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
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)