Golden eagle Fred: some facts

The rumour mill about our satellite-tagged golden eagle Fred has been in full-on overdrive since we announced his highly suspicious disappearance last week.

As we’d promised at the start of this project, we set out to provide as much transparency as we could about the circumstances of Fred’s disappearance, including detailed information about his last known location. The problem with doing this is that information then gets accidentally misinterpreted, or deliberately distorted in some cases by those who seek to play down the possibility that Fred has become yet another victim of illegal persecution.

There are many reasons why some would want the public to believe that illegal persecution couldn’t possibly have played a role in Fred’s disapearance. It has become clear to us over the last week or so that various organisations are, behind the scenes, actively pursuing a damage-limitation offensive, particularly some of those involved with the planned reintroduction of golden eagles to south Scotland later this year, and that includes senior officials at the statutory nature conservation agency SNH.

Obviously the highly suspicious disappearance of a golden eagle in south Scotland is going to raise questions about how wise it is to release eagles in a region where persecution is still a problem. Indeed, this has been a long-standing concern about the reintroduction project but has previously been brushed aside by some officials claiming that eagle persecution was an historical, not a current issue. Fred’s suspicious disappearance suggests otherwise but rather than address this concern head on, attempts are currently being made to discredit members of our project team and the project itself.

Let’s just be clear here. At no point have we stated that Fred was killed on a driven grouse moor. We haven’t even stated that he is dead. What we have said is that Fred’s disappearance is highly suspicious, and that, like many other satellite-tagged eagles, he disappeared in an area close to a driven grouse moor. These are indisputable facts.

We have suggested that he was illegally killed, and we have very good reason to think so, which will become clear when we’re able to discuss the details after the police investigation.

At this stage we can address some of the statements that have been made (some of which have been made in good faith, others have not).

  1. Fred’s last tag signal came from a wind farm – incorrect.
  2. Fred last tag signal came from Bonaly Country Park – incorrect.
  3. Nobody went to check on Fred’s welfare while he was alive in the Pentlands – incorrect.
  4. Fred’s tag battery failed to charge in low winter light – incorrect.
  5. There has been no raptor persecution in the Pentlands – incorrect.
  6. There are no driven grouse moors in the Pentlands – incorrect.
  7. Fred did not disappear in an area where driven grouse shooting takes place – incorrect.
  8. Satellite tag mapping suggests that Fred was not actively foraging – incorrect.
  9. Because mountain hares are locally extinct, Fred must have been weak and starving – incorrect.
  10. Fred’s tag was not functioning properly because it was in woodland – incorrect.
  11. A decision was taken not to search for the tag in the North Sea – incorrect.
  12. The police aren’t interested because they are siding with the landowners – incorrect.
  13. Fred’s body was found and the tag had killed him so the story of his disappearance was fabricated to lay the blame elsewhere – incorrect.
  14. Fred was never tagged in the first place – incorrect.

Fred’s story has generated a lot of media interest over the last week, which has been very welcome. Obviously, a lot of people are very angry about Fred’s suspicious disappearance and they have every reason to be. Anger is the appropriate reaction to what looks like yet another incident of illegal raptor persecution. However, we’ve been informed that some people are directing their anger in an abusive way towards members of the Pentlands Ranger Service. Please, think about what you’re saying and to whom. The Ranger Service certainly doesn’t deserve it and we are working closely with them as this investigation continues. Thanks.

16 thoughts on “Golden eagle Fred: some facts”

  1. Very sad that you have to justify / correct actions and reactions .
    Everybody seems to have their own agenda’s , very sad what ever happened to good old fashioned honesty, I suppose people take their lead from those who are supposed to govern us .
    Anyway , the list off corrections is very interesting – five of them no’s 3,4,8,9, and 11 seem to be being churned out more than randomly , by a range of pro shooting websites – anybody of a suspicious mind might think there might be collusion here . As I’ve said before , fly bastards.

  2. ” various organisations are, behind the scenes, actively pursuing a damage-limitation offensive, particularly some of those involved with the planned reintroduction of golden eagles to south Scotland later this year, and that includes senior officials at the statutory nature conservation agency SNH.”

    I’ve said before, at best SNH are not neutral and at worst are collaborators with the land owning interests

  3. It’s hard to imagine why the Countryside Ranger Service was blamed for Fred’s apparent demise. I was also amused by the claim that no raptor persecution has occurred in the Pentland Hills. Nothing could be further from the truth. The long term dearth of breeding Hen Harriers is testimony to that. Your compiled list of incorrect statements seems to demonstrate that the raptor killers are starting to feel seriously threatened. Good.

  4. There are probably few facts that actually matter in the long run here. However the location of the last signal from the tag is critical, but even then, not on its own. It is the pattern that gradually forms in comparison to land use that holds the key. People can argue all they like about the circumstances of one bird’s demise but only a fool would pretend that the repeated correlation between raptor disappearances and grouse moors is anything other than damning evidence of persecution. In the end the geography won’t lie.

  5. It is quite amazing that you are being maligned with such futile claims when you are doing such immensely valuable work for the benefit of the vast majority who are uplifted by seeing wildlife

    anyone to try to claim shooting in the area Fred disappeared is restricted to Pentlands grouse moors though is dismissing the very many other areas where shooting takes place far closer to housing

    There were up until last yr/ -are organised shoots far nearer Edinburgh than the Pentlands grouse moors. There were very regular organised shoots immediately to the south of Lymphoy Rd, only a few hundred yards from Currie council housing. there were hides still visible in these fields when I last looked. there is a grain feeder butt standing with fresh vehicle tracks running to it ,situated just off Ravelrig Rd 50 yds north of the railway line at this present time, with apparent fresh grain below and with game birds in vicinity. no time to list more

  6. It would be great if you could elaborate a bit more on each of those points. I’m on your side but just saying “incorrect” won’t be enough to placate your critics. Hope there are more blog posts planned to provide more robust counterarguments to demonstrate why this definitely isn’t a weak, starving bird blown off course.

  7. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck….if birds of prey repeatedely disappear near driven grouse hunt areas, it’s hard not to draw the obvious conclusion.

  8. I’m very sad to hear about Fred. Is it possible that he was a victim of Storm Gertrude ? He was last tracked on 21st January, not long after Gertrude struck, could he have been blown west to the sea and perished? If he was shot wouldn’t the tag be damaged. A rifle to the head would be a difficult target. I have no connection to any grouse moors or landowners in Scotland, I am just thinking of all possibilities.

    [Ed: Marge, the police are currently investigating some new information we’ve provided from Fred’s tag so unfortunately at the moment we’re unable to comment further on the circumstances of Fred’s highly suspicious disappearance].

  9. Is there a way the public can help contribute to this satellite tagging project that is proving so valuable at revealing the criminal behavior of some in the shooting industry ? The law clearly isn’t working and this technology is helping to make the case for urgent action to change the status quo.

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