The Golden Eagle is Scotland’s favourite wild animal – by quite a long way according to the voting. It claimed the top spot ahead of four lovely mammals; Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Otter and Harbour Seal.
What a shame then that so many places ideally suited to Golden Eagles lack their presence. Only three of 14 regions that have held Golden eagles in Scotland are regarded as having eagle populations in favourable condition according to a 2008 report from SNH. In nine of the other 11 regions persecution was regarded as an important factor in limiting eagle numbers and in seven of these illegal persecution was regarded as the most important factor.
Here is a quote from the report: ‘A number of lines of evidence indicated that illegal persecution of eagles, principallyassociated with grouse moor management in the central and eastern Highlands, is the most severe constraint on Scottish golden eagles.’
Scotland’s favourite wild animal is rarer than it should be, across much of its range, because people kill it. Think what happens to less favoured wildlife!
In a little discussion on this subject on Twitter the Chief Executive of the Scottish Land and Estates organisation, Doug McAdam, was very keen to point me in the direction of this paper on the impacts of catching at the nest on Golden Eagles – I am grateful to him for it is an interesting paper, and a subject about which I have always had concerns. The SLE are so concerned that they feature this paper on their website!
I sometimes worry that the enthusiasm for tagging birds may sometimes lead to harm to those birds and so this paper is absolutely what responsible scientists should publish as a cautionary tale. Researchers should always consider any potential harm of their studies on the species that they study (and mitigate it, and, if possible, measure it). There may be some danger that the keenness to have a sexy, interesting study might sometimes lead to needless harm to the study animals.
However, the Scottish population of Golden Eagles is not constrained and limited by radio- or satellite-tagging activities! We might have a few Golden Eagles nesting in North Wales and northern England if Scottish grouse moors would let a few through to us.
The current situation is totally unacceptable – and again grouse moors seem to hold a large portion of the blame for the widespread absence of a protected bird. Is grouse shooting really a legitimate field sport these days?
If Doug McAdam would like to write Guest Blog on what the SLE is doing with its members to address the findings of the SNH report and conservation framework for Golden Eagles I’ll be happy to have a look at it.