Media reports surrounding the disappearance of eight of Scotland’s majestic golden eagles have raised concerns of illegal activity, although these are unconfirmed. The Scottish Countryside Alliance, which represents shooting and conservation interests, will work with Police Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and other interested parties to stamp out any illegal persecution and is clear that finger pointing at the shooting community, based on no evidence, must be resisted.
The disappearance of the tagged eagle is of huge concern, but it should be remembered that SNH’s own Conservation Framework for Golden Eagles highlights scientific evidence that indicates that even in areas with a favourable conservation status young golden eagles can experience mortality rates as high as 60%. As such the loss of eight birds in five years is not the mystery some quarters are seeking to make it.
There is no evidence to support the statement that the eagles in question have been illegally killed, nor that the tag transmitters have been destroyed. Contrary to claims that transmitters are reliable, research papers published in 2013 studied three decades of wildlife radio telemetry and concluded that failure rates could be as high as 49%.
Scottish Countryside Alliance Director Jamie Stewart commented: “As the grouse shooting season gets underway we are proud to highlight the vitally important conservation work undertaken all year round by gamekeepers. The premature speculation of illegal practices does nothing to support the collaborative wildlife crime prevention initiatives we and other organisations engage with through our membership of the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime Scotland, and puts unnecessary strain on these relationships which are vital for achieving conservation results. These unfounded allegations, and the RSPB’s significant time delay in involving land managers in trying to establish the facts, is disappointing.”