by these NGOs – use of forensics and surveillance equipment being the most obvious…but its all fallen apart due to political interference by the shooting lobby at the highest levels. Feel sorry for the hard working WCO, its a thankless task if you actually care.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: