Two reintroduced white-tailed eagles found dead in suspicious circumstances on game-shooting estates in southern England

Well it took longer than I expected but it’s happened.

Two of the reintroduced white-tailed eagles from the Isle of Wight Project have been found dead in suspicious circumstances on game-shooting estates in southern England.

The fact they were discovered during multi-agency searches is a clear indication that criminality is suspected. One was found in Dorset in January and the other one is believed to have been found in Sussex last October.

Toxicology results are awaited for both eagles, although why it’s taken four months for the results from the first bird is not yet clear.

[The dead white-tailed eagle found on a game-shooting estate in Dorset. Photo by Dorset Police]

There is huge concern for the safety of three other white-tailed eagles currently in Dorset, which I imagine is why the police have decided to issue this statement:

UPDATE 11th February 2022: Dorset MP Chris Loder doesn’t want Police to investigate suspicious death of white-tailed eagle (here)

UPDATE 12th February 2022: Dorset MP Chris Loder’s farming connections may explain his anti-eagle hysteria (here)

UPDATE 15th February 2022: Police investigate after sudden death of white-tailed eagle on Isle of Wight (here)

UPDATE 27th April 2022: White-tailed eagle poisoned with banned pesticide on a game-shooting estate in West Sussex (here)

45 thoughts on “Two reintroduced white-tailed eagles found dead in suspicious circumstances on game-shooting estates in southern England”

  1. Shocking. Will the BBC do its usual thing and ignore giving any big national publicity to criminal activity and shooting interests (just a ‘local interest’ item buried in specialist news)?

  2. I try to be positive about these reintroductions, but you just know that mankind has an amazing ability to ruin everything. So sad, that picture of that beautiful bird shows a wasted life. Agghhhhh…

      1. I was told that a white-tailed eagle had been seen and photographed In Dorset last month near xxxxxx (just south of xxxxxxx). Apparently it was spotted flying in the vicinity of xxxxxx, a small hunting estate offering pheasant and partridge shooting. (I live about a mile away and their bloody birds are all over the back lanes when you drive past!). xxxxxxx is next door to the much larger xxxxxx (xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx) owned by xxxxxxxxxxxxx. Until recently this was also a popular pheasant shooting venue, but has xxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx Hope this is helpful. I’ll keep on digging.

        In haste,

        Brian J.

        [Ed: Brian, thanks, but naming these locations is not helpful]

  3. I thought the first to die in probable criminal circumstances would be those that visited North Yorkshire. This is awful and no doubt even if there is enough evidence for any sort of case will result in the usual slap on the wrist. All driven and commercial shoots should be banned.

  4. So what’s the estimated time to extinction of the Isle of Wight population?

    This is rather shocking while being unsurprising at the same time. Poisoning must be occurring on a massive scale and over a vast area for a significant percentage of the reintroduced bird to be killed in this way in such a short time frame.

    This at least is glaringly obvious but it brings up the question of how will you ever stop something so systematic?

    1. What does this mean for the future of the IOW reintroduction project, and any others that may be planned in England in the future. Since persecution was the main reason white tailed eagles went extinct in England reintroductions would appear to violate IUCN guidelines that state that the primary reason for a specie’s extinction must’ve been resolved before any reintroduction is undertaken.
      Having said that the question remains of whether these individuals would’ve been any safer if they’d been left in Scotland, and also if stopping the IOW reintroduction would in effect by handing a victory to the large estates that may have broken the law and idiots such as Mr Loder.

  5. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a police request for evidence that did not start with the incident, the time and the place. Failure to mention a known place looks like an attempt to interfere with police enquiries – but it’s the police themselves doing it. Why ? We’ll no doubt eventually find out that the estate owner is rich and well connected. We live in a country run by a man who believes that makes you exempt from the rules that apply to everyone else. At this very moment the Government is trying to push through election legislation that everyone knows will disenfranchise almost exclusively poorer people. Raptor crime may seem insignificant beside this, but it is a well known historical precedent that it starts with small things and grows….

  6. This well and truly scuppers the myth that raptor persecution is a problem of grouse moors in the uplands. Illegal raptor persecution is a fundamental part of the sad, pointless “sport” of shooting for fun wherever it occurs. If you are to present high numbers of game birds to client guns then you have to eradicate all predators whether protected or not. When are game shooters going to reform their recreation to return to enjoy being content to shoot small numbers of wild birds with lead free shot. It would then be much easier to defend as sustainable and to find a market for this natural product. Time for reform.

