Former Sea Eagle Project Officer explains devastating personal impact of ongoing illegal persecution on grouse moors

This is a powerful, must-watch video.

Claire Smith, currently a Senior Conservation Officer with RSPB Scotland, was previously employed by the East Scotland Sea Eagle Project between 2007-2011 when these birds were being reintroduced from Norway.

Here she explains the devastating personal impact of having to deal with the continued illegal killing of these eagles on some driven grouse moors.

You become a little bit numb to it………You’re almost just waiting for the next one”.

She also talks about the white-tailed eagle that was recently found poisoned on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park (see here for background).

Watch the full video here:


If you’re sick to the back teeth of illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors, please consider participating in this quick and easy e-action to send a pre-written letter to your local Parliamentary representative (MSP/MP/MS) urging action. All you need to do is stick in your postcode.

Launched last Saturday by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, over 30,000 people have signed up so far, meaning that 30,000 e-letters are winging their way to our parliamentary representatives. Please join in HERE

Thank you

19 thoughts on “Former Sea Eagle Project Officer explains devastating personal impact of ongoing illegal persecution on grouse moors”

  1. I can’t follow the Link because it takes me to a – “Your connection is not private” page!

    [Ed: Hi Dick – not sure to which link you’re referring? Just click on the ‘play arrow’ on the video and the film will start automatically, there’s no need for it to link off anywhere. Thanks]

  2. There is really nothing to add to that video all the more powerful because Claire just speaks normally to camera. I wrote at the time to the First minister and Environmental Sec and wrote again a few days ago concerning the Golden Eagle Tom and Harrier Silver. Those letters of course were polite but I hope forcefully got the points across. I seem to be permanently full of rage about this at the moment, when are the Scots Gov’t going to actually DO anything about it!

    1. Ditto. Maybe the point is, when are WE going to do something about it? We have to find a channel for our continued rage. Like you Paul, I have written again, and in fact, sent the letter to every Scottish MP, but in the end, as long as they know that that is all we will ever do, our letters will go in the bin.

  3. I will never understand how somebody such as Clair can still be supporting licensing. So much work, so much emotion over the years, all for a gamekeeper to wreck yet another dream.
    Her handling license, which obviously means a lot to her, only works because she is a reasonable and responsible person. You just can’t go on believing that that is the case for many gamekeepers. Probably most gamekeepers.
    More correctly, the landowners themselves.

  4. Would the Norwegian Government, today, allow their precious eagles to be harvested for any further re-introduction projects into the UK? Indeed, will the French or Spanish Governments allow their Hen Harriers to be similarly harvested?

    All paid out of tax-payers pockets, of course…

  5. contacted my MP as requested, sadly it is a waste of time because as usual he follows the party line.

  6. Surely those who manage the estate from whence this individual fledged are just as angry as the rest of us. So let’s hear from them! Not the usual hand wringing, but a proper condemnation and support for action from the Scottish Government

    1. Okay, it might have appeared that the above was purely rhetorical. Well it wasn’t. I hereby invite the said landowners/managers to show how much they care, comment here and join the rest of us in the fight…

  7. Why people have to kill things for fun is beyond me but if they do can they just do it without it being detrimental to the local fauna.

  8. Having been the Project Officer for the Yorkshire Red Kite releases, I fully empathise with Claire in her description of her reaction to ongoing persecution incidents. To date we have had no fewer than 46 Yorkshire kites either shot or poisoned. As Claire says, you spend a lot of your time wondering when and where the next victim will be found and dreading the phone ringing.
    Our figure of 46 represents those offences which were actually discovered. Goodness knows how many other victims have gone undetected in the wide-open spaces of North Yorkshire – not least in lockdown when some cowardly fellow with a shotgun shot one off its nest.
    I sometimes reflect on the terms of the IUCN reintroduction guidelines – in particular the bit about the cause of their original extirpation having been removed. Would Yorkshire have met the reintroduction criteria had it been possible to anticipate the rate of attrition which the birds would suffer? Maybe the fact that the majority of the known incidents are relatively localised and that the birds are doing well elsewhere in the county would be sufficient to give the project retrospective approval.
    I have been involved with these birds for over 20 years and what has happened has undoubtedly had an effect on me personally. There’s the elation at being associated with a largely successful and popular reintroduction programme, but also a distinctly bitter taste arising from the never-ending illegal activities of those people who persist in defying the law and killing them.

