Five eagles found dead in Western Isles – Police Scotland open investigation

Police Scotland have opened an investigation on the Western Isles after the discovery of five dead eagles within the space of a week.

Two golden eagles and a white-tailed eagle were found dead on the Isle of Harris on 7th August, and another two golden eagles were found dead on the Isle of Lewis on 14th August 2021.

This article about the discoveries appeared yesterday in The Herald:

Police say they are investigating after five eagles were found dead in the Outer Hebrides in a space of a week. 

Two golden eagles had been found dead two miles south of Bragar on the Isle of Lewis on August 14. 

While two golden eagles and white tailed sea eagle were found dead near Bowglass on the Isle of Harris, a week before on August 7. 

The birds found on August 7 were significantly decomposed but forensic work is being undertaken to try to establish how they died.

Although the eagles were found dead in similar circumstances, the incidents are not being treated as linked.

Inspector Jane MacKenzie said: “Around 1.25pm on Saturday 14 August 2021, officers received a report that two golden eagles had been found dead two miles south of Bragar on the Isle of Lewis. Enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances.

Enquiries are also ongoing after two golden eagles and white tailed sea eagle were found dead near Bowglass on the Isle of Harris on Saturday, 7 August, 2021. They were significantly decomposed but forensic work is being undertaken to try to establish how they died.

Eagles are protected birds of prey and Police Scotland will always investigate reports of these birds being found dead. It can be highly complex, requiring detailed scientific work, but we will always strive to bring anyone responsible for this type of wildlife crime to justice.

Anyone with information about these birds, or any wildlife crime, can contact Police Scotland on 101, or make a call anonymously to the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”


That police quote is fairly circumspect, which is perhaps understandable given the investigation is still in the early stages and this isn’t an official police press release. However, local information provided to me suggests the investigation into the first incident is much further ahead than has been indicated here. Based on that information, I’m very surprised to see the journalist claim the incidents are not being treated as linked (presumably that information came from the police?). Hmm, I wonder…..

Although if a crime is confirmed, don’t expect the investigation to result in a prosecution. Despite Inspector MacKenzie’s fine words, which undoubtedly were given with genuine sincerity, I’m not aware of anybody being convicted for killing an eagle in Scotland.


If you have information about these five dead eagles, please contact Police Scotland on 101.

46 thoughts on “Five eagles found dead in Western Isles – Police Scotland open investigation”

  1. Shit!
    That’s a holiday to the Western Isles cancelled. I’m not going anywhere near another community where, even a minority of locals / landowners / tenants are involved in / condone / support / encourage / turn a blind eye to (delete as appropriate) this kind of thing! Enough of that at home in the BOP hell-hole that is N England!

    1. There is so much loaded innuendo in this statement that I do feel it best you stay in N England. As a local, I don’t condone this but what would you like me to do? Load up my father rifle and undertake some vigilante activity??

      1. Perhaps you could contact your PCC with a request that this case receives urgent attention, as it is attracting criticism.

    2. I think you are jumping the gun here? they indecent’s are many miles apart and won’t be on the same estates or Crofts? plus this summer has been really poor for weather, I would wait and not jump to conclusions, the islanders get a lot of visitors like yourself that come to see them.

      1. I would love to agree with you but it does sound a bit like two were found at a specific location and the other three close together at another location. Natural deaths I would think would likely be spread out more.
        Also we had a great summer up till 3 weeks ago, in fact many private water supplies on the Islands are struggling, very few cancelled boats due to wind. Although this years fledged raptors are on the wing , most are still being fed/taught to hunt by parents so it is early for mortality by starvation as does happen among the young.
        Whatever way it turns out it is a depressing figure.

      1. I may not agree with that viewpoint right now, but from down here in the mudlands it would be the only protest I could make.

        I remember staying in Boat of Garten at a time when an Osprey was found dead. Locals expressed their concern and anger. I trust we’ll hear similar from the Hebrides as the story unfolds.

        1. You have no business passing judgement or expecting any kind of response from a whole community which is made up of many interests of which you know little or nothing. You would not do it in Birmingham and you have even less reason to do it in the Hebrides. As the past week has demonstrated the British have an unfortunate habit of interfering in other folk’s business and with very negative consequences.

