A young eagle’s lingering death

By Peter Kaminski from San Francisco, California, USA (Eagle Feathers) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I usually stick to one blog each day but this story is just so striking and so horrific that it demands publicity.


Here is the link to the RSPB press release.  You may have to read the release a few times before you can quite believe it.


43 Replies to “A young eagle’s lingering death”

  1. Horrible. Absolutely horrible. Why has it taken until September 25th for this to be publicised if the offence was commited in May?

  2. Simply appalling. Really no other possible comment. My cheque book is out – Sending a donation to RSPB Scotland’s reward fund tommorrow.

  3. A vile act no doubt carried out by the vile employee of an equally vile employer.

    To set spring traps is despicable in itself, but to then not have the humanity to put the poor bird out of its misery and prolong its suffering is beyond belief.

    I am not familiar with the Glen Esk area but I gather it has recent form for Golden Eagle persecution.

    I assume that there are good reasons for not naming the location and the tenure of the land that this young eagle spent 15 hours from the 29-30 April, can somebody please explain to me what they are ?

  4. Mark well done for highlighting this atrocity. It seems some people are intent on killing our wild creatures , birds, boars and badgers .

  5. Mark,
    Could you please persuade your bloggers to write to the Scottish Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse, to express their disgust that such an outrageous crime should happen in Scotland. An email or two to Alex Salmond might not go amiss either.

    1. Wendy – gladly. I will email right now – I passed through that area on holiday this summer. I’m not keen on spending my tourism pounds in areas where wildlife is slaughtered.

  6. The latest finding is truly appalling but sadly not at all surprising. Although golden eagles are protected by strong legislation throughout the whole of the UK it’s becoming clearer by the day these laws are utterly useless and not fit for purpose, particularly when it comes to poisoned, shot or trapped raptors.

    What is the point of having laws that are unable to bring those individuals responsible for such barbaric practices into our courts to face the justice they so deserve? In Scotland it seems that successfully prosecuting the persecutors of iconic species like a golden eagle is even more problematic than across the border in England. In Scotland current legislation requires two witnesses before a prosecution is likely to succeed. What are the chances of that, particularly in such isolated regions frequented by these birds?

    The latest prosecution of the Auch game keeper is a case in mind. Although the same pesticide carbofuran used to kill the golden eagle was found inside his Tom Mckellor’s home, because it could not be proved he had used the same poison to kill the eagle found within sight of his house Mckellor was only found guilty of possession and fined £1200.

    Had satellite transmitters not been attached to all those Scottish golden eagles which have been found dead over the last six year, most would never have been found at all. The people I feel sorry for are the RSPB investigators who must feel totally and utterly let down and frustrated at such unacceptable events which they are powerless to prevent.

    1. Terry – well said. And it’s interesting, isn’t it, that this eagle died in a grouse-shooting area. It had been tagged in the Monadliath and had wandered over to the east of Scotland where there are precious few eagles surviving. It must have thought it had arrived in heaven – good eagle country with no other eagles around. But there’s a reason for that – illegal persecution of this sickening kind. It rather recalls the fatal journey of Alma – a golden eagle tagged in Glenfeshie by Roy Dennis- which died of poisoning in the Angus Glens (a grouse shooting area) a few years ago. I am sure we will learn of more of these deaths as more and more young eagles are tagged – I’m glad to see this happening as it was something we discussed (and then had to cut from budgets due to lack of funds) in my time at the RSPB.

      1. Mark,

        If the Raptor Persecution Scotland website’s information is correct, the last known position of this latest eagle, before its unusual overnight journey, was on the same estate that Alma was found dead. Last year the estate in question supposedly shot 10,000 grouse. Is it really necessary for an estate to be able to shoot so many? A few weeks after this eagle died I had walked through this particular estate along an ancient drove road and the intensity of management was very clear: Fenn traps were placed every few hundred metres in open view right next to this well-used public right of way, when most estates will hide them away from sight, and there were huge numbers of medicated grit trays stretched in rows across the hillsides. Except for reasonable numbers of wading birds (including Redshanks) in the fields at the bottom of the hill (the one modest conservation benefit from all that predator control), there was very little wildlife to be seen across the moorland, apart from grouse.

        It sickens me to think that this horrifically injured bird almost certainly went right past my house on the way to the place where it was found. Incidentally -the distance that the bird moved overnight is about 40 miles by road, not the 10 miles (as the eagle flies) that is mentioned in the press reports.