    1. It was also aired on Radio 4’s flagship morning news programme, Today.

      The write-up on the Beeb’s web site is pretty good.

  9. Every time a satellite tagged bird goes missing in suspicious circumstances, or there is direct evidence of a raptor being killed, then a great deal of anger is generated by those who value our wildlife.
    We write to our MP’s and demand action on grouse moor management, or changes to the way the game bird shooting industry operates, such as the introduction of regulations, but realistically is anything going to happen?

    Politicians are very aware that when it comes to elections and getting re- elected- wildlife is not on the agenda of most voters. So they will say the right things, and condemn the killing when it happens, reply to our letters advising how they are working with landowners and other stake holders to end raptor crime; but does this result in the fundamental changes in legislation which are needed? The lack of action to date, suggests not!

    Perhaps it is time those of us who are fed up with the endless merry-go-round of raptor persecution, denial by the shooting industry, and meaningless words by politicians, changed tact?

    Perhaps, a new approach for those who want the wildlife criminals brought to justice might be by demanding that the police have more investigative powers when it comes to raptor crimes?

    As an example, at the moment if a suspect is arrested, the police cannot then search that suspects house or premises for evidence which would link the suspect to the crime. This is because Sect18 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act which relates to searches, after a person has been arrested, is only applicable to indictable crimes, and wildlife crimes aren’t indictable. Which makes it all too easy for criminals to hide incriminating evidence.

    Neither have the police the automatic right to seize and examines a suspects mobile phone or other electronic devices in order to examine the suspects “digital footprint” – which might help in placing the suspect at the scene of the crime. So even, when there are images of the suspect caught on camera, the police are not able to easily search and gather other items of evidence which would link that suspect to the image, and to the crime.
    Is it any wonder, that all the suspect has to do in interview is reply “no comment”, knowing that the police have limited powers to search for other evidence. This usually leaves the police with insufficient evidence to charge.

    Are we are asking the police to deal with wildlife crimes with one hand tied behind their back whilst wearing a blindfold?

    So perhaps it would be worthwhile changing tact, and instead of writing to our politicians demanding the ban grouse shooting, or the introduction of regulations- matters which will be so fiercely opposed by the land owners, that there is little chance of getting the legislation through parliament, due to influence this group of people have over politicians.
    Would not greater initial success come from asking that the police are simply given proper powers to investigate wildlife crimes?

    As politicians, landowners and the various shooting organisations all publicly condemn raptor persecution, then surely giving the police the necessary powers to properly investigate these incidents would be a welcome step forward for all parties?

    Any opposition by the shooting lobby, would be a good indication that they are not truly committed to driving out the criminals in their midst; it would undermine their position, expose their deceit, and this may then be a good stepping stone to actually getting game shooting regulated, or DGM banned; and allow our wildlife legislation to actually be more effective?

    Sometimes it can be better to take little steps, than to try and complete a journey in one big leap!!

    1. Well said, John. I think you are correct: we need to fight on all fronts – for a complete ban of all shooting, for a licensing regime which has a chance of actually being effective, and for the legislation to be modified to recognise the seriousness of wildlife crime. By increasing the severity of the penalties, the Police get more powers for covert surveillance and searches…

      See which finds most traction among our politicians….

    1. Mr Batey conveniently forgets that Sea Eagles are a native species, and were around for countless millennia before sheep farming was ever thought of. He also forgets overgrazing by millions of sheep has seriously degraded the uplands in particular. So, no thought for the rest of us, or our natural heritage from Mr Batey.

      As for the veracity of his statement…

      As anyone who isn’t a complete nitwit knows, the authors of this blog are not responsible for the reintroduction of any species. And…

      “To support crofters and farmers in response to the lamb losses caused by white-tailed eagles,a partnership was formed between betweenScottish Natural Heritage (SNH), National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS), Scottish Crofters Federation (SCF), Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), Scottish Government Rural Payments andInspections Directorate (SGRPID), Scottish Rural Colleges (SRUC), Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG)and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland (RSPB Scotland) to establish aSea Eagle Management Scheme(SEMS)in 2014. The scheme is designed to extend support for livestock farmers and crofters who suffer impacts across the breeding range of white-tailed eagles.”

      Click to access Guidance%20-%20White-tailed%20Eagle%20Action%20Plan%20-%20Q%26A.pdf

      To sum up, Mr Batey has written a complete load of b***ocks.

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