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.