Pointless search for missing sea eagle ‘Blue X’

Yesterday’s police search for missing satellite-tagged sea eagle ‘Blue X’ was a complete waste of time.

Why? Because Police Scotland invited some gamekeepers (also known as potential suspects) to join the search. Since when has inviting potential suspects to help search for potential evidence of a potential crime been a good idea?

[Photo of white-tailed eagle Blue X, by RSPB Scotland]

Some might think that calling gamekeepers ‘potential suspects’ is a bit harsh, but we’d disagree, and here’s why:

Blue X’s satellite tag had been working perfectly since it was deployed last summer. Suddenly, and inexplicably, it stopped working last month when Blue X was visiting the grouse moor-dominated Glen Quaich, in Perthshire. Had this been the first tagged eagle to ‘disappear’ on a grouse moor in Scotland, then sure, it might be reasonable to assume it was just a rare faulty tag and that nothing untoward had happened to this eagle. But Blue X wasn’t the first sat-tagged eagle to disappear in such circumstances – she is one of over 40 tagged eagles to have mysteriously vanished in recent years, the majority of them on or close to a driven grouse moor. Oh, and Blue X  just happened to vanish in an area where three other sat-tagged eagles had also disappeared. Clearly, Blue X’s disappearance was highly suspicious.

[Red stars indicate last known fixes of sat-tagged golden eagles, orange circle denotes area where Blue X vanished; data from Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review]:

The government-commissioned analysis of where these eagles have been disappearing (mostly on or near to driven grouse moors) was so unequivocally damning that in response to the report, the Scottish Government urgently convened a special panel to review grouse moor management practices with a view to introducing sanctions for those who continue to defy the law. It was the Government’s view (and the view of every other intelligent observer) that some grouse moor gamekeepers were under reasonable suspicion of involvement with the disappearance of these eagles, and thus its reasonable to refer to them collectively as ‘potential suspects’. [NB: this does not imply any level of guilt on any individual; for that, we’d need to see a criminal conviction and as yet there hasn’t been a single successful prosecution for the illegal killing of an eagle in Scotland. Ever.]

You’d think, then, given this bigger picture of eagles routinely disappearing in suspicious circumstances on or near grouse moors, that Police Scotland, on learning of Blue X’s disappearance, would follow the protocol as devised by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) to treat this disappearance as suspicious and NOT alert the landowner(s) or their employees prior to any search:

So what did Police Scotland do? Ignored the PAW protocol, notified the potential suspects several weeks ago that a tagged eagle had ‘disappeared’ in the area (thus allowing any potential suspect to hide any potential evidence of a crime) and then invited the potential suspects to ‘help’ on the search several weeks later when the snow had melted. Genius.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Scottish Gamekeeepers Association issued a press release yesterday, while the search was underway (so against PAW protocol), telling the world that a search was taking place. This information was leaked on Twitter by some half wit, thus allowing any other potential suspect in the area the chance to remove any potentially incriminating evidence.

Is there any wonder there has never been a successful prosecution for the illegal killing of an eagle in Scotland?

Politicians need to be asking some serious questions about this farcical and pointless investigation.

UPDATE 19 April 2018: Deputy First Minister’s constituency a hotspot for ‘disappearing’ sat-tagged eagles (here)

44 thoughts on “Pointless search for missing sea eagle ‘Blue X’”

  1. Letter of complaint to Chief Constable and/or the body that deals with complaints against Police Scotland?

  2. We are getting nowhere fast re wildlife crime investigations on shooting estates, it would seem and repeating the same old mistakes. In the 1990s someone in the police in Tayside thought it would be a jolly good idea to exclude the RSPB from investigating the poisoning of a red kite on a grouse moor and instead to invite the SGA to carry out its own investigation. I was quoted at the time as saying this was like getting the AA to investigate a serious road accident. Not surprisingly, no evidence or even suspect was identified.

    1. Dave – we are getting nowhere fast re wildlfie crime investigations anywhere. Even the guilt of the thugs, who attacked hunt monitors, last week only came to court because of teh assault on humans, whilst the hunt involved has continued to “accidentally” break the law on virtually every occasion they go out.

