Police statement on poisoned golden eagle found on Invercauld Estate, Cairngorms National Park

Further to yesterday’s news that Police Scotland had conducted a raid, under warrant, on Invercauld Estate following the discovery of a poisoned golden eagle (see here), the police have just issued the following statement:

Officers are continuing enquiries into the poisoning of a bird of prey found dead near to Crathie in Aberdeenshire

On Friday, 19 March, 2021, a Golden Eagle was found dead on a hillside on the Invercauld Estate.

Subsequent forensic examination confirmed the bird had been illegally and intentionally poisoned.

Extensive enquiries are being carried out and on Tuesday, 4 May, 2021, officers acting under warrant, searched a number of properties on the Invercauld Estate. No arrests were made and enquiries are ongoing.

[The poisoned golden eagle found lying in moorland heather next to a poisoned bait on Invercauld Estate. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

Detective Constable Daniel Crilley, wildlife crime unit said: “Poisoning a bird or animal is not only cruel and callous but it can also harm other wildlife. Illegal persecution of raptors will not be tolerated. It is one of the six priorities set by the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit and Raptor Persecution is the current focus of Police Scotland’s year-long campaign, Operation Wingspan.

We are determined to protect these magnificent birds and here in the North East, we work closely with a number of partners, such as the RSPB and NatureScot, to tackle wildlife crime, which can be particularly challenging to investigate.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Gary Cunningham, wildlife crime lead for Police Scotland, said: “Scotland’s rich, rare and diverse wildlife and landscapes are among its biggest attractions. We cannot allow the indiscriminate use of poisons and pesticides to threaten our natural heritage.

Police Scotland, working with our key partners, is committed to protecting our wildlife habitats and to bringing those who seek to destroy or harm it, to justice.”

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations said: “Raptor persecution crimes on grouse moors in this area happen regularly. In 2019, a young eagle was photographed caught in a trap less than two miles from here, and in 2016, a line of illegal traps targeting birds of prey was found set across the hill less than three miles away. The perpetrators of these crimes don’t just threaten wildlife, but put at risk the reputation of the area and the jobs dependent on the associated tourist industry.”

Members of the public are police’s eyes and ears and anyone with information regarding this matter is asked to call Police Scotland via 101, quoting incident number 2757 of 19 March 2021.


I will be blogging further about this case and other raptor persecution incidents that have been reported on Invercauld Estate in previous years.

If you are commenting on this blog, please remember this is a live investigation and nobody has been arrested in connection with the poisoning of this eagle, yet alone charged or convicted. Libellous comments will not be published. Thanks.

UPDATE 6th May 2021: Poisoned golden eagle: statement from Cairngorms National Park Authority (here)

23 thoughts on “Police statement on poisoned golden eagle found on Invercauld Estate, Cairngorms National Park”

  1. Why didn’t they search on 19th March, rather than allow nearly 2 months for evidence to be disposed of? What does it actually take for this carnage to stop? How many more similar stories like this do we have to read about? Why is this generally not covered in mainstream news??

  2. I am gratified to see this response to xxxxx xxxxx crime in Scotland. I look forward to seeing the same meticulous forensic response to raptor persecution on the Moors of England.

  3. “Illegal persecution of raptors will not be tolerated.” …………. The criminals do not appear to have noticed that.

    The police never fail to trot out those worn out, valueless phrases that simply lead us to believe that they are achieving no more than going through the motions of an investigative process that has an exceptionally poor success rate.

    I wish we could have an investigation into the actions and performance of the police, criminal justice system and Scottish Government.
    Such an investigation would require to be conducted by independent people who were not part of the Scottish Government and the others. I do not see how they can be trusted to be impartial.

  4. To help understand why so very few individuals are prosecuted for these types of crimes an appreciation of Scottish history from the 1745 Rebellion to date would be very helpful as contained within is enough insight as to how power flowed through socieity for a realistic opinion to be formed.

  5. The Invercauld Estate website is quite interesting/ironic. Apparently, visitors come to Invercauld to take advantage of the wildlife viewing opportunities. There is a chance to view illusive birds, including – yes, you’ve guessed it – eagles! (Getting more illusive by the minute). If you fancy killing some of that wildlife, then there are hare shooting days on offer, usually, it says, in winter. There’s a picture of a woman with what looks like blood on her forehead – or perhaps it’s a smudge of bilberry juice – whatever, someone should give her a flannel. I note, no mention of hen harriers in the wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities … how can this be?

