Golden eagle found shot & critically injured on Scottish grouse moor

A golden eagle has been found shot and critically injured on a Scottish grouse moor in Dumfries & Galloway. The bird suffered shotgun injuries and was discovered on the ground on Saturday (6th October). The eagle has been rescued and is receiving expert veterinary care at the SSPCA’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre.

Press releases from SSPCA here and RSPB here.

Information from local sources indicate that the bird was discovered on the Buccleuch Estate, very close to the boundary with Leadhills Estate, just to the north of Wanlockhead (see map below – our thanks to Andy Wightman [] for his help defining the estate boundaries: Buccleuch pink, Leadhills grey). It is not known where the actual shooting took place. How far can an eagle fly with an injured wing and injured tail muscles? When it was found it reportedly had extensive feather damage, suggesting it had been stumbling around on the ground for some time. The SSPCA has said if it hadn’t been picked up on Saturday it’s quite likely it would have starved to death.

The area where the eagle was found is managed as a driven grouse moor, as is the land immediately on the other side of the estate’s border. It’s been reported that Leadhills Sporting Ltd leases land on Buccleuch Estate (see here) although the precise area leased is not known.

Whoever did it, whether they be a gamekeeper, a member of a grouse shooting party or someone from the Wanlockhead silk embroidery club, they will escape justice. That’s a certainty. Along with all the other people who have poisoned, trapped or shot the 26 other dead or ‘missing’ eagles over the last six years (see here) and these are just the ones we know about. Every time, there is outrage. Every time, there are denials from the gamebird shooting community. Every time, there are calls for government action. Every time, we’re fobbed off with platitudes about ‘partnership working’.

Every. Single. Time.

Is this bird going to be the one that finally galvinises a strong response from the Scottish Government? It’s been 20 years since the RSPB first started drawing attention to the criminal and unsustainable activities taking place on driven grouse moors. What’s changed in those 20 years? NOTHING. (Except we’re now much better informed about the extent of the issue….all those claims of “it’s just a rogue keeper” just don’t wash anymore; we know better now).

It’s encouraging to see that Scottish Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP has already made a statement (see SSPCA press release above). Now we need more from him and his government. The game-shooting community continues to show utter contempt for the wildlife laws, despite all the chances they’ve been given. Enough is enough. Estate licensing should now be on the cards. No more excuses, just get on with it. Those who don’t persecute raptors have nothing to fear. Please email Paul Wheelhouse and urge him to make a strong response:

You might also want to mention to him how impressive the SSPCA response has been to this crime. Eagle found on Saturday, press release out on Tuesday. Mr Wheelhouse should soon be commissioning a consultation on increasing the SSPCA’s powers to investigate wildlife crime; let him know how effective the SSPCA are.

20 thoughts on “Golden eagle found shot & critically injured on Scottish grouse moor”

  1. Dear Raptor Persecution Scotland I would like your kind permission to re-print your story, crediting Raptor Persecution Scotland of course, on the weekly online newspaper, Aberdeen Voice. Aberdeen Voice – – has several thousand readers per week, and many are interested in animal welfare issues. Last week an article of mine launching a network re. dog-fighting resulted in public engagement and a large contribution to Animal Concern Advice Line. I would love the opportunity to help your work as well. We go out on Friday, and if you can grant me permission by say Thursday afternoon, I’d be most grateful. Please write back or call me on xxxx. Yours faithfully Suzanne Kelly

    1. Suzanne,

      Thanks for your interest and for asking first. YES, we’d be delighted if you re-printed the story. Awareness-raising is crucial and anything you can do to help is really appreciated.

      Thanks for your support.

  2. The October issue of SCENES (a digest of Scottish Environment News) will also include a short factual piece about this. SCENES subscribers include the Scottish Government, agencies, individuals, charities and NGOs. I hope that it will help!

    Sue Fenton (editor/publisher)

    1. Thanks Sue, it certainly will help.

      The Scottish Government is well aware of these continuing crimes and they have spoken many times about their interest in addressing the problem. What’s now blindingly obvious is that their words of good intent are simply not enough – strong action is long overdue.

  3. This is great news, an item such as this which would normally just disappear into the ether will be aired on public accessible news media. Lets hope this will lead to more and more publicity for the horrendous crimes against wildlife perpetrated by the shooting estates and their minions. I just hope the chief constables, the sheriffs and the judges etc see this publicity trend and do the right thing by the law in future wildlife persecution cases.

  4. Good grief. Its all Leadhills sporting estate.

    Is there any info on whither the bird was ringed or not?

    1. Not ringed. It’s an adult male – there are so few adult eagles in Southern Scotland (the rest have all been persecuted) that there’s concern this is one of the residents. Hopefully DNA testing will be carried out.

  5. This will be my second e-mail to Paul Wheelhouse within a month. The shooting estates should be becomming alarmed by the publicity that their crimes are starting to attract. I belong to a well known UK wide organisation that have the shooting estates in their sights, they were succesful in outlawing fox hunts!

    As this organisation says “Many of those involved in the shoots are not actually fully aware of what goes on behind the scenes”. Between us all hopefully they soon will be.

  6. What a revolting event. Just how much of this does it take before the actions of those vile criminals who persecute wildlife are brought properly into focus and dealt with.
    What evi,l sickening people we have in our midst.
    Whoever you maybe, be sure you are seen as no better than drug dealers, housebreakers, muggers, car thieves and so on ad infinitum. Like all criminals you are the lowest form of life.

  7. Actually, something has changed, though south of the Border: Hen Harrier appears to have once again become extinct as an English nesting bird. Not perhaps the sort of change we were all looking for ?

