The Scottish SPCA was alerted on Saturday after a member of the public discovered the injured bird in north-east Dumfries and Galloway, adjacent to the Southern Upland Way.
The golden eagle is now receiving veterinary treatment and specialist care at the charity’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre.
Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said:
“This eagle has been caused tremendous pain and suffering. It became grounded after being shot, which caused the feathers on its tail and wings to break and meant it was unable to search for food.
“If the eagle hadn’t been found on Saturday it is very likely it would have starved to death. Golden eagles are extremely rare and it is very concerning that someone would deliberately try to injure or kill such a magnificent creature.
“As well as being cruel, injuring a wild bird is also a criminal offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and we are very keen to speak to anyone who has information about this incident. This eagle will require lengthy rehabilitation and expert treatment in our care.
“Although it’s very early days yet, it is feeding now and we are hopeful it will make a full recovery and we will be able to release it back into the wild next year.”
Stuart Housden, director RSPB Scotland, said:
“With one golden eagle already found poisoned this year, and a second bird the apparent victim of an illegal trap, this is yet another appalling incident. Whoever pulled the trigger must have deliberately targeted one of our most iconic birds, with lethal intentions.
“Whoever it was has access to a shotgun, and the confidence to use it in this area. Much has been made of an apparent recent decline in the illegal poisoning of Scotland’s birds of prey, but this, and other recent criminal incidents, show that efforts to stamp out the illegal persecution of strictly protected wildlife have a considerable way to go.”
The Scottish SPCA Animal Helpline is 03000 999 999.
BBC NEWS ARE REPORTING THAT A GOLDEN EAGLE ‘WAS KILLED BY A TRAP’
The bird had been fitted with a satellite transmitter which showed it had not moved for several days.
Its body was found, lying face down with its wings folded, under a tree and close to a lay-by on a quiet country road near Aboyne on Deeside.
RSPB Scotland has offered a £1,000 reward for information that leads to a successful prosecution in the case.
The bird was found on 5 May, before being taken for a post-mortem examination at the Scottish Agricultural College laboratory in Aberdeen.
This concluded that the bird had suffered two broken legs due to trauma
“that could be consistent with an injury caused by a spring type trap” and that the severity of these injuries “would prevent the bird from being able to take off”.
The bird had been fitted with a transmitter by RSPB Scotland staff, in full partnership with a local landowner, a few days before it had fledged from a nest in the Monadhliath Mountains, south-east of Inverness, in July 2011.
Stuart Housden RSPB Scotland said –
“Anyone who cares about our wildlife will be disgusted by what appears to be an appalling crime and the lengths taken to hide the facts from discovery”
By re-examining the satellite data, RSPB Scotland staff discovered the young bird spent its first few months in that area before venturing further afield. By April 2012 it was frequenting an area of upper Deeside, before moving south-west into Glenshee.
On 28 April, the bird moved eastwards into Angus. The following day, at 06:00, the bird was located on a hillside overlooking Glen Esk.
Over the next 15 hours, a succession of satellite tag readings, accurate to within less than 20 metres, showed that the bird did not move from this precise spot until at least 21:00 that evening, after nightfall.
However, by 04:00 the next morning, it appeared to have travelled, during the hours of darkness, some 10 miles north, to the location where its body was discovered five days later.
Satellite readings revealed that while the bird did not move from this position, it was probably alive until 4 May.
Follow-up enquires by both Tayside and Grampian Police found no further evidence about how the eagle sustained its injuries.
It could also not be established how the eagle came to move from Glen Esk to a position under a tree branch on Deeside overnight.
However, a number of eagle down-feathers were found between the lay-by and the bird’s final resting place.
Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations, commented:
“It is disgraceful that this magnificent bird was subjected to such suffering. The post-mortem evidence suggests that this bird was caught in an illegally-set trap, smashing both legs.
“The data obtained from the satellite transmitter indicated that the eagle did not move from one spot, on a hill high above Glen Esk, for over 15 hours.
“Then, during the night, when eagles do not readily fly, it has inexplicably moved to a new position, hidden under a tree and close to a road. Here, over the next four days, this eagle suffered a lingering death.”