  7. BBC news report quotes from a SGA spokesman :-

    “As an organisation we have been extremely pleased at the dramatic fall in bird of prey abuse cases in Scotland, with only two confirmed cases in 2012, and will continue to work towards there being none.”

    I find this almost as galling as the death of yet another Golden Eagle.

    Maybe what the SGA mean is that they won’t rest until the figures of proven crime reach zero and the Scottish judiciary are dismissive of all such crimes. SGA just might need to stop smoking whatever they’re on and admit that they’re dealing with the tip of an ice berg. I think they know that though don’t they?

  8. I forgot to mention one additional interesting point of law in Scotland that your readers will find truly bizarre. It appears that in some Scottish courts where the prosecution have attempted to present evidence gathered by a professional organisation, the Sheriff has ruled this evidence inadmissible. It seems that evidence such as a video recording showing a potential illegal activity collected by a paid official, including OneKind the Scottish Animal Charity and I assume the RSPB and SNH, would only be admissible if consent of the land owner to enter his property land had been obtained beforehand.

  9. Nice little loop hole Terry! Never knew that. I’ve already emailed Mark this link but go and have a look at this at http://www.raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com this story is on there as is the answer to one of the comments in reference to another bird from this area, and you should scroll down to the post “A diary” it’ll make your eyes bleed. It’s such a shame we don’t take a leaf out of the Americans book, the level of protection for the Bald Headed Eagle and the punishment for breaking such laws should be introduced here, until SEVERE punishment is handed out then it’ll go on and on and on.
    It’s funny a drug dealer on my estate had his house/car etc were rightly confiscated under the “proceeds of crime” act, yet a estate manager and his gamekeeper can commit a crime to produce more grouse, which in turn mean more profits, yet no attempt to take their property! If they secured (a big IF) a conviction on an estate and in turn confiscated there land/property how quickly would this persecution stop?

    1. Douglas – do you have any more info on the protection of the bald headed eagle in the US and has it worked? Great point about proceeds of crime!

  10. It’s interesting that in a few days, perhaps just a week, 100,000 + signatures were obtained to oppose the badger cull, but a similar petition, on the same website (http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/23089) against illegal culling of raptors, just like this golden eagle, has only attracted just over 10,000.

    This is even more appalling given the RSPB’s million members – it only needs 10 % of this membership to reach the ‘magic’ number.

    Why is there a retiscence to not sign up to illegal raptor killing but not badgers? Is it because the public consider that the badgers are cuddly? Is it because a celebrity hasn’t taken up the reigns or is it because it doesn’t get the media attention it deserves?

    The power of twitter seems to have engaged the public to sign the stop the badger cull petition; perhaps more tweets need to be issued to address this equally barbaric and disgusting crime.

    1. Richard – the RSPB has not got behind the vicarious liability e-petition (yet?). This is a shame. There is still time for the RSPB to stir itself on this subject.

      The vicarious liability petition has the words ‘vicarious liability’ rather than ‘raptor killing’. The stop the badger cull e-petition has the words ‘stop the badger cull’.

      1. Mark,

        An interesting point, the badger cull petition did exactly what it “says on the tin”; the vicarious liability petition may not be so obvious. Perhaps this needs to be more explicit in its approach to raise awareness?


        1. If anyone was to put a “stop the raptor killing” petition up I’d sign it!! Come to think of it, presumably any of us could start one? Tempted to do it right now!! But wait … presumably better to get the wording absolutely right and the support of wildlife NGOs who could encourage their members to sign it. Also worried about hurting the vicarious liability petition. But could this be an idea worth seriously considering?

  11. I think it’s an awareness issue . I only became aware of certain e-petitons when someone pointed it out. I got a leaflet from the RSPB a few yeasr back but that wasn’t e-petition and I think some people (myself included) that e-petitions are just gimmick into making people think they’re effecting a change. After all the one most recent high profile one (Mr.Branson) got a lot of people signing it but will it be debated in the Commons. If you get 500,000 signatures it might make politicains pay attention but how many laws have been passed/changed because of e-petitons?

  12. Mark – thank you for highlighting this dreadful story. I don’t know what’s worse, the suffering inflicted on this particular bird or the fact that illegal killing of golden eagles and other raptors appears to be continuing on an almost industrial scale. A concerted campaign to end to wildlife crime – surely an issue to unite all wildlife NGOs?

