Golden eagle Tom disappears in suspicious circumstances on Scottish grouse moor

In 2017, Raptor Persecution UK teamed with Chris Packham to start a project fitting satellite tags to young golden eagles in Scotland, as part of a wider conservation research initiative in to golden eagle ecology, which began back in 2004 (see here for more info).

Since then, each year our team of licensed experts has been fitting tags to young eagles and we’ve been able to monitor these eagles’ movements as they try and make their way in the world. Our tag data are shared collaboratively within a specialised Golden Eagle Research Group and are contributing to some ground-breaking studies on golden eagle dispersal and movement ecology (see here for more info).

Unfortunately, our study is being undertaken in a country where the illegal persecution of raptors is rife, and that includes the illegal killing of golden eagles.

A Government-commissioned report published in 2017 showed how almost one-third of all satellite-tagged golden eagles in Scotland (41 of 131 eagles) had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances between 2004-2016, many of them vanishing in particular clusters on or close to driven grouse moors.

So far, three of ‘our’ tagged eagles have vanished in suspicious circumstances on or next to driven grouse moors – there was Fred in 2018 who disappeared from the Pentlands and whose tag last transmitted 10 miles offshore in the North Sea where we believe the tag, and perhaps Fred, had been dumped (here), and then there was Adam and Charlie who both disappeared within hours of one another on the same grouse moor in Strathbraan in 2019 (here).

Now another one has gone.

His name was Tom, and he hatched in Argyll in May 2019.

[Golden eagle Tom having his satellite tag fitted at approx 8 weeks old. Photo RPUK]

Tom survived for a year, travelling to explore the west, out as far as the Isle of Mull, before making a fateful journey east towards the grouse moors in the spring of this year.

Here is an overview of his movements; the yellow disc is the last known location from his tag, on 18th May 2020.

Tom vanished in the early hours of the morning on a grouse moor in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire, a well-known raptor persecution hotspot, just a few miles north of the area where Adam and Charlie vanished last year.

We notified Police Scotland of the sudden loss of tag transmission and they examined the tag data and agreed that the circumstances were indeed suspicious. They undertook a search of the grouse moor but of course didn’t find any evidence – no tag, no carcass, nothing.

In late July the police gave us permission to publicise this incident and we’ve made a video to document Tom’s short life:

Needless to say we are upset and angry that another golden eagle has gone in virtually identical circumstances to so many others – vanishing without trace on a driven grouse moor in Scotland.

What angers us the most is the Scottish Government’s apparent indifference to the ongoing killing of birds of prey. We’re not alone in our anger – we believe thousands of people have written to the First Minister just a couple of weeks ago after the poisoned corpse of a white-tailed eagle was found dead on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park (here).

The Scottish Government has been aware of what’s been going on for decades. They know where it goes on, why it goes on and which sector of society is responsible. And yet still we’re having to wait for effective action.

Why is that?

If you share our anger, you can channel it in to something worthwhile. Please consider participating in this quick and easy e-action to send a letter to your local Parliamentary representative (MSP/MP/MS) urging action on illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors. Launched on Saturday by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, over 21,000 people have signed up so far. Please join in HERE

Thank you.


This article was picked up by

The Times (here)

The Oban Times (here)

BBC News website (here)

The Scotsman (here)

Evening Standard (here)

The Courier (here)

Perthshire Advertiser (here)

UPDATE 14th August 2020: Disappearance of golden eagle Tom prompts Parliamentary motion (here)

46 thoughts on “Golden eagle Tom disappears in suspicious circumstances on Scottish grouse moor”

  1. “The Scottish Government has been aware of what’s been going on for decades. They know where it goes on, why it goes on and which sector of society is responsible. And yet still we’re having to wait for effective action.

    Why is that?”

    Something of a rhetorical question. No answer is needed because the answer is clear. The architects of wildlife crime and those are have the supreme responsibility of stopping it appear to be part of the same enterprise.

    1. In my opinion one day unfortunately a person is going to die by touching something that has been poisoned.
      If that happens then as far as I am concerned the government should be charged because they know that it goes on and continue to do nothing about it

  2. Hi , Post code link isn;t working on the wild justice link BW Phil

    [Ed: Thanks, Phil – please try again. Just tested at this end and appears to be working fine]

  3. In future can you name tagged birds after well known figures like Captain Tom? Might then get an airing on main tv channels.