      It seems hare coursing in East Anglia is the only wildlife crime that seems to be acceptable to the police to investigate and the CPS to prosecute.

  3. Is PAW just another pointless organisation, wildlife organisations sitting around a table with the police, representatives of the criminals from the uplands and government quangos who are in the pockets of the criminals discussing ways to protect wildlife whilst tipping the criminals off at the same time, oh and the mountain hare culls are not just to protect grouse, shooters are actually paying to go on driven hare shoots

  4. The entire case and ‘handling’ of the case stinks of corruption….xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

    Arrest and jail xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx for a lengthy period, remove guns immediately, stop any subsidies. Punish these cruel bastards as they obviously have zero humanity.

    Also, does anyone know a special constable who isn’t a gamekeeper? Asking for a friend.

  5. Its just a big PR game -Scot Squad don’t have a clue and don’t care .Gamekeepers claim the moral high ground whist laughing up their sleeves. Then release a smoke screen of lies as press statements . Biased media prints them verbatim. Joe public looses interest . We rant and rave amongst ourselves . SNP say they abhor all wildlife crime . Goes a bit quiet – another disappearance.

    1. Another point the SGA are only too ready to offer their help not because they wish to find the bird ( they probably know xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx) but simply to put the police in an awkward position . If they refuse the SGA’s assistance they would open themselves to criticism from a right wing media who would have a field day . As I said a PR exercise. Fly bastards.

  6. Usual amount of drivel coming from gamekeepers, moorland estates and police – nothing to see here … they won;t be happy till they have eradicated ALL raptors from moorland in this country – and they are going to manage it with the collusion of the police, courts and judges. As someone has already said – we few are the only one’s up in arms – no-one else is bothered – no-one will do anything – who cares – birds of prey are not important to life …. when folks finally wake up to the loss of species and the degradation of the eco systems needed on this planet it will be too late – extinctions cannot be reversed and human extinction I wouldn;t want reversing – harsh? Look at the damage we’re all doing ….

  7. PAW will be just another initiative, as I fear operation owl and others that have gone before it will be. lots of people saying how committed they are and how seriously they view wildlife crime without ever actually delivering. When will the world realise you cant have a successful partnership with spoil rich kids and the thugs they employ. theyre not interested so exclude them from all discussions and just licence/ban the arse out of their pathetic little out-dated passtime

  8. I wonder if these maps are not so much hot spots as worst spots. Will that map just fill up over time?
    What else explains why those grouse estates in between the stars up in arms at the ‘few rotten apples’ destroying their to quote Richard ‘pathetic little out-dated pastime’?

  9. For what it’s worth, I’ve just made a complaint to Police Scotland about this. I’ll come back here if I get any response.

      1. I’ve had a reply from Police Scotland Tayside Division asking for a phone conversation. I’ll make sure I’m briefed.

  10. I think it is excellent news the gamekeepers are now cooperating with investigations.
    I look forward to the follow up where the estates give blanket approval for covert cameras on any nest site. A sensible and cost free, to the estates, way to help cut wildlife crime.

  11. Can we campaign to stop subsidies to land owners who have a deficit of wildlife on their land – WHY do they receive subsidies in the first place????? Artificial rearing of large numbers of game birds is counterproductive for our fauna! Policing isn’t working with blatent lack of justice!

    1. They receive subsidies because “poor hill farmers” need help to survive!!!!! David Cameron included shooting estates in the huge farming subsidy rise some years ago.

  12. Training session held by police before the search. “Listen carefully, have you all got spades?”

    “grunt”, from helpers.

    “In the event of finding Blue X, find large rocks or deep hole, cover or bury any remains.”

    “Cheer”, from helpers.

    Search debrief, involving serious investigation procedures!

    “So, when can I try out my grouse shooting session?”

    “Thank you for that single malt, it was very kind of you”

    Summary by the police organising the search:

    Request to helpers, “Did any of you find anything suspicious?”

    Helpers, “No, not us. ” Wink and smirk barely detectable!

    One can picture the fiasco. How far from the truth is this scenario?