    1. I think time for reform is LONG passed Alister, these birds and their mammal equivalents have been protected for well over the working life of any game keeper or his boss. These people are not just wilfully blind and ignorant to the ecology, sustainability and joys of fully functioning ecosystems, they indeed think the laws either apply to other folk or can be ignored because of the low likelihood of being caught. They even thing they are doing our wildlife and indeed us a favour by all this killing, I can remember one retired keeper ( Nidderdale ) being quoted that all the victorian predator extinctions were a good thing and why the hell were we bring them back! Even then there is no vicarious liability or penalty for the boss ( except poison storage) so the minion carries the can. That can of course has minimal penalty because although penalties have been significantly increased no court has yet to use that increase. In their terms they all “benefit” from the illegal killing of predators and the government sponsored misuse of the GLs plus our ecology is so screwed by all these millions of Pheasants and Rel legs reared and released without thought or care for our environment time the door of history was slammed firmly shut on the whole lot.

      1. Paul, I respect your experience of raptors and enjoy your comments. I am not excusing the shooting bodies but what I fail to understand is that those involved in shooting cannot see that we are in the end game and they need to reform. More and more people mostly via social media are now aware of the scale of raptor persecution. I hope that Wild Justice’s Raptor Forensics Fund will make these recent multi-agency raids even more effective. We are still waiting for Scotland to lead the way by introducing licencing of grouse estate. If it is worded properly licencing should reduce raptor persecution. Perhaps I am just too naive!

        1. I think that all the evidence suggests that the vast majority of those who run shoots, their employees and indeed many of the shooters themselves are not going to get that message. They simply don’t believe it or have their heads completely in the sand. Look how slowly they have taken up the shift from lead ammunition. Doing things that they believe will certainly not in their terms be “benefits”, releasing far fewer birds, accepting a natural level of predation, not killing protected predators that they “know eat nothing but game birds”, stopping most if not all burning and using cutting, re-wetting, accepting lower bags. Even temporary things like not shooting in bird flu exclusion zones None of these things will happen at all without them being forced to adopt them, what they do and get away with now is too ingrained in the mindset. Take even Brood meddling, where you would think they might learn something about the true ecology of the harriers left alone, no, they insist on them being fed, so the poor old Hen Harrier is still cast as the “bete noir” because they so afraid/ stupid/entrenched ( take your pick) because they cannot really learn to live with it, and of course most of those estates still kill everything else they can get away with. The only way in face of such stupidity, short sighted self interest, selfishness and the like is to ban almost all of what they do.

          1. Spot on. There’s no way the goshawk is being kept at a tiny fraction of its potential population – in a country pretty much heaving with its prey species – just by a couple of bad apples. This time its sea eagles that have got the brunt of it. Golf is on the decline, it doesn’t have the cachet it once did. The same could happen for shooting, a process that would be greatly helped by publicising its ills – from rainforest being cleared to provide soymeal to raise birds that mostly end up as roadkill, fox fodder and landfill to the native wildlife the goes down a pheasant’s gullet. If someone manages to film a pheasant swallowing a lapwing chick then there’ll be some hell of a red faces at the GWCT. The conservation organisations need to step up their game considerably.

  7. There aren’t that many shooting estates in Dorset and they the large ones are in the main owned by well known members of the “landed gentry” who are no doubt known to us. Isn’t it time to start naming and shaming them? This will never cease as long as they have protection from the police and government and we need to fight back at all times. If the media are instructed not to report it we who care must ensure it gets out to the public whatever it takes.

  8. What we need is a revolt against the people who are above the Law and get away with killing creatures with every much right to live as they have – not to mention all the work and care that goes into rearing and releasing these birds – and not to mention all the work put into recording all these killings and trying to do something about them. I don’t refer only to the gamekeepers “just doing their job” but the people who employ them. Even “naming and shaming” seems to have no effect . It must be so frustrating to see it happen time and time again while little tor nothing is done to prevent similar happenings. I envy your patience and am very pleased that time and effort is given to informing people and trying to do something about the situation even when those efforts are thwarted time and time again.

  9. From Invercauld website – oh, the irony!

    “Invercauld Estate is located in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park , often known as Royal Deeside. The Estate Office is located near to the village of Braemar. The land has been in the ownership of the Farquharson family for many centuries and extends to approximately 200 square miles of spectacular scenery. The Estate is managed commercially but with great respect for the natural environment.

    Properties are rented out for self catering holiday accommodation, set in stunning scenery overlooking the River Dee. A number of holiday cottages, shops and other commercial premises are rented out on a long term basis. For further information, please contact the Estate Office.

    As well as our holiday cottages we are world renowned for grouse shoots, deer stalking and salmon fishing. The native Caledonian Scots Pine provides the backdrop for rolling heather covered mountains leading up to a number of Munros. Walks are truly abundant for anyone staying at one of our holiday cottages and Invercauld caters for the aspects of walkers. This offers the chance to be amongst some of the country’s finest scenery and also the chance to view some of the more elusive birds and animals including eagles, red squirrels, ptarmigan, red and roe deer.”