      1. The headlines ‘Nicola shot on driven grouse moor’ and Roseanna found poisoned in suspicious circumstances in Cairngorms National Park ‘ might get some attention!

  4. I’ve sent an email to my local MP, not that it will do any good😥😥. I feel so helpless, I have seen eagles on holiday in Scotland and cannot understand how these people get away with this but I realise big money is at stake for them 😡😡 but living in Cheshire there’s limited things I can do. I did go to Bradford last year and demonstrated against grouse moor . burning. I follow you on Facebook and share all the posts you put on 😃

    1. Physical presence is needed in a public space, preferably close to one of these estate entrances. We need galvanising into a public demonstration where it matters. Close to the killings.

    2. Lyn

      There is loads you can do!

      There are Moorland Monitor Groups in your area. I expect they advertise their contacts on-line but the LACS can put you in touch with them if not. The National Anti Snaring Campaign also monitors traps and snares. Both the Moorland Monitors and NASC provide free training in locating, recording and reporting illegal traps and snares and other criminal activities and sometimes do additional training on relevant issues. These are really great groups with lovely, inspiring, knowledgeable members.

      Share photos of wildlife crimes your find and horrific legal activities on social media.

      Volunteer at a wildlife rescue centre. It’ll give you a sound basic knowledge of wildlife and get you in touch with some kind, caring people. We all need people like that!

      Volunteer for a habitat restoration group. Wildlife needs as much help as possible in creating decent habitats for them.

      Write letters to the press, complain to your MP, Defra, highlight the issue with your local wildlife groups and committees like your local AONB committee etc.

      Track badgers, raptors and other wildlife which are impacted by these scoundrels and report sightings to relevant groups eg Badger Trust, RSPB etc. Local information like that might help with identifying crime hotspots.

      If you’re brave enough – go out on the 12th August with your local sab group. Again, there is a local group in your area and I’m sure you’ll find them to be a merry band on doers!

      Good luck!

  5. By the time the SNP government get off their arses or stop sitting on their hands there will be precious little of Scotland’s raptors left what will it take to get them to do something effective and immediate? Perhaps we should start giving these eagles and harriers tagged a high profile name, how about First minister ? I am as always suitably sickened and angered by this continuing flouting of the law with no consequences for the bloody criminals in our midst.

    1. The Scottish government needs to act because it is morally the right thing to do. The continuing deliberate destruction of rare, beautiful and (theoretically) protected species in the narrow interests of a tiny minority of entitled people is an affront that should be intolerable to the government and to decent people everywhere. There is nothing new in that, of course, but the Scottish government still drags its feet. Perhaps it needs to be made clearer to the government that as well as being illegal and immoral, the persecution is harmful to Scotland’s economic interests.
      I note that there is a ‘Visit Scotland’ facebook page ( who’s purpose is to entice tourists to come and enjoy the various highlights of the country – which undoubtedly include its charismatic wildlife. Does RPUK think that it would be helpful for concerned people to post messages on that facebook page about our concerns regarding the ongoing persecution of raptors? If the tourist industry starts to perceive this as an issue that will deter visitors they might start to exert pressure on Bute House.

      [Ed: Go for it!]

  6. Can we please have a mass demonstration on public roads/land in the Strathbraan before the bad weather sets in or for next spring/early summer? Another beautiful eagle killed, another criminal act without consequences. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx The politicians are not interested, they can easily forget letters and emails, rhetoric sees to that. But they do respond to people on the streets. So do the media.

    I lived in the Strathbraan for a couple of years and know just what xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

    Could you please pull a few strings and openly invite a celebrity or two along – let’s face it, we’d need a name or two to spark interest….and get a few hundred marching along that narrow road to Crianlarich, just off the A9, near Dunkeld.

    Outrage needs a public outlet, a physical outpouring of feeling.

    I’d go. I’m sure many others would too.

  7. As Chris Packham says, we know who is doing it. we know where and we know why.
    Imagine knowing all that and it was rape or child abuse and i had to write to my MSP yet again and say ‘look another’ whilst they continue to dither and talk and postpone.
    Notice Benny Higgins, former banker and current chair of Buccleuch Estates, is now SNP financial advisor.