  13. Surprised no-one is blaming the nearby windfarms yet.

    Gamie “Look, I’ve found it! It was below that nasty turbine over there!”

  14. I have written Rosanna Cunningham, my Constiency MSP and my Regional MSPs.
    Just for good measure, I included the dozen or so, who last month congratulated the Angus Glens Demolition Society, for their good works:
    Michelle Ballantyne MSP, Michelle.Ballantyne.msp@parliament.scot
    Margaret Mitchell MSP, margaret.mitchell.msp@parliament.scot
    Miles Briggs MSP, Miles.Briggs.msp@parliament.scot
    Tom Mason MSP, tom.mason.msp@parliament.scot
    Maurice Corry MSP, Maurice.Corry.msp@parliament.scot
    Jeremy Balfour MSP, Jeremy.Balfour.msp@parliament.scot
    Jamie Greene MSP, Jamie.Greene.msp@parliament.scot
    Peter Chapman MSP, Peter.Chapman.msp@parliament.scot
    Liz Smith MSP, Elizabeth.Smith.msp@parliament.scot
    Murdo Fraser MSP, Murdo.Fraser.msp@parliament.scot
    Bill Bowman MSP, Bill.Bowman.msp@parliament.scot
    Alexander Burnett MSP, Alexander.Burnett.msp@parliament.scot
    Gordon Lindhurst MSP. Gordon.Lindhurst.msp@parliament.scot

    And I will also complain the Police Scotland.

    Don’t tell me I’ve wasted my time, I might have but it’s better than nothing.

    1. Alexander Burnett doesn’t reply to constituents emails that don’t meet with his land owning silver spoon agenda. Don’t wait in for the postie in hope of any reply

  15. RPUK wrote
    ‘Oh, and Blue X just happened to vanish in an area where three other sat-tagged eagles had also disappeared’
    I also notice the SNH paper and RSPB also only mention only 3 other highly suspicious missing eagles.
    The map above shows 5 stars. RPUK what are these extra two stars? It would be useful to know as i sent that map to Cunningham.

    1. Hi Prasad,

      The stars represent the last known fixes of sat-tagged golden eagles, as detailed in the Golden Eagle Sat Tag Review.

      The RSPB press release mentioned only three ‘disappeared’ eagles, not five, so presumably they are referring to the 3 stars clustered together within that organge circle, that being the presumed search area for Blue X.

      1. Perhaps a more rigorous application of the red pen by the comment’s moderator? If there’s a perceived problem with the boys in blue, then a letter to the chief – or go to the complaint’s commission.

  16. I see things have not changed. In the early 2000’s I reported illegal traps … designed to catch and/or kill raptors. I reported this to the police. I was informed the estate would receive a warning and be prosecuted if it happened again. Well, 10 days later I found another one and reported this to the same police. No action was taken. However a few days later my wife wa sout walking when she met the local wildlife policeman, who did not know her, and they proceeded to have a chat. The subject of illegal traps arose and my wife was informed that there was not an issue and that he, the policeman, knew the man who was causing all the trouble.
    This policeman is now retired and is working, voluntarily or without pay I do not know, with a raptor group and frequently makes noises against the illegal persecution of birds of prey.
    Sincere? Or not? Helping? Or hindering? Make your own mind up as I have.

  17. I’ve sent a letter of complaint to police scotland too. I was calm and precise. Although I’m raging about this loss of yet another eagle to these bastards!!

  18. Strange that SSPCA were not invited on this search…………….what a complete sham

    Partnership working indeed

  19. Simply impossible for there to be no remains, even if it has been picked over by the local wildlife. They are bloody massive and, even on a large moor, would be pretty visible to a search party. The only sensible conclusion is that it has been removed from the area or buried. Now why would someone do that?

    1. Aquila, agreed but they also had to silence the GPS. They are so robust, that is not easy. Maybe a 12 bore shot would do it. Maybe a 5 pound rock. Whatever, it would be very deliberate. But it could be that one person or one team have done several eagles and GPSs, they have had a lot of practice. It is a sick conversation. Apologies.

  20. [Ed: Thanks Accidental Activist but that’s verging on libellous and definitely within the realms of bad taste]

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