Deeside golden eagle fiasco rumbles on as SGA release their ‘report’

The shambolic investigation into the death of the Deeside golden eagle last year continues (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here for our previous blogs about this appalling case).

This morning, the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association released a media statement and their investigatory ‘report’ into what they think happened to this eagle. It’s death was probably the result of a terrible accident, apparently. They say they only released their report because they became aware that it had been the subject of Freedom of Information requests to the Scottish Government.

At this stage, we are only posting their media statement, their ‘report’, and the RSPB’s response. We will be discussing the case as a whole, including the SGA’s conclusions, in a later blog, as we are awaiting responses from several FoI requests that potentially could be quite illuminating.

SGA media statement download: SGA RELEASE REPORT INTO EAGLE DEATH[1]

SGA investigatory report download: SGA Report, eagle death, Deeside[1]

RSPB media response:

RSPB Scotland responds to Scottish Gamekeepers Association eagle report

Responding to a statement released this morning by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, said:

“We reject absolutely these unprofessional assertions of the SGA in today’s press release concerning the case of the dead golden eagle found on Deeside in May 2012. Our previous media statement followed proper discussion and approval from the police, and was in full accordance with our joint working protocol. The official post mortem report concluded that the bird had suffered two broken legs due to trauma “that could be consistent with an injury caused by a spring type trap” and that the severity of these injuries “would prevent the bird from being able to take off.”

This is a rather desperate statement from the SGA, which seemingly does more to reveal their true nature as apologists for the worst types of wildlife crime, as they try to defend the indefensible. Indeed, it calls into question their very commitment to the aims and objectives of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAWS).

The illegal killing of golden eagles in Scotland is still a serious conservation issue, undermining the health of their population, and bringing international shame to our country. Over the past few years there have been a number of appalling cases involving the criminal killing of golden eagles, some of which have only come to light following the use of satellite tag technology. Rather than seeking excuses, we believe that the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s efforts would be better directed at tackling those within their sector who still encourage such outdated practices”.  

The dead golden eagle     

5 thoughts on “Deeside golden eagle fiasco rumbles on as SGA release their ‘report’”

  1. …”we asked Big Eck who’s got loads experience at killing eagles wae traps an he says that the standard springs are no strong enough and ye have tae mod them up a bit tae get em fir sure”… So there you are… cast-iron proof from the mouth of an expert….. years of peer reviewed experience.

  2. Having read both documents this compilers of the press statement and the report should become authors. They talk about evidence or lack of it, where is their evidence?

    If they are using expert witnesses, that is a Falconer why is he not named so that his evidence can be questioned or verified.

    This is my first experience of reading such a report so I cannot compare it with others, but it seems rather short with little factual proof.

    I despair

  3. This is not an investigative report, it is 100% waffle.

    Today I have been watching adult Golden Eagles in the area where this bird was. I have concerns that this incompetent SGA attitude will do nothing to stop the eventual extinction of eagles in Angus at the hands of one or two renegade estate owners and their keepers.

  4. A good response from the RSPB, and it would appear that the society are becoming increasingly angered at the SGA and their refusal to accept the widespread slaughter of our raptors. Surely the next step is to walk away from PAWS?

    On reading the SGA report, there are a few points worth considering.

    “A Falconer gave us some insight into the behavioural aspect of an eagle hunting.”

    Yes, you would think an expert witness would be named, but why would gamekeepers not have any idea of the hunting habits of eagles? Why would gamekeepers that “regularly” encounter such species “causing havoc” not have an inkling on this subject? Is this because they are shot on sight, without a second thought?

    “In our discussions with the estate, they confirm that they have only ever used Mark 4 Fenn traps and never use Mark 6.”

    Yes, because in the aftermath of a dead eagle being found, an estate will admit to using a trap that could hold an eagle. It is not uncommon for criminals to deny any knowledge of their crimes or give false testimony no matter how much evidence has been gathered.

    “From our experience as working gamekeepers and through discussion with many of our members, as well as the falconer, the clear and unanimous conclusion is that it is impossible to get both an eagle’s feet into any of these traps at the same time.”

    This could be read in different ways, but it is certain that it could be interpreted that these people have experience in the trapping of Golden Eagles. Is Bert Burnett and the SGA admitting to the fact that they have trapped or do trap Golden Eagles as part of their land management practices?

    “The foot of an eagle would have to be placed in a very precise manner if the trap were to close on the leg and miss catching the toes. For this to happen, not once but twice in separate traps, is highly improbable.”

    So, perhaps a larger sized trap was used, despite the estate’s protestations.

    “Given the continual scrutiny this estate reportedly is under, it would be foolish for anyone to, firstly set an illegal trap in the vicinity of a crow cage, which, by its very existence, will be visited by those monitoring this estate on a regular basis…”

    But considering that filmed evidence is deemed inadmissable in Scottish courts, perhaps the gamekeeper is now of the opinion that he can do anything he wants and get away with it.

    “There is the possibility that the eagle in question may have been stooping on a prey species and, with legs lowered slightly in anticipation of a strike, it came into contact with the fence. We have been advised that its speed could have been in excess of 50 miles per hour ( only forensic evaluation can confirm if its injuries are equally consistent with this type of contact).”

    Now, I must admit that I do not have any real experience of eagles hitting fences at the suggested speed, but I would imagine that a collision at this speed would send the bird crashing to the ground, perhaps damaging other bones in the process, but certainly causing some damage to the feathers. None of these additional injuries or problems have, so far, been suggested. Furthermore, why would the SGA accept the forensics for their deer fence collision scenario, yet they easily dismiss the vet’s claim that the bird’s injuries were “consistent with those which might have been caught in a trap”. Does the vet’s experience in his or her chosen field not satisfy the SGA? Is the vet’s “forensic evaluation” too near the truth for the SGA to accept?

    And considering some of his nonsensical rants elsewhere, does anyone else here believe that Bert Burnett was capable of creating that report unaided?

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