          1. Well BSA I was one of those people interfering in other people’s business when I was on Lewis in 2010 doing door to door surveys trying to ascertain if people were eligible for benefits and/or help with insulation measures, more energy efficient heating systems and general advice to reduce fuel poverty and carbon emissions. Although on many occasions my welcome could have been warmer once it was clear my presence at their door could involve MONEY they were quite happy with my ‘interference’. In fact as I was leaving one crofter he grabbed me by the elbow and forcibly directed me to his brother’s croft across the road to make sure he didn’t miss out. I have to say there’s not only a great deal of tolerance towards the type of ‘interference’, there actually seems an expectation that it’s their birth right to be given subsidies, rebates, grants, low interest loans, dispensations and in general free stuff at the click of their fingers. The motto for Lewis should be ‘But can we not get it for free?’, in Gaelic of course.

            Isn’t it strange that while you’re not supposed to have a generalised opinion of your own about a group of people, irrespective of how well founded on experience it is, there’s no problem with them presenting a positive image of themselves and us all accepting that at face value – e.g crofters still living traditionally, close to the land and despite somehow still suffering from the depredations of the clearances they struggle on with great humility and generosity to others. Personally I would be more than happy to end the interference that involves people getting large sums of public money because of where they happen to live and then keeping a few mangy, token sheep so a few boxes can be ticked and then they’re on the gravy train. After my experience on Lewis, which I’d actually been excited about visiting for the first time (36 hours cured that), the fact five dead eagles have turned up rather suspiciously there doesn’t surprise me at all, kind of fits in with the place. Incidentally whenever have any of the Crofting organisations made any public statements about the need to end Scotland’s disgusting culture of raptor persecution? Silly me that wouldn’t have been self serving, would’ve involved caring about something beyond themselves, fat chance.

            1. Neither your personal experiences on Lewis, with issues completely unrelated to raptors, nor your resulting staggering prejudices have anything to do with my comment, which referred to some (admittedly feeble) proposals to sanction a whole region on the basis of some cultural stereotype – collective punishment, considered only for the natives. It does shine a light though on some of the attitudes involved, as if that were any longer necessary.

              1. How can PREJUDICES result from EXPERIENCE BSA? As I stated in my original comment there would have been no problem if I’d repeated what I now see is the propaganda, the ‘Whisky Galore’ stereotype about the sweet, kind, fun loving crofter overflowing with generosity and community spirit – without ever actually having met one. No problem if I’d regurgitated that spiel eh BSA? That’s actually pretty much how I felt before I went to Lewis, myself and my colleague were literally dancing on air when we’d been told we’d been selected to go there, we felt as if we were about to go to a wonderful exotic location, as if we’d won the lottery.

                Yes I’d always thought there were some in the crofting community who were milking the clearances thing a bit, people are people after all, but on the whole I was expecting kind, friendly, well (largely self) educated people with an especial affinity for the nature they lived amongst. THAT was my prejudice – pre judgement not based on actual facts – what I have now is an insight based on actually being there and able to form an opinion based on my experiences. That’s the problem isn’t it?

                As far as ‘attitudes’ go I wasn’t aware that it’s heresy to say anything critical about crofters, if you have any problems with that you’ll have to start with the non crofting ‘townies’ of Stornoway who repeatedly told me with exasperation that the crofters “get everything”. Funny how you never hear that opinion on BBC Alba. Of course the way to keep that money coming in is to plead poverty incessantly and if you don’t get your way play the victim card that the poor, struggling islanders are being ignored yet again. I witnessed that blackmail happening first hand on Lewis and your ludicrous references to ‘colonial’ and ‘natives’ reinforce that this is the automatic Modus Operandi, as natural as drawing breath. The crofters aren’t downtrodden they’re absolutely spoilt with public money and political support.

                My experiences weren’t unrelated to the raptor situation because they involved the mindset of too many of the people I encountered, only worried about themselves and sweet FA else. The one person I did meet with an interest in conservation was a wildlife photographer who’d moved there from East Calder. I also worked in the same capacity in Corstorphine, a supposedly snobby part of Edinburgh, but on the whole it was actually far more hospitable and community orientated than Lewis. Regularly I used to hear that people there were somewhat guilty about getting a cold weather payment for senior citizens as they didn’t really need it. You would NEVER have heard that statement on a Lewis croft, there was no such thing as too much. No there was an arrogance, ignorance, selfishness and general darkness on Lewis that’s totally consistent with five (so far) dead eagles turning up in suspicious circumstances, no surprise to me almost an expectation. This country won’t move forward on wishful thinking or myth, perhaps this incident is where at last reality breaks through.

