Police divers search loch after discovery of golden eagle satellite tag in Cairngorms National Park

Well, well, well.

Divers from Police Scotland have been searching a loch in the Cairngorms National Park after the recent discovery of a golden eagle’s satellite tag.

The tag was found at the edge of Loch an t-Seillich in a period of low water, in what I’m led to believe were circumstances not too dissimilar to those of another golden eagle’s satellite tag, found in a Strathbraan river last year. That tag had been fitted to a young golden eagle that had later ‘mysteriously disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Strathbraan, where so many tagged eagles have vanished without trace. When the tag was pulled from the river, it was shown that the tag’s harness had been cut, the aerial snapped off and the tag wrapped in lead sheeting to block a transmission signal (see here, here and here). It was compelling evidence of the lengths the eagle killers will go to cover their crimes.

[Police divers at Loch an t-Seillich yesterday]

And now it seems we have another one.

The tag that has recently been recovered from Loch an t-Seillich was fitted to a young golden eagle in 2010 but suddenly stopped transmitting in 2012. This is known as a ‘sudden stop no malfunction’, where a tag has been working perfectly well and then it suddenly and inexplicably stops transmitting, without any indication of any impending problem from the tag’s engineering data.

A recent Government-commissioned report demonstrated that tags fitted to golden eagles in Scotland are 25 times more likely to have a ‘sudden stop no malfunction’ than in any other country where the tags are routinely deployed. In fact almost a third of all satellite-tagged eagles in Scotland had disappeared under these suspicious circumstances, and in geographic clusters around some areas of intensive driven grouse moor management. Funny that. You can read the report here.

The tag recently recovered from Loch an t-Seillich is in one of those geographic clusters, although many of the old grouse moors have since been bought by Anders Povlsen and are now part of his Wildland Ltd portfolio, where golden eagles are now protected instead of persecuted.

[Map showing the geographic clusters of golden eagle satellite tags that have suffered a ‘sudden stop no malfunction’ (i.e. the eagle has likely been killed & the tag destroyed). Data from the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review. The orange circle denotes a former persecution hotspot where the current search is taking place but many of the estates have since been bought as part of a credible conservation initiative and are no longer managed for driven grouse shooting]

Confirmation about the circumstances of this latest tag discovery is still awaited but it is quite clear that there is sufficient evidence to cause Police Scotland to deploy divers to search for further evidence of wildlife crime.

Was this loch a regular dumping ground for golden eagle satellite tags? Might they even find some dumped golden eagles, wrapped in sacks and weighted down with rocks? Given the highly suspicious circumstances of golden eagle Fred’s disappearance a few years ago, with his tag’s last transmission a few miles offshore in the North Sea, I wouldn’t put anything past the people still intent on killing golden eagles and the measures they take to conceal their crimes.

Given the scale of the problem of golden eagle persecution in Scotland, which has been identified by the deployment of satellite tags over many years, I’m delighted to see Police Scotland’s proactive investigative work. Well done to whoever made the decision to follow up with this search.

13 thoughts on “Police divers search loch after discovery of golden eagle satellite tag in Cairngorms National Park”

  1. Excellent work finding the tag, and so happy the police are taking it seriously.
    However, if his is not a time for the government to take proper action for the first time, when will they step up.
    It’s time to end all hunting, especially the lucrative pastime of killing game birds, and any other bird which happens to stray into the area.
    Birds do not understand boundaries, because they are human boundaries, not wildlife boundaries, so let’s put an end to the willful killing of wild birds, if these people can’t leave the golden eagles, buzzard, and any other bird of prey alone, then they should be forced to stop.
    The has never been, nor wil there ever be an excuse to kill birds of prey, they have more rights to be in those areas than anyone wielding a gun.
    Unfortunately it wil be almost impossible to isolate the culprit, but ultimately it comes down to the gamekeepers, and land owners who should be prosecuted, and banned from hunting, and banned from being able to organise hunts. And the land should be turned over to be wild, and human free.
    They don’t deserve to be custodians of the land if they can’t respect the wildlife which lives in and around the area.
    Ban all hunting, full stop..

  2. It is good news but sometimes we also have to step back and think what a disgrace this all is to Scotland and to the SNP. Maybe the results of this investigation might finally make them act decisively.

    1. “what a disgrace this all is to Scotland and to the SNP” ……………….. Yes, and it is a further disgrace that such people are in government. They clearly support the people who are behind the crime and it is crime so blatant that the perpetrators cock their snoot and say “everyone knows who is responsible, but they cannot prove it therefore we will keep doing it” (secure in the knowledge that the Holyrood mob will not stop them).
      Dishonourable governments cannot be trusted with anything.