    1. Could the percentage of photos on the Invercauld Estate website devoted to the slaughter of wildlife be a good indication of the ethos which dictates how the estate is managed?
      They are certainly not photographs that promote Scottish tourism at its best.
      Whilst such photographs might be of interest to a class of people who view wildlife as nothing but something to hunt and kill. To the majority of tourists visiting the Scottish Highlands such images will be upsetting and contrary to their expectations of wild mountains with protected rare wildlife.
      The grainy low quality gruesome images are reminiscent of some of the photos taken during WW2 and later used in publications showing the atrocities committed.
      Hopefully, just like other old photos from the past, in the future people will view these images and judge the people in them for what they truly are, and view their glorification of the killing of wildlife with the horror it deserves.
      Only this morning I was reading some information that the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, with more than one in seven native species facing extinction and more than 40% in decline. Why are we allowing anyone to promote the killing of wildlife as a legitimate tourist attraction??
      This makes absolutely no sense, and something as a nation we should be ashamed of.

      This tourist promotion of the slaughter of wildlife for the rich and titled isn’t just confined to the UK- if you are interested there is an investigation taking place in Romania regarding the killing of a male brown bear suspected to have been trophy hunted by Prince Emanuel von und zu Liechtenstein. I wonder if this individual graces Scotland with his presence during the grouse or stag hunting season?
      Could it be that there is a group of morally bankrupt and ethically depleted rich, who flit from one hunting jolly to the next, with scant regard for anything but their own warped egos; and stupidly we allow those making money from these ventures to claim it is a benefit to national tourism??
      If so it’s a disgrace!
      I really hope the police investigations into the wildlife crimes, like the killing of this Golden Eagle eventually unravel what is really taking place, and our mainstream national media take up the story and let the whole world know what a vile bunch of people are actually up to when it comes protecting and preserving wildlife.

  6. If the perpetrator has any sense they will surely have a cache where they store any poisons. I doubt that the stuff ever enters a building, especially now that they know a raid might take place.

  7. The comments from Invercauld Estate manager Angus McNicol published on the BBC website are interesting. –

    “We are very disturbed indeed to learn that a bird of prey has been found on Invercauld in these circumstances”, he said.
    “We wholeheartedly support the appeal about this bird and anyone with information should contact Police Scotland.
    “Naturally we are offering our co-operation to the police as they conduct their inquiries and hope they are able to identify anyone who is involved.”

    If I was an estate manager and an illegally killed bird or prey was found on land I managed, my initial response would be one of reassuring the public that the estate does not tolerate such crimes and would be working actively with the police to try and identify the criminals responsible, whether that be a rogue employee or a visitor.

    It may be that the BBC have not fully published all of Mr McNicols interview?

    Let’s hope Police Scotland find evidence to catch the person or persons responsible.

  8. Very pleased to see Ian Thomson mention the tourist industry. This needs saying every time, over and over again. The money made from tourism far outweighs any from shooting and provides far more jobs. If it is said often enough, who knows, maybe even the landowners will start to realise the truth of that. And bonus, it’s year round!

    1. Don’t forget the spending can be lower down the social pyramid, in places like shops, garages and B&Bs. Though the Lairds may not perceive any benefit in that.

    2. Estates are largely held as assets by wealthy owners as part of a wider asset portfolio – they retain (and increase as Andy Wightman has clearly demonstrated) their value because they are recognisably a ‘Scottish estate’ – grouse moors and deer stalking are part of what makes it a ‘Scottish estate’, just as they hold stocks of diamonds and gold not because they are useful or even beautiful, but because they hold their value through being demonstrably gold or diamonds. If you went and planted trees on the moor because they would bring a greater return, or turned over the stalking area to downhill biking and a cafe you would doubtless make more money and create social capital, but your land would no longer be a ‘Scottish Estate’. Whist these hunting estates are held by the owner, they doubtless serve to underpin the owner’s social status. That I am afraid is what land is for in Scotland – another asset in a portfolio and status symbol for the world’s rich. Who can I vote for today to change that?

  9. Absolutely disgusting, it’s just so bad and I would love to see these birds in the wild as the wildlife has been decimated enough with idiots stealing eggs from the nest’s. I hope that they are caught and prosecuted.

  10. Pathetic response …………simply not good enough…..police are continuing to do a very poor job dealing with wildlife crime no one is being fooled by these statements or lip service searches.