  8. This persecution of Raptors in Scotland is outrageous. Nicola Sturgeon and her government have to take responsibility for the situation and stand up to the ‘shooting fraternity’. There’s no shortage of game for the raptures to share – amazing creatures shot or poisoned by gamekeepers on behalf of the wealthy landowners – purely for the pleasure of shooting grouse and pheasants .
    Please Scottish parliament do SOMETHING NOW!!!

  9. Just over a year ago, on the 30th July, Nicola Sturgeon wrote directly to a 9 yr old lad called Freddie. He had sent the 1st Minister his drawings of Scottish golden eagles and a message of concern.

    In her reply she said that “the Scottish Government must do everything it can to look after our eagles”. She also mention the awaited Werrity report. She did not mention long grass at all.

    What has actually happened over the intervening year. I feel very let down but more importantly I wonder how Freddie is feeling?

  10. I fully support any form of peaceful direct action that will highlight the continuous and systematic eradication of Golden Eagles and other birds of prey on our DGM’s… and would go as far as to say that this is long overdue.

    It pains me greatly to think of a khaki clad cowboy of the moorland glancing towards the sky and catching a glimpse of one of these birds and immediately begin to consider a method of killing it without being caught. Others look skyward and are filled with joy and wonder while some see that being responsible for it’s death would bring praise, and even promotion, in it’s wake. They also boast about the crime to other similarly motivated individuals in the privacy of their drinking dens.

    The time has come to force them to take responsibility for the carnage they cause. The huge sums of money held by those who own DGM’s can finance nebulous hegemonic power entities locally as they seek out those more susceptible to corruption or other favours. The goal is to stop and/or hinder the process of bringing them to account.

    In the same way we do not discriminate between those who plan the crimes and those who carry them out. No discrimination should be shown between individuals, be they beaters, game-keepers, Hedge Fund Owners or Aristocra.tsy, as the the level of culpability should be assigned to each who play a part. They all know what is happening and they, too, should be assigned the same level of responsibility. This because it would be so simple for them to stop it by co-operating with conservation organisation or the forces of the State.

    The industry, and all who participate in it, are equally as guilty as if they, themselves, committed the crime.

  11. Like so many people, I am at a loss to understand why a protest, a peaceful but well attended protest, can’t be organised. Direct peaceful action is well overdue.
    There are some fine ideas above. Yes, email MPs, yes write to papers, yes name future tagged birds after celebrities, yes leave a message on Visit Scotland Facebook page, but in the end, no one is listening.
    The time has surely come to be visible.
    I will pledge now to come up from Lincolnshire for any peaceful protest. Who will join me?

  12. Forget the Scottish Government they are a waste of time and space. Let us fund the sabs, they will take action to stop them. Then put up candidates against the SNP in the elections next year.

  13. The fact that these beautiful birds keep mysteriously disappearing is absolutely disgusting. This needs to be stopped as quickly as possible with severe punishment and fines for xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx and any identified perpetrators.

    The Scottish Government know it’s going on and need to do something about it.

  14. Stop persecuting these amazing raptors. It’s hard to believe that no-one is being brought to task over the disappearance of these beautiful birds. Please Scotland, do something to stop the slaughter of these birds & others like them and bring xxxxx xxxxx in for criminal damage 🤬

  15. Why can’t vicarious liability be considered for this if it’s the same estate where Charlie and Adam disappeared?

    [Ed: It isn’t the same estate and for a vicarious liability prosecution you first have to have a confirmed crime and then to have confirmed the identity of the perpetrator and establish whether there’s a relationship between the perpetrator and the person being charged for alleged vicarious liability]

  16. Another sad tale of a Golden Eagle disappearing in this area. I am disgusted at the continuing persecution of raptors in this area. I despair at this SNP government and their resistance to change at what is occurring in our uplands that are used for DGS.

  17. The indifference of the Scottish Goverment sends a signal to the criminals that they can continue with their sick practices with impunity. It also encourages others to resume their abuse against Scotland’s rare wildlife heritage.
    For what ever reason, the SNP’s apathy is shameless.

    1. I am sure that it was not intentional on your own part, but you do the SG a service by attributing the current state of affairs to apathy.
      SG policy could be more accurately described as purposeful compliance.