Stuart Housden, RSPB Scotland director, added:
“Whilst efforts to stamp out the illegal poisoning of birds of prey are perhaps beginning to yield results, this dreadful case shows that the persecution of our raptors continues through the use of traps and other means.
“We call upon anyone who can provide further information about this case to contact the wildlife crime officer at either Tayside or Grampian Police without delay.
“Cases like this really do have a negative impact on Scotland’s reputation as a country that respects and values all its wildlife heritage. I am today offering a £1,000 reward for information that will assist a successful prosecution.”
A satellite-tagged golden eagle, named Alma by researchers, was found to have been illegally poisoned in Glen Esk in 2009, while other poisoned eagles fitted with transmitters were found in Grampian in 2011, and in Lochaber earlier this year.
Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre takes pride in customer care. Operating as a fully licensed zoo, the centre has a responsibility to educate members of the public on native species, and the global plight faced by many birds of prey. Where possible, each visitor is given a guided tour. The tour ensures our visitors are educated about each species, more importantly, they learn about the individual character and history of every bird.
So why not come in and meet our feathered companions, get up close, have a photograph taken, or just wander around. Visitors always leave enlightened, having learned a great deal more about birds of prey. Most are surprised at the number of species there are. All visitors comment on how close they can get to the birds, and appreciate their size and power. Above all, visitors recognise the passion of those who care for the birds.
Visit Scotland has granted Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre a “Three Star, Visitor Attraction” award. The daily operations within the centre are subject to inspection by the Scottish Government’s Zoo Licensing Authority, and West Dunbartonshire Council, Environmental Health Department.
How to get here
The Centre is located one mile outside Balloch on the A811, Stirling Road, within the Loch Lomond Homes & Gardens Centre. By train, to Balloch, then taxi, or a fifteen minute walk. The local bus service, the 309 to Balmaha, passes the entrance to the centre.
A Golden Eagle is top of the must-see list for most visitors to Harris
“They all want to see an eagle, an otter, and a seal.”
Sitting in the office where she and her husband run an self-catering holiday business, Rhoda Campbell tells me every guest who comes to stay at their cottages at Scarista on the Harris coast has the same must-see list of priorities.
As he listens to our conversation Neil Campbell browses through the Sightings Book they encourage all their visitors to fill in.
One couple who stayed for just four days in December last year have recorded that they saw two Golden Eagles on their very first walk, on the first day of their holiday.
It’s just one of a growing number of eco-tourism businesses catering to people who visit the Outer Hebrides to enjoy their rugged beauty and amazing wild-life.
But there is a potential problem.
“One thing people consistently say is that there’s not enough to do”, Neil Campbell told me.
The building’s wood cladding and turf roof should blend it into the hillside
So the couple have welcomed an initiative by North Harris Trust – a community group which owns the North Harris and Seaforth estates – to open a Golden Eagle observatory, some seven miles or so north-west of Tarbert.
The site is in a spectacular glacial valley, at Glen Meavaig, with big cliffs and high hills on both sides.
Ranger Robin Reid told me it is in the heart of prime Golden Eagle territory.
“It’s open, relatively treeless, landscape with lots of hunting territory. Pretty undisturbed.”
“Not a lot of people in and around nest sites in this area, so there’s lots of secluded places for them to nest.”
“And also there hasn’t been a history of persecution (of raptors) here, like there has been in other parts of Scotland.”
The other big difference from mainland Scotland is the absence of predator mammals, such as foxes.
Wildlife ranger Robin Reid scans the skies, looking for eagles
That makes the Golden Eagles and Sea Eagles top of the tree – not that there are many trees in the Western Isles.
And it all helps to make Harris one of the best places in Europe to see the birds.
And when you do see them, I’m told, it’s an unforgettable experience.
He’s run Golden Eagle walks in the past. And he’s about to start them up again.
He says he has about a 70% success rate at finding birds to show to his customers. So he’s seen Golden Eagles dozens – perhaps hundreds – of times.
But, he told me, “I don’t think I’d ever get blasé about seeing them. The bird is such a magnificent animal.”
“The female has at least a 7ft wingspan. I can only describe the wings as looking like scaffolding boards, with fingers on the ends of them.”
Rhoda and Neil Campbell welcome eco-tourists to the Outer Hebrides
“It’s just an awesome sight, every time you see them. They are magnificent.”
