More on the poisoned sea eagle found dead on a grouse moor in Cairngorms National Park

It’s fair to say that there has been public uproar at the news that yet another eagle has been found illegally killed in Scotland, this time a young sea eagle, found poisoned on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park (see here). The police have not named the estate on which the poisoned corpse was found, nor the name of the banned pesticide used to kill this eagle.

Some of that public outrage has been from people who previously had no idea that such filthy, barbaric crimes are still taking place in the 21st Century, whilst others are infuriated that this keeps happening and yet time and time and time again the Scottish Government keeps dodging the opportunity to act.

To many of us, it’s no longer a shock to learn that an eagle has been found illegally killed on a grouse moor. And in this particular case, it’s certainly no surprise to learn of the location.

The Strathdon area of the Cairngorms National Park has long been recognised as a raptor persecution hotspot, as this map demonstrates. These are raptor persecution incidents, 2005-2018, including cases recorded by the RSPB, incidents featured in the golden eagle satellite tag review, and other data in the public domain. Geographic clusters are clear to see – in the Angus Glens to the SE of the National Park, in the Strathdon area in the NE (circled), and in the Monadhliaths to the NW of the National Park:

Those incidents in Strathdon include a poisoned raven (2006), a poisoned common gull (2006), multiple poisoned baits (2006), a shot buzzard (2009), a poisoned golden eagle (2011), a poisoned buzzard (2011), poisoned bait (2011), a shot short-eared owl (2011), two satellite-tagged golden eagles ‘disappearing’ (2011), another satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappearing’ (2013), a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘disappearing’ (2014), a goshawk nest shot out by masked men (2014), a shot goshawk (2016), another satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappearing’ (2017), a satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappearing’ (2018), another satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappearing’ (2019), and another satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappearing’ (2020).

It’s quite the persecution hotspot, isn’t it?

Nobody has been prosecuted in any of these cases.

If you want to see the full shocking list of reported raptor persecution incidents inside the Cairngorms National Park, the supposed ‘jewel in the crown’ of Scotland’s wildlife areas, see here. Take note again of the lack of prosecutions.

Strathdon was also identified as a golden eagle persecution hotspot in the 2017 Government-commissioned report on the fates of satellite-tracked golden eagles in Scotland. You can read that report here.

With the illegal poisoning of this latest white-tailed eagle we now know that seven eagles have either been illegally killed or have vanished in suspicious circumstances in this area (4 x ‘missing’ golden eagles, 1 x ‘missing white-tailed eagle, 1 x poisoned golden eagle, 1 x poisoned white-tailed eagle), as well as three satellite-tagged hen harriers that have vanished in suspicious circumstances since the golden eagle report was published.

Many new blog readers have been surprised to learn that not only have there been zero prosecutions for raptor crime dating back for years in this part of the National Park, but that managing grouse moors for shooting is not a licensed activity. Comments from newcomers on social media immediately call for ‘licences to be revoked’ because they assume that a relatively progressive country like Scotland will have all this stuff regulated and under control. It’s been a shock for them to find out that in parts of Scotland it’s the armed criminals in control, brazenly and repeatedly sticking up two fingers to the law-makers and the rest of society.

Newcomers also ask why there hasn’t been any targeted action in these known persecution hotspots? It’s not like nobody knows what’s been going on there! It’s a good question – what is the point of all this mapping and recording and reporting if the bleedin’ obvious is still allowed to continue, uninhibited, unrestricted and unpunished?

The Scottish Government did implement a farcical trial scheme of having a bunch of part-time volunteer special constables deployed in the National Park in 2018, to focus on tackling wildlife crime. Despite the undoubted good intentions of those volunteers, the scheme was a predictable waste of time and money (see here) and simply a can-kicking exercise so the Government could pretend it was doing something tangible to tackle these crimes.

And so here we are again. Yet another victim, on yet another grouse moor, in yet another National Park.

And yet again, the Scottish Government has remained silent.

It’s important that we don’t.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider sending an email to the First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon) and her Environment Cabinet Secretary (Roseanna Cunningham) to express your strength of feeling that this disgraceful criminality has been allowed to continue for far too long. The Government must be held to account for its inaction.

You don’t need to be resident in Scotland to email these politicians. In fact, the more correspondence from outside of Scotland, all the better to demonstrate the extent of the country’s embarrassing reputation. Please be polite.

To email Nicola Sturgeon, please use this address:

To email Roseanna Cunningham, please use this address:

It’s clear that many of you have already written to them. Thank you.

UPDATE 29 July 2020: Poisoned sea eagle: inadequate response from Scottish Government (here)

47 thoughts on “More on the poisoned sea eagle found dead on a grouse moor in Cairngorms National Park”

  1. “Some of that public outrage has been from people who previously had no idea that such filthy, barbaric crimes are still taking place in the 21st Century, whilst others are infuriated that this keeps happening and yet time and time and time again the Scottish Government keeps dodging the opportunity to act.”

    It is, to put it gently, not an exaggeration to suggest that the relationship between the SG and some landowners may not quite be as we expect it should.