      1. You’re right of course Dougie, in fact they have over a prolonged period proved their attitude to be on a par with Westminster. Very sadly they are far from the progressive party we were promised!

  18. I wonder how many of the 21000 (and rising) will get an actual reply. I haven’t yet. Surely, they can’t just ignore it any longer. After 1000’s and 1000’s of views to both Hen Harrier Days this year, the public are getting to know whats going on. There is going to be public outcry. It can’t go on, it needs to stop NOW. Come on SNP, please, please, please. Deep down, I feel you must think this is wrong. When you hear of another incident, you must bury your head in your hands in shame. Do what is right for once, don’t let money talk. Come on, you know you want to.

      1. Did get one after I commented above. Not great though. See below.

        Thank you for contacting me about driven grouse shooting and the illegal killing of hen harriers and other birds of prey.

        Welsh Conservatives understand that many people have strongly held views about this subject. We want to see a vibrant, working countryside enhanced by a diverse environment in Wales and, as driven grouse shooting contributes to that goal, I do not support an outright ban on the practice.

        However, the only things that I have ever personally shot are clay pigeons and cardboard targets.

        Shooting as a whole is worth about £2 billion a year to the economy, much of it in some of our remotest communities, including Wales. It supports more than 70,000 full-time equivalent jobs, 1,520 relating directly to grouse shooting. Grouse shooting is also one of the main land uses in the uplands along with grazing and forestry.

        However, it is essential that our wildlife is properly protected, and anyone involved in game management must respect the country’s conservation laws, which are among the toughest in the world.

        It is important to recognise that healthy, active peatland provides numerous environmental benefits and ecosystem services including natural cover for grouse. I am pleased that the UK Conservative Government is working with moor owners in England to further improve management practices and peat condition, such as through Blanket Bog Restoration Projects. In Wales, the Welsh Peatland Action Group’s Welsh Peatlands Sustainable Management Scheme is using government funding for similar purposes.

        It is also worth noting that all wild birds are protected from illegal killing by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Raptor persecution, including of hen harriers, is a national wildlife crime priority and there are strong penalties in place for offences committed against birds of prey.

        As such, my colleague, the Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Energy and Rural Affairs, Janet Finch-Saunders MS, will raise your concerns about enforcement with the Environment Minister at the earliest opportunity.

        Yours sincerely

  19. Just watched the video on YouTube with Chris and Ruth talking about the missing golden Eagle tom utterly depressing….surely there can’t be much more nails to go into the driven grouse coffin this has got to be the last straw.

  20. This response is simply a version of the Westminster one, tweeted to give it a Welsh flavour. “We want to see a vibrant, working countryside enhanced by a diverse environment in Wales and, as driven Grouse shooting contributes to that goal …” Just how much does DGS contribute in Wales? How much DGS goes on in Wales? Surely your MP needs to know that DGS is not an earner in Wales, not an employer in Wales but it is certainly robbing Welsh folk of their Hen Harriers.

  21. This is obviously the work of xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxx . It must be stamped out . Jail terms applied if the perpetrators are convicted.

  22. What really angers me is that this actually has nothing to do with raptor persecution it’s all about grouse shooting and how mr packham and his cronies want it banned the eagle that was found in the North Sea for example did a gamekeeper kill it on a grouse moor then paddle out and dump it it’s easy to put a post on the internet and joe blogs public who probably knows nothing about animals nature etc the workings of the country side. We all love animals and nature but the fake news that is put out there just to try and gain support is pathetic maybe the public should look at the carnage caused by wild justice last year causing the loss of hundreds of thousands of song birds just because they think they know it all mr packham always goes on about science maybe he should start listening to these scientists and really learn something so before you sign anything on the basis of what you have read here maybe look in to it a bit more before you do

    1. It’s plain to see that you know very little about “the workings of the country side” (sic). As for science, you obviously have no regard for it whatsoever, or you wouldn’t post such pig-ignorant shite about “songbirds”. All you self-styled, plastic “countrymen” can whine all you want. Those with experience will never be fooled by your lies, and Increasing numbers of the general public are becoming aware of your degenerate activities every day. And there’s nothing you, or any other bullshit merchants can do about it.

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