          2. Hi BSA, I know very little about this part of the world wrt wildlife crime. I presume this is where you live, so maybe you can help? I and many others further south – and perhaps worldwide too – would like to know more about it so we can all help our wildlife. “No man is an island…any [birds] death diminishes me…for whom the bell tolls…” etc, etc.

            1. Driven grouse shooting is an industry whose business model has been shown by science to depend on organised crime. Consequently, the normal criminal sanctions against individuals are being supplemented by collective measures against the industry as a whole, namely licensing. (And, incidentally, that move against the industry itself, for the first time, is the real watershed change irrespective of whether licensing produces results). None of this applies to crofting, the Isle of Lewis, or any other vague convenient target group for the collective sanctions suggested by some here in relation to these eagles. Rather than ask about Lewis, which is so far not itself an issue here, it would be better to examine some of the assumptions and proposals seen here on this issue and the stereotyping and frankly colonial attitudes at the bottom of comment on this – and some other Scottish issues, not least some of the comment on rewilding and on the Scottish Government.

              1. Thanks BSA. I can confirm I have no agenda regards all of those vexed wider issues you mention. I am after the nitty-gritty of how many people do you think are targeting these Eagles? Are they rogue crofters or keepers or estate lackeys acting alone or in concert with one another? Are there identities generally known to a lot of the wider community – as is the case in england and much of mainland scotland? How many persons do you think are supporting the wall of silence? Cheers.

  2. On the other hand, if the local economy is boosted by those of us travelling to see these Bs O P, then more people benefitting from that tourism would, hopefully, be less tolerant of those persecuting the raptors, or any other wildlife crime.
    What a tragedy though..there are still few enough eagles that this loss is insignificant to the overall population.

    1. Yes and the local economy is already boosted enormously by the lavish amount of public money that flows into the bank accounts of crofters, because they’re …..crofters. You’ll not hear any recognition of that of course, except maybe they need even more. There’ll be those though that’ll say we have no business worrying about wildlife on the western Isles when there are ‘poor’ crofters needing help, just pay up and shut up.

  3. One can be sure that this is the tip of an iceberg with regard to illegal killings; the fact is this sort of murderous practice is a prevalent sub culture that involves a fair deal of tacit collusion.

  4. I hope this is going to make the national TV news throughout the UK, and every effort should be made to ensure that it does.
    Five eagles in one announcement could make an impact on public opinion – maybe the b******s have gone too far this time.

      1. I live in the south of England – no driven grouse shooting, but plenty of b******s who kill BOP (and lots of other things), with very little press coverage or public knowledge.
        I guess Afghanistan has driven many issues out of the news for the moment, but it’s a shame if this opportunity for publicity has been missed.

  5. Can someone confirm to me whether there are any driven shoots on Lewis/Harris, or is it nearly all sheep farming inland?

        1. Correct and the Grouse shooting is walked up and very low volume, not much moor management on the Western isles either.

  6. From the opener:-

    “Although if a crime is confirmed, don’t expect the investigation to result in a prosecution. Despite Inspector MacKenzie’s fine words, which undoubtedly were given with genuine sincerity, I’m not aware of anybody being convicted for killing an eagle in Scotland.


    No one ever convicted for killing an eagle in Scotland !

    Does that not tell a damning story about a disgraceful state of affairs. That shameful assortment of miscreants in Edinburgh have a mortal sin to answer for.

    Outwith the criminals who are directly or indirectly involved in the killings it is inconceivable that there no people who are in possession of some very vital information that would be of use, but yet choose to remain tight lipped. Such people really need to closely examine their own conscience.

  7. Just a thought. What if it’s shown they died of natural causes? I love the way you all jump to conclusions without seeing or listening to any evidence.
    I am pretty sure there are no shoots on these islands as well.

      1. I have witnessed snipe shooting on the Uists and wildfowling is also widespread – and not all for the pot.

          1. Don’t worry, our conservation focussed land managers try not to waste them – even the mangled badly shot ones have their value, at least on the DGS moors. Those pathetic specimens that are coated in froth and snot from the labrador that was extra-excited and proud to find it and retrieve it to its master, with broken beak and busted legs that dangle freely like bits of string…Remember the circle of “moor management” utilises every opportunity – and a shrewd “conservation minded” keeper will often stick ’em in a Fenn trap ( or the modern eqv.) / stoat trap as bait. The peculiar smell is reckoned to be effective. So we need not concern ourselves, nothing gets wasted. As Ian Coghill said in the recent BASC video – we should all start showing a bit more appreciation for moorland management.
            ps sorry for heading off-topic, the loss of these Eagles is terrible and hopefully not going to form a new pattern fot that area, which I had perhaps kidded myself was not too bad.