But back in the North Harris hills, Robin Reid and I have been scanning the skies for nearly two hours. And we haven’t seen even the hint of an eagle. Not a glint of a golden brown feather against the moorland.
Admittedly the mist has been pretty high, the cloud pretty low, and the rain pretty persistent the whole time.
“The weather has been against us, and we’ve been unlucky”, Robin explained.
“On a good day, I’d be confident that we’d see them. But that’s the nature of wildlife watching. They’re wild birds, and they can be elusive.”
“If you went to a zoo, you’d have a guarantee that you’d see them. But you wouldn’t have the excitement of watching a wild bird.”
The hope is that tourists who want to share that excitement will start to think of Harris as one of the destinations of choice; that the observatory will enhance the experience they have in the Hebrides; and that the money they spend will help to sustain the island’s fragile human communities.
The number of incidents involving the poisoning of birds of prey fell by more than half in Scotland last year.
In total, 10 poisoning incidents were recorded in 2011, resulting in 16 dead birds. This compares with 22 incidents and 28 deaths, in 2010.
The Scottish government said that the results represented “a welcome decline” but that it was “no cause for complacency”.
Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said:
“This is the fourth year we have published these maps and I very much welcome the reduction in poisoning numbers.
“I hope this proves to be the beginning of a continuing reduction in such cases, leading to the end of this outdated, dangerous and cruel practice.”
“Birds of prey are a key part of our ecosystems and a magnificent spectacle in our countryside. They are valued by locals and visitors alike.”
The golden eagle is one of Scotland’s best-loved species. But in 2010, four were found poisoned. Even a huge white tailed sea eagle fell victim to poisoned bait that year. In total, 28 birds of prey were illegally killed in this way.
There were 16 confirmed poisoning cases in 2011, but it is impossible to know if this marks the start of a long-term downward trend.
Poisoning is only one technique used to control birds of prey and it is difficult to detect. We do not know how many other birds were poisoned last year, their bodies undiscovered or hidden.
Scotland’s sporting estates believe their reputations are being unfairly damaged by the actions of a minority of gamekeepers and landowners who still break the law.
Scottish Land and Estates, which represents landowners, insists it is working hard to change attitudes. These figures, it says, are welcome news but provide no room for complacency.
Meanwhile, a new offence of vicarious liability means Scottish landowners and managers can now be held criminally responsible for the actions of their gamekeepers and contractors.
But when will we be able to say this centuries-old problem has finally been solved?
That day will only come when species like the hen harrier, the red kite, and even the iconic golden eagle, have the chance to return to large swathes of land which, for now, remain enemy territory.
Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management for RSPB Scotland, said:
“We hope that this is the start of a downward trend in illegal poisoning in Scotland.
“In time this should also be reflected in an increase in the populations and ranges of some of our most vulnerable species, including golden eagles, hen harriers and red kites.”
Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land and Estates, said:
“These statistics reveal the lowest number of cases on record for confirmed illegal poisoning of birds of prey since we started producing these hot spot maps.
“This is very welcome and encouraging news and clearly demonstrates substantial progress in this area.”
The record high for bird poisoning deaths was 34 in 2006. The number in 2011 represents a fall of more than 50% and a 42% drop from 2010.
The fall has occurred at a time when the government said its laboratories at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) were testing more intensively.
Supt Ewen West, of Tayside Police, who chairs the raptor persecution priority delivery group, believes the decrease was influenced by measures being taken to combat wildlife crime.
“This reduction in poisoning incidents is in my view reflective of the ongoing work in relation to the prevention and investigation of such criminality.”
Scotland’s annual wildlife crime conference takes place on Wednesday at the Scottish Police College in Fife.
An investigation is ongoing into the poisening of a young Golden Eagle found on Glenbuchat Estate in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.
A post mortem has found that the young Eagle was poisened by the banned pesticide Carbofuran.
Grampian Wildlife Crime Officer, Dave Mckinnon is in charge of the investigation.
After a search of the estate, a number of articles were removed for forensic tests,so far no one has yet been charged with this evergrowing wildlife crime.
Also involved in the ongoing investigation is the R.S.P.B.’ s Investigation Officers.
Anyone with any information on this crime please tel. 0845 600 5700.
or Tel. Crimestoppers. 0800 555 111.