  2. E-mail sent to both Nicola and Roseanna and not for the first time either. Didn’t get a response before and am not expecting one this time. Knowing that the Editor will x me I will do it myself, this is what I think of the person who is responsible for the death of the White-tailed Eagle xxx xxxxxxx xxxxx xx xxxxxxx xxxx.

  3. Revoke land owners licence when a rapture is found on the land or stop grouse shooting altogether, hit them in the pocket they will soon learn.

      1. We shouldn’t need to Editor, police should be warn the public it’s a dangerous area to visit especially with children and dogs……even a pet on a lead could die excruciatingly.

        1. It’s about time this barbaric act was stopped, we should be protecting our bird of prey not poisoning them 😡

  4. I won’t hold my breath waiting for action from this Scottish Govt and I have to wonder why. Who are they protecting (it isn’t our wildlife) and why?

    1. Id guess its because the SNP are a one trick pony obsessed with independence from england and are either inept at dealing with environmental issues or simply dont care, or both. Need to get to the point where these issues are going to have political damage to them as all i think jimmy cranky thinks about her nationalistic hatred of england

  5. Strathdon in the Cairngorms National Park quoted as ‘Strathdon is an area rich in scenic beauty and places of interest with marvellous opportunities to observe wildlife’. What does the Scottish Government and Visit Scotland have to say when the opportunities to observe wildlife are destroyed by those who shoot, trap, kill and poison ? What are they actually going to do about this absolute disgrace.?..crimes that are a disgrace to any so called civilised society! The perpetrators are violent, dangerous thugs no matter who they are, who they work for, or how much land they may, or may not own. They are basically robbing Scotland of it’s wildlife and biodiversity using horrific methods.

  6. Written to both. For the umpteenth time over the years.
    Who knows what might happen. Another sinking feeling, but gotta keep going…..
    Serious custodial sentences are the only real hope

  7. Done – main letter copied below for anyone who want to copy and paste.

    Dear First Minister and Cabinet Secretary,

    A satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle has been found poisoned on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park.
    The Scottish Government simply cannot ignore this blatant criminality any longer.

    “Police Scotland has today confirmed that a rare white-tailed sea eagle found dead earlier this year was poisoned.

    The bird of prey was recovered from Donside, Aberdeenshire, in April. A post mortem has now established it died as a result of pesticide poisoning. It had been satellite tagged.”

    Please can you finally take action to end the persecution of raptors in Scotland. Your first action, which will also prove to be the most beneficial, would be to end the Victorian practice of driven grouse shooting in Scotland’s uplands. A sad legacy from the monied English no doubt. You have finally listened to the Public and are taking action to protect the Mountain Hares; now you need to take immediate action to protect Scotland’s (and the UK’s) iconic raptors.

    We have been regular visitors to see raptors on Mull. You will be aware of the income Mull receives (and no doubt the Scottish Government receives through taxation) from wildlife tourism on Mull. Why not multiply this exponentially by banning the draconian “sport” of driven grouse shooting and legislate to bring back wildlife and with it, wildlife tourism. Are you frightened of the land owners? Why do you allow this slaughter to provide an unnatural number of young red grouse to live a few months and be shot by a few wealthy people, generally from outside Scotland?

    You are in possession of all the evidence you need, e.g. reports on Golden Eagle persecution, the Werritty Grouse Moor Management Group report. Do you want to see these raptor species go extinct before you act?

    Please set an example to the rest of the UK and in particular to us in England where we have similar problems.
    I have copied some information from the excellent Raptor Persecution UK website relating to this incident. I ask you to please read it. And I hope your first reaction is horror that this is happening on your watch in your country. The fact that such a dedicated website is even necessary should shock you.

    Best regards,
    Timothy Sarney

  8. written to both, one must try to get some action on this and all the other sickening crimes on grouse moors.

  9. Dear Ruth and whoever,

    We many who read your blog so frequently are aware of the horrifying statistics of raptor crime in Britain, but are the publc at large? Can you somehow get the message out to the wider public, ideally on TV?  And surely this case would be a superb starter!! With best wishes,

    Mike Betts

  10. Dear First Minister,

    How much longer is the Scottish Government under the SNP going to prevaricate with regard to dealing robustly with raptor persecution on grouse moors?

    I am sure you are aware of the white-tailed eagle found recently poisoned in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. This is one of many known incidents in the area and I am certain that these are just the tip of the iceberg.

    This poisoning is scandalous on every level but even more so due to the fact that the eagle was killed in a national park – where, if anything, it should be safe from persecution.

    You have shown great leadership with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic so it is clear that you have the decisiveness, courage and resilience to deal with this national scandal.

    How many more raptors have to die before we see robust measures effectively resolving these crimes?

    The Werritty Report failed our iconic raptors – are you really going to let the Scottish Government fail them too?

    Yours sincerely

  11. Why has the estate not been named?
    Why has the banned pesticide not been named?

    Naming and shaming is our only effective measure amidst precarious vicarious liability, idling licensing and quiescing policing.

    Let’s stop pussy-footing around.
    We can crowd-fund against any attempt at libel litigation!