    I’d hesitate to call this a “positive” but interestingly, given the discussion on the blog yesterday about the profile of NGOs, the BBC news story reproduces much of the RSPB press release, including quotes from Investigations and the Director of Scotland. It was also the 7th most read story on the site this yesterday afternoon, so hopefully there’ll be quite a few angry letters and emails going out over the next few days from members of the wider public as well as readers of this blog.

    Finally, I don’t know if it has been mentioned on this blog before, but the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee has been carrying out an enquiry into wildlife crime and heard evidence earlier in the year. I believe they are now writing up their report. Forgive me reproducing the URL in full as I made a complete hash of using html last time I tried!


  13. MK- The law for Bald Head(ed) Eagles also aplies to GOLDEN EAGLES in the US. If I remeber rightly it was introduced in the late 1930’s early 1940’s (I’m sure it was 1940 but not 100%). It covers everything from disturbing of nesting birds, collection of eggs, selling of species,selling of body parts, shooting etc.
    On the first offence for a person breaching the laws it’s a $100,000 fine and/or year imprisonment, $200,000 if you’re an organised body etc. AND that’s for a first offence, as the fine and prison term are escalated accordingly.
    Has it been succesful? I haven’t got figures for that but I did once see 20 (Bald Heads) fishing in a lake without really having to try hard to find one, so I would say yes.

  14. All,

    The Law Commission is undertaking a consultation, ending on the 30th November 2012 regarding our wildlife laws (e.g. Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; which is, by the way, the Act that should protect raptors in England and Wales – note that Scotland has its own legislation in this regard). The consultation is available here (http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/consultations/wildlife.htm) and you can follow the commission on twitter (@lawcom_wildlife) to keep in touch with progress.

    I would recommend that individuals, RSPB member groups, local natural history societies and other interest groups (e.g. community nature reserve trusts) send in their comments and respond to the public consultation. This is probably a very good way of effecting change that is needed. The 1981 Act is out of date and as a professional who engages with this bit of legislation, I support the Commission’s move to propose a new Bill in Parliament. I will be sending in my comments, via my professional institute (Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management).

    I also read, many years ago, that if eight constituents (hand) wrote to their MP on the same subject, and their was no obvious organised lobby, this was taken as a “serious local issue”. This was before the days of e-mail etc so I suspect that modern communication has changed the threshold but discounting tweets and rapidly fired off e-mails I would also suggest informing your MP of your concerns (and wishes).

    Please do consider commenting on the Law Commission’s wildlife consultation. Wildlife legislation seems to get reviewed (significantly) once every thirty years or so; i.e. the predecessor of the 1981 Act was the 1950s Birds Acts; note invertebrates, plants (including fungi etc) and non-avian vertebrates barely got a look in before 1981. So this may be a once in a generation opportunity…literally.


    1. Further to my comment above, may I draw attention to these documents, both part of the Consultation:
      http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/docs/LCCP206_Wildlife_Law_consultation_paper_summary_(web).pdf and specifically, paragraphs 1.51 to 1.54; which deals with vicarious liability; and

      http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/docs/LCCP206_Wildlife_law_consultation_paper_for_web.pdf and specifically paragraph 9.97 to 9.102, which also deals with vicarious liability.

      The consultation is specifically asking “…an open question as to the desirability of having such an offence” (paragraph 1.54 of the first document); and question 9.9 of the second document (page 152).

      I am sure there will be other questions that individuals would wish to answer, but these are specific to the blog by Mark today.

  15. This is a most horrible crime, but what puzzles me is the fact that there had been no sign of movement, or a very odd pattern of movement, from the bird’s transmitter, so why was there no effort to find the bird sooner? It might not have had to suffer for so long if it had been looked for more quickly.

  16. Mark – re your comment above about police investigations, see para 4 from the end of the report printed by The Courier (local Scottish newspaper). Whilst many of us want to see the law toughened up in relation to all forms of wildlife crime, it seems to me that unless such crimes are taken seriously and investigated rigorously by the police first and foremost in conjunction with other bodies, then nothing is ever going to change. By the way I’ve checked out both Tayside and Grampian Police Forces websites and can find no appeal for information on this particular crime. Case closed as far as they are concerned by the sound of it.


  17. Hi Mark,really horrific how anyone could do this,the Golden Eagle has always been a favourite of mine and then after about 50 years we finally got to see some wild ones on Mull.
    Another nasty thing seems to me the number of people who obviously have a different opinion to mine that they think all farmers hate badgers and in many cases the hatred they spew out seems out of control.
    Personally cannot think I have ever heard of a farmer killing a badger,would value any information with opposite view if you know of farmers killing badgers.
    Lets be realistic any industry or call it what you will that loses 25,000 to 40,000 animals a year wants something doing,not necessarily a cull but for sure the problem needs solving for cattle,badgers and farmers.Sorry a bit late P C been off for 5 days.