            1. I wonder too about ‘new pattern’, not just on the Hebrides. Is it too farfetched to think that there’s a bit more persecution going on on purely deer stalking estates because they want to help out neighbouring (or not so neighbouring) grouse moors? Less expectation that persecution going on there so less looking for it? In one of his books John Lister Kaye mentions that when he was a young man he knew a deer stalker who carried a bottle of strychnine to put some on the grallochs (gutted intestines) left after he’d shot a deer to kill the foxes AND eagles attracted to them. Has that mentality really came to a complete end?

  8. The few cases of eagle persecution – smashing of eggs or poisoning – that I was made aware of on Lewis and Harris between the 1980s and 2007 when I retired, were all on land associated with sheep. Very few grouse out there and virtually no driven grouse shooting. There was a long standing tradition of antipathy towards eagles though – I well remember the late Peter Cunninghame [who wrote an excellent book on the Birds of the Outer Hebrides] who had married a local woman, telling me that he couldnt even mention eagles to his male relatives. In recent years there has been a huge effort by the RSPB and others, mainly through school education to change attitudes…this will be a sad day for thoes involved. I have heard of some more recent [2018] anti sea eagle talk amongst some local sheep interests due to their growing numbers.

  9. In the past I’ve known shepherds say they “need” to kill eagles in case they attack lambs. On the other hand there may be tourists who, instead of enjoying watching eagles, get pleasure from killing them. I don’t suppose anyone will ever be charged but the more people are encouraged to go and view the birds the less chance there will be of some pervert being able to kill them by shooting or poisoning and not be found out.

    1. Why on earth would a tourist want to kill an eagle??…as regards investigating this, I wish the police every success but unless things have radically changed they will find a “wall of silence” from a very tight local community. As one mainland policeman, seconded to Lewis told a colleague “they wont even talk to the postman because he wears a uniform!”…That was in the 1980s – I really hope things have changed but its a different world out there…

      1. ‘it’s a different world out there…’ yes and unfortunately a lot closer to ‘The Wickerman’ than ‘Whisky Galore’.

  10. I think we should await the results of the police forensic work before jumping to conclusions.
    But it is very encouraging that on finding these dead birds in suspicious circumstances, Police Scotland have released a press release and witness appeal, which has made it into mainstream media, and will hopefully be read by the wider public.
    Contrast this with the often flawed approach of witness appeals in other investigations by other police constabularies, when it is often months after a dead bird is found before there is any public appeal for information.
    From the diverse range of comments on this blog, the press release appears to have ignited peoples passions.
    If this is replicated within the wider public in the Western Isles, then hopefully it will lead to someone with useful information coming foreword and providing the police with useful information as to how these birds may have died.

    1. John – Police Scotland hasn’t issued a press release. The news is only out in the public domain because a journalist got wind of what was happening and phoned the police to ask them to comment.

      1. Ruth- Thanks. I will then retract my comment!!

        I just hope someone in Police Scotland reads this blog, reflects on the importance of timely witness appeals – and how if this picked up by the wider media (which a quick internet search suggests has happened) might create a public reaction, whilst what has happened is still fresh in peoples minds- so that hopefully someone comes foreword with information, or the public outrage and potential damage to the image of the Outer Hebrides makes those who commit these crimes think twice in future.

        Reading some of the comments on the blog. If these eagles have been unlawfully killed, and if the person or persons responsible are from a farming or crofting background – then I can foresee some serious questions being asked about why public money is subsidising this farming or crofting way of life, if some of those who are engaged in such practices are then going on to commit crimes against protected wildlife which they perceive threatens their economic interests. – economic interests which would not exist without the public subsidies!
        There can not be public funding supporting criminal behaviour- and this is something politicians will be very mindful of. But I speculate, and its important to fully understand the cause of death of these eagles.

        The lack of a police press release also demonstrates the important and valuable work you undertake- as without your efforts, I suspect many of these raptor crimes would never even be reported or the public made aware- so thank you – even if you are sharing sad and terrible news!!

        1. Well said, John L.

          None of us to deplore this endless stream of wildlife crime would be wise to constantly bear in mind that without the strength that publicity brings the politicos and police would do less.
          Keep on their case RPUK and thanks for all your superb work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s