  12. It is a waste of time writing to anyone in the Scottish government. Their failures to date make them accessories to these crimes. I have done a Freedom of Information request to Police Scotland. The information I saw online indicates this area belongs to the Crown. Say no more…

    1. Interesting earlier in the year a tagged harrier suddenly “disappeared” on Donside on a grouse moor rented to the Queen. Say no more…

  13. Ironically, the gamekeepers approach to “open evidence means that they would want the identity of the estate to be publicly available! Aye right.

    Sadly, the best we can hope for is that Werrity is implemented straight away.

    Declaring the name of the ultimate beneficiaries of the land ownership should be a condition of issuing a licence. We have to have somebody to prosecute…when the killing continues.

  14. Maybe things would improve if these estates were taken out of the hands of their English owners who treat Scotland like their personal playground.

    1. A typical SNP reaction, blame the English.

      Well with this xenophobia, why not kick out the Polvsens as well, and let Glen Feshie return to a dear cropped ecological waste land. Its not the nationality of the owners it’s the lack of action by the Scottish government.

    1. Nice one Les, good spot. Hopefully this will be promoted far and wide before January. We’ve both signed.

  15. I know this is not in the area you are referring to but the map does not appear to show a star for the Golden Eagle which was spotted last August flying near Balmoral Castle with its leg in a trap.

    [Ed: the first map shows data 2005-2018; second map was published in 2017]

  16. I wasn’t aware of this, very upsetting so Both emails sent, I travel hundreds of miles to watch the raptors every year, and not seen a golden Eagle yet, now I know why 😡

  17. According to Nature Scotland, there is estimated to be only 130 breeding pairs of Sea Eagles in Scotland.

    That makes the bird rarer in Scotland than, elephants in African countries, and tigers in India.

    The illegal killing of either of either these iconic species attracts worldwide condemnation, strong words from politicians and worldwide media exposure of the criminal network behind the illegal poaching.

    Poaching in many African countries has been met by armed rangers often backed by military support. Poachers can expect prison sentences if they aren’t killed in the shoot out with authorities.

    And what is the response from UK politicians to the criminal killing of British rare raptor species??

    Silence, dither, delay.!!

    What a disgrace.

    What a shameful way our politicians are behaving towards the criminal behaviour right before their eyes!!

    Perhaps its time we put our military into patrolling our wild open spaces, and really putting the wildlife criminals on the back foot??

  18. I thought you might feel able to respond to this FB post from Scotways – this is a reference to Golden Eagles, not a Sea Eagle, but the post suggests all is now well with Scotland’s wild life.

    Thank you for your realistic Raptor work and posts.


    ScotWays 47m ·

    The Golden Eagle is Scotland’s top countryside predator. These giant birds of prey soar high in the sky over Scotland’s mountains and moorlands with an impressive wingspan of 204-220cm! Golden Eagles pair for life and build large nests known as eyries which are often used by successive generations to rear their young. Golden Eagles were once widespread throughout the UK. However, centuries of persecution, particularly during the Victorian era as shooting estates grew in popularity, saw a dramatic decline in their population. Alongside persecution, their numbers further declined in the 1950s-60s due to the build up of organochlorine pesticides in their bodies. As the pesticides were used on the land small animals ingested the chemicals which in turn were eaten by larger animals. This caused the concentration to increase as it rose through the food chain, making Golden Eagles who are top of the food chain most susceptible.

    Alas, it is not all bad news, a small proportion of the population managed to survive in the Scottish uplands and through years of conservationists’ hard work, the population continues to slowly recover. They are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

    Walter and the group were lucky enough to spot an eagle whilst out stravaiging. Let us know if you too have managed to spot one of these great upland beauties and share any photos! #ScotWaysStravaig #ScotWays175

  19. Yes, emailed both parties again. I quoted from a contributor in the last blog, an ex shooter, who wrote passionately re his reasons for giving it up. (No names included).

  20. Its time for licensing to be brought in for grouse moors so that if there is any sign of raptor persecution they will lose their license and the ability to carry on their shooting…… would be a start anyway.

  21. Its really not that hard to deal with. I know this area well and there are only a few estates with the houses of gamekeepers being really obvious. What is lacking is the political will do actually stop this. Barren burnt hillsides with only grouse are an outrage.

  22. How do you know those ” poisonings ” are happening elsewhere and the birds are coming back into their own area . Also why do you use the same photo of a supposedly poisoned bird on several reports – this photo has been used a few times – .. the ” missing satellites ” could have fallen off the bird – did you physically go to the last place of contact with the satellite to see if it’s there – did you physically go out to try fing the missing bird as well he satellite might still be on the bird but not working — there are a lot of ” what iffs ” in this report – Do you publish a full report of the actions taken and the full results and not just what you want the public to see to get the ” sympathy vote ” if so I would like a copy

    1. So there is no connection between grouse moors and wildlife crime? Keep it up and you will only have yourselves to blame when legislation and licensing are finally brought in because you are incapable of keeping your members in check

  23. Disgusting and despicable that the Scottish government have continued to turn a blind eye to this slaughter of our natural heritage!!! A dereliction of their duties under national and international law😡

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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: