A man who shot and killed an eagle, removed its satellite tag and dumped it in a reservoir, and then dumped the eagle’s corpse in a bin, has been tracked down thanks to the data provided by the eagle’s tag.
This is a news story from Andalucia in southern Spain, translated via Google (here) so bear with it.
A young Bonelli’s eagle was fitted with a satellite tag in its nest in May 2020 as part of a Spanish LIFE project trying to address this species’ population decline (here).
[A tagged Bonelli’s eagle, photo from Aquila a-LIFE Project]
On 27th August, the researchers tracking the eagle’s movements via the tag’s data reported to the authorities that the eagle appeared to be floating in the Iznajar Reservoir, near a bridge.
A patrol visited the site and found the tag but no sign of the eagle.
Meanwhile, the police were able to retrace the route of the tag from the time when the data suggested the bird had been killed (11.53 – 12.23hrs) on a hunting (shooting) estate. They also located two points where they found Bonelli’s eagle feathers – one on the hunting ground and one in the area where the hunters park their vehicles.
What are described as ‘subsequent investigations’ led the police to identify the suspect, who then attended voluntarily and admitted he’d accidentally shot the eagle and panicked when he saw the tag so he removed it and threw it in the reservoir and dumped the eagle in a bin.
A prosecution is expected.
[Police officers retrieving the eagle’s corpse from a bin]
Interesting, isn’t it?
This Spanish shooter could learn a lot from his Scottish counterparts. They’ve already learned that when you kill a satellite-tagged eagle you need to disable the tag before disposing of it, otherwise the tag will continue to transmit and give away its location.
Although disabling the tag and then hiding it, and the corpse of the dead eagle, doesn’t hide the clear geographic pattern of the killings, as revealed by the superbly comprehensive and forensic analyses undertaken for the Govt-commissioned Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, amusingly still being described as “crap science” by those who don’t have any scientific credentials and don’t have any experience of satellite tags, but who do have a vested interest in wanting raptor satellite tracking to stop. Can’t imagine why.
The Scottish eagle killers have also learned that if you chuck a satellite tag into water you definitely need to ensure it’s been properly disabled first because some of them, depending on the tag model, will continue to function in water (remember Fred, anyone?), as this Bonelli’s eagle tag did.
Sometimes, though, simply disabling the tag isn’t always enough to cover your tracks…….there’ll be more on this very soon.