  8. Let me look into my crystal ball….I see…a long silence from SGA/SRBPA…perhaps just a hint of “we are carrying out our own investigation”…then about a month from now rumours will circulate about “poachers”, planted by animal liberationists/antis/taliban etc…or even the old “no shooter/keeper would ever leave a bird lying about to be found so it must have been put there..

    All of which are is any suggestion that the shooter didnt know exactly what he was aiming at…not many grouse with a 6 foot wingspan?

    and then it will become just another statistic….same old, same old…

    and todays rhetorical question..”I wonder why there are so few breeding eagles in South Scotland?”

    1. Scottish Land & Estates has put out a statement:

      They say they are “appalled and disgusted”. Wouldn’t argue with that. But then, just as predicted, they talk about partnership working. Yada yada yada.

      What they failed to mention was that this eagle was found at the boundary of two sporting estates. What they also didn’t say is whether they will be talking to these members, or suspending them pending an internal investigation, infact doing anything to demonstrate their intolerance of this “appalling” and “disgusting” behaviour. Could that be because the owner of one of these estates just happens to be a Director of Scottish Land & Estates?

      As for the SGA – your crystal ball prediction was accurate. Not a peep.

  9. Well, I’ve emailed Paul Wheelhouse (for what it’s worth). Transcript below if it helps anyone else form an argument.


    Dear Mr Wheelhouse,

    Having spent several years working in the uplands of Scotland I was, once again, disappointed (but not surprised) to hear of the latest known victim of raptor persecution on a Scottish grouse moor. For details, please see here:

    I cannot urge you strongly enough to take this matter seriously and to make a strong government response to this issue. Although an Englishman by birth, I truly hope that Scotland votes yes in the upcoming referendum – your independence is long overdue in my opinion. If independence is achieved, this will give you a fantastic opportunity to show the world how to preserve, and benefit from, a country rich in wildlife and valuable ecosystems. Just look at the financial benefits that white-tailed eagles bring to the Isle of Mull each year. This cannot be achieved, however, if you continue to allow ongoing illegal persecution of raptors by the shooting fraternity.

    Please act now – your wildlife and natural heritage deserve nothing less.

    Kind regards,

    Pete Etheridge

  10. It really beggars belief. No comment from Grouser yet? – probably an animal rights activist acting as some sort of agent provocateur. And Leadhills so handy as well – roll on next years RSPB “bird fair”, I don’t think.

    Pete – “Well, I’ve emailed Paul Wheelhouse (for what it’s worth)” – how about 20p (or a vote of no confidence)?.

    Dave – “as is any suggestion that the shooter didnt know exactly what he was aiming at…not many grouse with a 6 foot wingspan?” but if there were some of our european shooting tourists there then of course they would take a pop at it as they seem to regard absolutey any bird as “fair game”……………………..


    1. Take your point about the foreign tourists Pip but were talking about a managed grouse drive here [I know the area well..and thats also the only likely shooting habitat where an eagle might come in range] – if it was shot by some foreign mindless idiot , rather than one of our own mindless idiots, he would have been closely watched by a supervising keeper. At the very least this should have been reported as an “accident” and a serious attempt made to retrieve an obviously injured bird…but thats never going to happen is it?…best hope it dies quietly on someone else’s ground.
      Worth noting here that all the countries where such foreign shooters hail from , now have their own conservation laws – there is nowhere in europe a shooter could imagine he can shoot eagles within the Law. That situation may still be far from perfect in many places but this ignorant, primitive minded b…d knew he was committing a crime when he pulled the trigger – whether he was from the City of London or the City of Turin.

      1. I’m quite happy to ignore the foreign tourist theory. Considering their line of work, gamekeepers must have a sadistic element to their nature, so I am quite convinced that this particular gamekeeper knew he/she shot an eagle and most probably did go to check on the bird’s condition. Realising that the bird was injured and unable to fly, he/she probably took immense pleasure in the the damage he/she had carried out and the prospect that the bird would die a slow, lingering death. There is also the high probability that this person would check on the bird’s condition in the days following the shooting, glorifying in his or her handiwork, with ever-increasing levels of joy as the bird got weaker and weaker. There are many words and phrases that could describe these people, but I will be polite and refer to them as depraved scum.

  11. For what it is worth I have written to Paul, and urge others to do the same. It is the flood of mails that will be the catalyst for his action. The thrust of my note referred to tourism damage as people tar Scotland as a whole with the cruelty brush, and my amazement that no one sees the longer term issue as in the UK with the hunt ban. If they do not control the estate owners persecution of the eagles, the anti’s will simply persecute the owners and one day they will find themselves without a shoot to worry about.
    Very short sighted

    1. Quote:
      ” If they do not control the estate owners persecution of the eagles, the anti’s will simply persecute the owners and one day they will find themselves without a shoot to worry about.
      Very short sighted.”

      If only that were true or even possible then I would say go for it, no holds barred. Alas, in this current peer ruled environment it will never happen, the big stick would appear and the dissenters quelled. I know there are plenty of antis out there who are praying for some sort of co-ordinated action they could join in which would put a stop to the raptor murderers and wildlife persecutors once and for all, unfortunately without the backing of a large organisation such as the RSPB to co-ordinate such activities nothing will be done.

      1. The only way to really hurt these people is to use the Law, not go outside it…you say “there are plenty of antis out there..”, well there are also plenty of nutters on the persecuting side and a lot of them carry legal weapons…lets all calm down and think of ways of using legal systems to act on behalf of wildlife and not against it, as is all too common at the moment. Keep pushing the financial options – whats going on with withdrawal of grants at the moment for isntance?

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