      1. Not to disagree with your general point about SNP failing to stand up to the shooting lobby [at least they are rid of the “keepers pal” Fergus Ewing] but…as a long term participant/observer of this ghastly power struggle being fought on top of a pile of dead raptors, I would point out that previous administrations whether Labour, Lib Dem or, thankfully back in the mists of time Tory…did no better, in fact, considerably worse. The fault often lies with advisors to politicians, who they are very reluctant to contradict – such as Civil Servants, Police Chiefs and the occasional Sheriff; most of whom seem to have landowning or shooting connections.

        1. The previous administrations didn’t have to deal with this Raptor Ersecution website exposing the abomination of game shooting on our countryside and its wildlife. Unnlike Westminster, Holyrood have admitted that raptor persecution is a serious issue we are still waiting, still waiting, still waiting for effective policies to tackle it. More Special Constables do I hear….

  3. I think it would be interesting to compare the rates “sudden stop no malfunction” of satellite tags to Golden Eagles from the areas which were previously managed as grouse moors, to those same areas which are now being managed for more inclusive conservation.
    Bearing in mind that the grouse shooting industry attempts to promote grouse moor management as wildlife conservation, it would be very interesting to see how the industry explains any differences (if there are any) between “sudden stop no malfunction” rates between then and now.

    Hopefully the satellite tag which has been found, will also be properly examined to ascertain how it has become detached from the eagle.
    If there is evidence of human interference, then maybe this will help draw inferences as to how the bird may have disappeared.

    Whilst none of this will help identify the wildlife criminals, it may may add further weight to the suspicion that there is a link between criminal activity and grouse moors.
    If this is the case, such evidence should strengthen the Scottish governments resolve to better manage and regulate the grouse shooting industry, and ensure that whatever is put in place, is effective.
    The Scottish government may also wish to consider just how much consultation they are prepared to have with an industry where there is evidence to support a suspicion that some involved in that industry are engaged in criminal behaviour (if that is what the outcome of this activity leads to).

    Police Scotland should be applauded for this searching and investigative work. It may not result in the prosecution of a wildlife criminal, but it may add valuable evidence and information to just what is taking place on those isolated grouse moors…and it may lead to something the grouse shooting industry finds very difficult to explain.

  4. I am delighted to see this, no doubt expensive and resource heavy piece of police work – as a signal that they are taking raptor crime seriously you could hardly get better….as we move ever more into partnership and cooperative working out there its well to remember the hundreds [thousands] of cold case files there are on the killing of raptors. Records of dozens of eagle killing alone. These should not be forgotten..you cant build a house on sand and we cant have a decent rural society and environment built on lies and denial. Lets see more of the truth dragged up from the depths.

  5. One thing is pretty certain – from now on I doubt they will casually chuck these tags out the window into the lochs / rivers. I expect they will now be bashed to tiny pieces and burnt on a very hot fire among lots of other metallic crap. Both sides of the border I bet some head scratching & tactical re-thinking will be going on among a good number of keepers.

  6. Quick look on Google maps and the there is only one road and it only goes to one premises.

    Until there is a change in the law, evidence to convict for these offences is going to continue to be very difficult.

    I wonder if it is time look at the offences in a different way, Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act brought in the ability for SEPA to issue Fixed and Variable Monetary Penalties (up to £40,000) for certain environmental offences on the civil burden of proof, that is balance of probabilities and potentially without the need for corroboration. I see no reason why this could not be used for wildlife offences, esp if linked to subsidies or whether or not an estate could get a licence. That could be a game changer.

  7. Exactly what are ecilop searching for? Further sat tags?

    Any other evidence relating to the same crime won’t be in the loch. That would require a particularly thick individual.

    I’m putting this down to ‘being seen to be doing something’.

    1. I think that’s entirely justified and healthy cynicism, and good that at least one person takes that stance to keep us from getting complacent, but I honestly think in this case it’s a genuine attempt to look for evidence, the expense and hassle of getting an underwater unit up there must be bloody horrendous. It’s possible it’s being used as a general training exercise I suppose, inviting the very black (and naff) pun ‘killing two birds with one stone’. However, I believe it’s the real deal – there’s also the risk of some bad PR if the notion that the police are wasting time and money looking for dead birds becomes prevalent (pushed by certain people in tweed?) and I assume that thought’s crossed the minds of senior officers who’ve went ahead anyway. I also suspect ‘a particularly thick individual’ is a good description of many wildlife criminals, it certainly is of their defenders so there probably is a fair chance more evidence will come to light from the loch.

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