Grouse industry in the frame as eagle goes missing
People involved in grouse shooting are intent on killing birds of prey, the RSPB has said following the disappearance of a golden eagle.
Conservationists are concerned about the safety of the young bird after it went missing in the northern Monadhliath Mountains of Inverness-shire.
It has disappeared from an area which has been described as a "black hole" for birds of prey, where 12 tagged eagles have mysteriously vanished in just seven years.
The RSPB is pointing the finger of suspicion squarely at grouse shooting interests.
Data from the two-year old male’s transmitter showed that he had been living in an upland area, mainly managed for driven grouse shooting, north of Tomatin, since early last year.
He had stayed almost exclusively in this area until mid December, when his tag, that had been functioning as expected, inexplicably stopped transmitting.
A follow-up investigation by Police Scotland has not yielded further clues as to the bird’s fate, and no further data has been received from the satellite tag.
Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland’s head of species, said: "This is now the twelfth tagged eagle to go missing in this black hole in just seven years and is entirely consistent with the systematic and ongoing illegal persecution of eagles in this area.”
The missing bird and its mate were occupying a traditional golden eagle territory, but one where the nest has not been successful for decades despite good habitat and prey. In 2016, the area was occupied by a lone adult male, but he too disappeared.
Orr-Ewing continued: "There can be little doubt that current legislation and enforcement have proven to be insufficient deterrents to those criminals, invariably linked to the management of driven grouse shooting, who are intent on killing protected birds of prey.
"Patience with self-regulation is at an end and meaningful deterrents are now urgently required."
In parts of the Monadhliaths, such as the area from where this bird fledged, golden eagles are doing well, but the RSPB claims efforts by some landowners, farmers and gamekeepers to protect these magnificent birds are being undermined by persecution when eagles move out of these safe areas.
The charity supports the introduction of new measures to license driven grouse shooting, including powers for public authorities to remove such licences, where there is good evidence of criminal behaviour.
Anyone who can provide information about the disappearance of this bird, or other raptor persecution incidents, is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101, or to phone the confidential RSPB Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.