Nearly one in three satellite tagged golden eagles in Scotland died in “suspicious circumstances”, finds SNH
Golden eagle - credit: Scottish Natural Heritage
Nearly one in three satellite tagged golden eagles in Scotland died in “suspicious circumstances”, with the majority of cases found in areas where land is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting, according to a new report from Scottish Natural Heritage.
The report found that out of 131 young golden eagles studied over a 12 year period, more than 40 had disappeared in suspicious circumstances.
The news prompted Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham to set up an expert group to look at managing grouse moors sustainably and within the law, as well as to advise on the option of licensing grouse shooting businesses.
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The working group will examine the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices such as muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls, and will recommend options for regulation, including licensing and other measures which could be put in place without new primary legislation.
Ministers also announced plans to commission research into the costs and benefits of large shooting estates to Scotland’s economy and biodiversity.
Cunningham said: “The findings of this research are deeply concerning and will give rise to legitimate concerns that high numbers of golden eagles, and other birds of prey, continue to be killed in Scotland each year. There is every reason to believe that similar levels of persecution affect untagged golden eagles, as well as those we are able to track via satellite tags.
“We have already targeted wildlife criminals, and those who sanction such crimes, by introducing measures such as vicarious liability and restrictions on the use of general licences. But Scottish ministers have always said they would go further if required – and that is what I am doing today.
“The continued killing of protected species of birds of prey damages the reputation of law-abiding gamekeepers, landowners and indeed the country as a whole. Those who carry out these crimes do so in defiance of the will of Parliament, the people, and their own peers. That must end.
“This report identifies specific problem areas which will allow Police Scotland to adopt a targeted approach and I would also encourage members of the public to report any suspicious activity to the police.
“The range of measures we will introduce over the longer-term will build on the progress that we have made to-date and tackle outdated practices and attitudes. By looking at ways of strengthening the legal protection for birds or prey we are sending out a strong message that Scotland’s wildlife is for everyone to enjoy – not for criminals to destroy for their own ends.”
The Scottish Government ruled out the possibility of giving the Scottish SPCA more investigative powers, but said it would pilot the use of special constables in the Cairngorms National Park to help detection of wildlife crime.