  10. I am saddened by the loss of these two Sea Eagles. Roy Dennis and the Sea Eagle team in the Isle of Wight will be gutted too at the loss of these birds.
    The amount time and effort put into the reintroduction programme for this species is immense all all involved will be distraught at this news. Probably as Ruth says, to be expected knowing the pedigree of the estate owners and those who carry out the death sentences on such birds.
    I always recall David Attenborough saying in the past that the most dangerous animal in the world is MAN. How right he was.
    I hope that some sort of evidence can be obtained to convict someone for these truly shocking crimes.

    1. Pity David Attenborough chooses never to condemn these xxxxxxxxxx and their killing for kicks distractions.Never.a word.With power comes responsibility
      Unless your name is Attenborough.
      What influence would he wield?
      But he xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx [Ed: defamatory]
      Why might that be do you think?

  11. The initial Dorset Police seems to have been edited to remove the phrase on ‘….game-shooting estates…’, which is odd if true.

    1. Dorset Police have not stated the eagles were found on game-shooting estates. Indeed, they’ve gone out of their way to avoid saying it. They’ve had journalists asking them all day to confirm it and Dorset Police have refused. That speaks volumes, as does the fact they and Natural England and Forestry England haven’t issued a statement to refute it either.

      1. Mmm, I’m mistaken then. These birds have been settling in so well. They’re much revered one the island. Terrible, senseless.

        1. If anyone is ever charged it will be some gamekeeper “just doing his job” – a derisory fine which will be paid by his employer – maybe with a pat on the head and a bonus.

  12. Sorry but I can not understand how anyone would be surprised by these barbaric poisonings its pretty obvious where the authorities stand on this kind of issue . Just look at them what a bunch of rissoles whats the main interest of the head of DEFRA and then you have bloodthirsty boris openly saying he does not want them to stop hunting foxes with dogs clearly encouraging illegal activity like I said what a bunch.

  13. Hi, as previously mentioned it may be easy to find the estate. A short piece of ownership information from companies house etc has one potential estate: xxxxxxxxxxx owned by xxxxxxxxxx Of course the others could be equally possible but the lack of location information indicates influence. The xxxxxxxxxx certainly have that.

  14. Alister J Clunas wrote:-
    “We are still waiting for Scotland to lead the way by introducing licencing of grouse estate. If it is worded properly licencing should reduce raptor persecution. Perhaps I am just too naive!”

    Waiting, waiting, waiting !
    We are always waiting.
    The inglorious outfit in Holyrood is not in any hurry to produce a licensing system because they do not wish to do anything that is detrimental to their gun-slinging and wildlife abusing bosom buddies. As a first step the time wasting ploy of doing nothing whilst pretending to be busy will be used. When it eventually proves impossible to avoid the final step when a licensing system is produced it will be designed, like the Vicarious Liability legislation to appear to be usable. Like VL it will be confused, unworkable and achieve nothing other than maintain the status quo ……….. job’s a good’un – mission accomplished until another row brews up as the crime continues.

  15. Hello haing studied raptor deaths in Scandinavia and also in the United Kingdom earlier evidence 1980-2000 for such as Buzzard , Goshawk and the Kites of the Chiltern area was often associated with the traditional and illegal use of fir arms against birds of prey. Prosecutions were uncommon yet there became in time a deterrent quality by police and by organisations like The SLU of Uppsala + Rspb in UK and their investigations .
    Many results from these were gradually less clear . Birds had not been shot nor were they trapped. Poisonings in SW britain was often associated with bagder/rat/fox corpses. Shot birds were , in past, almost always buried as to prevent prosecution. Poisonings were not buried as they were inadvertant killings by either baited bodies for corvids or they had died subsequent to ingesting laid bait, often the case with rodents and sometimes with foxes and badgers that had eaten the dead rodent. Now we , especially in Denmark but also Holland and UK have many
    water fowl and raptors die of Hn15 Bird influenza . It is a very transmissible pathogen. Raptors are most subject to it as they will strike down weakened duck and geese or predate corps of birds killed by the disease. It is a worry especially for cryptic populations such as H.Albicilla Eagle. Perhaps the IOW release programme of x 6 per annum can isolate or even inoculate these next recruits before release?

  16. Shut them all down such an evil pastime by a very sad bunch of Bastards who need to get a life and not take them!

  17. What we are asked to believe is that with all the publicity and hue and cry two separate Estates went out and poisoned or shot these birds. Then we have to believe that this concerted effort happened within two months of each other despite the birds having never been touched over the last two years and the alleged Act is done at the end of the shooting season. Two words BIRD FLU

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