    1. George Grey wrote:-

      “Pathetic response …………simply not good enough…..police are continuing to do a very poor job dealing with wildlife crime no one is being fooled by these statements or lip service searches.”

      True enough, but the police alone cannot be left to take the brunt of criticism for this longstanding sordid state of affairs.
      There does not have to be a pathetically inadequate (verging on non-existent) detection and conviction rate.
      Nor does there have to be a climate where wildlife criminals are comfortably able to do as they please.

      Responsibility must extend upwards beyond the police to the top of the Holyrood mob who have failed to kill the crime.
      If EFFECTIVE legislation was in place together with a determination to apply vigorous enforcement then this blog would not be overflowing with a narrative of vile deeds.

      The burden of responsibility in any organisation should always go to the very top. That is apparently either not happening or the people involved have found means to swing the lead.

      Many politicos should have signs on their desks : THE BUCK STOPS SOMEWHERE ELSE

      1. Dougie
        we are on the same page and I agree with your points.

        However its not legislation that is the problem its lack of enforcement.
        Police have been making a hash of wildlife crime for decades which suits wildlife criminals and some politicians.

        These crimes can and are solved check out the work of SSPCA who can do it without suitable statutory powers. No mention of them in this case looks like they were not involved.

        Sadly the status quo is the desired position of many.

        Disingenuous statements by police, estates and politicians treat the public as fools

  11. So why does this not fall under the laws for vicarious liability which ‘occurs where a person can be held liable for the actions of another person. Under the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 a landowner, shooting business or manager can be held criminally liable for the actions of their employees, contractors or agents.’ ?

    [Ed: This case has a fair way to go before a prosecution for vicarious liability could take place. First of all, and most importantly, the police have to establish the identity of the person who laid the poisoned bait. Then they have to establish that the offence was committed by someone who has a specific relationship to the person being charged with vicarious liability. Then they have to demonstrate that the person they’re thinking of charging with vicarious liability (a) did not know the offence was being committed; AND (b) that he took all reasonable steps AND exercised all due diligence to prevent the offence being committed.

    In this latest case, I would guess that it would fail at the first hurdle (identifying the individual who placed the poisoned bait). It is extremely difficult on a large estate with multiple employees to identify an individual suspect, especially if those employees give ‘no comment’ police interviews, which they are entitled to do.

    Having said that, vicarious liability can also be applied if an employee is found to be in possession of a banned poison. So if the police did find a poisons cache during their raids at Invercauld yesterday, there might be a prospect of a prosecution for possession (rather than poisoning). However, for reasons that I’ll discuss on this blog tomorrow, the chances of finding a poisons cache in this case are virtually zero.

    Since vicarious liability for raptor persecution was introduced as an enforcement option in Scotland in 2012, there have only been two successful prosecutions and both were on small, lowland gamebird shoots, not massive grouse shooting estates.

    In my opinion, the vicarious liability legislation is hopelessly ineffective where it urgently needs to enforced]

  12. As per usual, it sounds like the Police are yet again dragging their heels, with not much chance of any conviction due to lack of evidence. What a surprise ! Good news for xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx who live to kill another day. Complete Impunity !!!

  13. You must know who’s responsible sounds like organised crimes does anything ever change how many prosecutions they need to go to jail have there assets siezed and licenses revoked

  14. I think it’s only reasonable to have low expecations within the current legal system. But cases like this are good ones to add to the case for a proper legal overhaul, and are very compelling in the court of public opinion. Especially this one, because when a victim and the bait are found together there is no room for an Estate to plausibly spout the usual BS “it must have eaten it elsewhere and flown here then died”.

    Sloppy work by the perpetrator(s) though. From tales I heard in the 90’s they tend to put the baits in concealed hollows or steep hillsides visible only from above, that are not easy for anyone else to access. They glance at it every day at a distance with binoculars, and get rid of the victims straight away. Maybe [Ed: whoever did this] just couldn’t give a monkeys.

  15. The only realistic way to tackle this callous, cynical, & organised, wildlife crime is with a complete ban on ALL driven grouse shooting – a bloodsport underpinned by organised wildlife crime & government subsidies. A ban on DGS would also get rid of the vast majority of muirburn, the horrific traps & snares which kill wildlife (& pets) indiscriminately + those grotesque, macabre stinkpits festering all over our countryside. Remember, DGS is simply a bloodsport for a few sadists blasting birds from our skies for … “fun” !! It should be relegated to the more sordid pages of our history books asap.

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