    1. 1.A bit churlish but does the NFU and the badger cull count?
      2.No direct proof but I can take you personally to a sett that was dug up and subsequently badgers left strewn along the A43 (15 badgers) near Overstone village in Northants. When reported it was dismissed as no-one wanted to collect the bodies from a busy road. The sett was next to a small dairy farm, but I stress, no proof…

  18. Word of caution about leaping to conclusions here. The post mortem stated: ‘that could be consistent.. etc.’ Note the word could, nothing was defiinite or proven; it is conjecture, albeit logical conjecture. I only make the point because the other day I found a buzzard with both legs smashed and I know for a fact there is no shooting estate or such trapping (which I deplore) within 10 miles. There may be other causes. Not all raptor deaths are man-made.

    1. While it might be possible to think up other causes for the injuries on their own (perhaps the eagle was bitten by a badger), the combination of the injuries and the unusual movements of the bird recorded by the satellite transmitter seem fairly conclusive evidence of human intervention.

  19. Douglas,talk about spreading rumours,honestly if you owned a small dairy farm would you dig up the Sett then leave the bodies by roadside I suppose fairly close to farm.
    Come on even farmers would have the brains and means to dig a hole on part of farm relatively isolated and dispose of badgers or even put in slurry pit which every dairy farm has.
    Stories like this with absolutely no foundation(why for heavens sake did RSPCA get post-mortems)get these story’s put out as fact.
    They never make sense when they say that farmers dump them by roadside.That is the last place farmers would dump them.
    Really sad that a Sett was dug up but of course badger baiters do these things,would like to think farmer innocent but feel sure connection between Sett disturbance and theory of farmer roadside dumpings of badgers incorrect and of course badger groups and RSPCA should have been happy to investigate Sett disturbance and what caused those badger deaths.

    1. Let me describe the farm, it was once owned by this really nice old boy. In the middle of this one field was a sizeable copse. The field could only be access by walking/driving straight past the front of the main farm accomodation, he also used to get a lot of problems with thieves nicking stuff off his farm (equipment etc) so he installed cctv cameras that were motion activated. In the end his farm was brought by a local landowner (at the time this landowner was the involved in the fox hunting scene). Within two months of owning the property the sett was dug up and the copse flattened, and previous access afforded to my friend and I were denied by the new owner, exact words were “clear off you f******g townie bunny huggers”. Funny how this sett survived to my knowledge for nearly 15 years, then within two months gone!!! But like you say….rumours!
      As for why no-one investigated, when it was reported, not the first time it’s happened. I could recall the incident last year of me coming across teenagers raiding a Little Owl nest, when I dialed THE 999’s the operator actually queried wether it was a crime…FACT

  20. Please can we talk about eagles not badgers in response to this particular blog? There is plenty of badger space elsewhere.

    I do find this eagle story particularly distressing. My only thought, one that I have been tempted by, in a completely different context, for several years (but have failed to act upon) is simply this: name and shame the perpetrators and wait to be sued. Civil law is different from criminal law. Not that I am suggesting that you, Mark, should do this. But might not the RSPB consider it? Dark Peak got close, but I suspect it could have got closer. On a possibly different tack, though I am no lawyer, I understand vicarious liability as at root a common law concept. So in a civil case you could engage the principals alongside the agents without need for primary legislation. (Although in Scotland you could now engage both in criminal law anyway, if I have got it right.)

    I have no criticism of the RSPB’s excellent news release, still less of Stuart Housden’s obviously heartfelt comments. But there is a case, surely, for taking some risks with crimes such as this. The RSPB must know on whose land this eagle was initially maimed. Let them let us know on whose land.

    1. Alan,

      The hillside where the young eagle spent 15 hours between 29-30th of April is rumoured to be the Millden Estate according to the Raptor Politics Website: http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/

      Apparently the Millden Estate is owned by somebody called Richard Hanson:

      The Millden Estate is also where the tagged Golden Eagle called Alma was found poisoned in July 2009. The article below probably tells you all you need to know about the Millden Estate:

      Millden Estate is managed by a Nick Baikee, who is apparently the former employee of Mark Osbourne. The is a very interesting piece on Mark Osbourne posted by James Marchington on his blog:

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