Satellite-tagged Golden Eagles killed on grouse moors – official!

Golden Eagles are illegally killed on grouse moors – it’s official. It’s not a surprise, and it’s been a while coming, but there isn’t a hiding place for grouse moor managers in Scotland. And we are sure to see Scottish politicians following through on this report – after all, they’ve had enough time to think about it.

Here are some extracts:

  • For the 131 birds entered into analyses, there were 10 natural deaths, five birds killed, and 41 birds with a ‘stopped no malfunction’ fate.
  • This report addresses the question: is there a pattern of suspicious activity surrounding the ‘disappearance’ of many satellite tagged golden eagles?
  • In answer to the question ‘was there a suspicious pattern in the sudden failure
    to transmit for many tagged eagles?’ The answer was: ‘Yes’.
  • Overall, we have found no evidence that satellite tagging of golden eagles in
    Scotland causes any harm to tagged birds, either physically, behaviourally, or
  • We found no evidence that wind farms or activities associated with their operation
    accounted for losses of tagged eagles, or the disappearance of eagles with tags that
    suddenly stopped functioning.
  • Previous research has indicated that persecution, largely through the killing of birds, was a major constraint on the Scottish golden eagle population in regions of Scotland where driven grouse moor predominated as the major land use.
  • Overall, the final fixes of tags which stopped working suddenly, with no malfunction, were significantly more likely to be closer to recent records of persecution events than were the final fixes of other tags which were not suspicious.
  • The final fixes of the many ‘stopped no malfunction’ tags were significantly associated with persecution records. Their sudden demise was evidently due in large part to people killing the tagged birds (and the disposal of the bird and its tag subsequently).
  • Corroborative information points to the perpetrators of the persecution of
    tagged eagles being associated with some grouse moors in the central and
    eastern Highlands of Scotland.
  • It was apparent that satellite tagging of young golden eagles revealed that many
    young birds have probably been illegally killed in some parts of Scotland
    between 2004 and 2016, largely in the central and eastern Highlands. Such
    illegal killing potentially has consequences for the future golden eagle
    population’s trajectory within mainland Scotland. This is especially so in those
    regions where such killing continues to occur; many decades after such acts
    became illegal.
  • Overall, we conclude that a relatively large number of the satellite tagged golden
    eagles were probably killed, mostly on or near some grouse moors where there
    is recent, independent evidence of illegal persecution.
  • This illegal killing has such a marked effect on the survival rates of the young
    birds that the potential capacity for the breeding golden eagle population
    continues to be suppressed around where this persecution largely occurs. In
    these parts, mainly in the central and eastern Highlands of Scotland, the
    prospects for recovery are poor.

This is a momentous day which brings closer the banning of driven grouse shooting in the UK. Well done to the Scottish government and particularly Roseanna Cunningham. Well done to those raptor workers who have collected the data over many years that helps us to understand the level of wildlife crime in the UK uplands.

We will soon see the implications of this report north of the Border.

The lack of activity by the Conservative government in England is put into even greater focus by this report and by the measures which will surely follow.  Scotland is moving towards sunlit uplands whereas England is still languishing in the dark valleys of Tory indifference to wildlife crime.


If you care about the environment, vote for anyone who can stop the election of a Tory MP on 8 June.



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  1. Paul V Irving says:

    A note to the DEFRA ministers this is what you should be doing with satellite tag data ( in England Hen Harrier data) so when can we expect to see this published?

    I suspect under the game shoot friendly Tories never. Another reason to vote IN YOUR CONSTITUENCY who ever is most likely to DEFEAT them.

    I look forward to Scottish harrier and Peregrine tag data to be published too as promised.
    Well done Roseanna Cunningham. Now lets do something about it.

  2. Lj says:

    Whoopee doo

  3. David Featherstone says:

    Let's hope that finally something is done about the killing of raptors. Compelling evidence.

  4. Dave Dick says:

    Much as I applaud the last sentence, this problem is bigger than any narrow political party politics. In Scotland we have had Labour, Labour/Lib Dem and SNP administrations since our scottish parliament was set up in 1999 [18 years] and raptor killing has continued unchecked - the satellite tagging has helped back up what has been known anecdotally, often from the mouths [off the record] of the killers themselves....We should all vote for whoever actually takes action, not just for those with the finest rhetoric.

  5. Tim Bidie says:

    'Ban it!' is the millennia old cry of the bigot, hypocrite, 'whited sepulchre'.

    There is already plenty of law in this area. Let it do its work.

    Additionally, consider the following in order to improve the prospects for Golden Eagles:

    'as a boy John was more egg collector than bird protector. When he settled in Scotland in the mid-1970s he was converted to a conservation outlook and has devoted his time since to monitoring our local Golden Eagles. Over the years John has seen a slow decline in our local population, with the survey this year showing 5 ranges which he once had occupied now to be vacant. Why? We can’t know for sure and it’s probably a mix of factors rather than a sole cause, with these possibly including increased human disturbance, a declining food supply and habitat degradation.'

    'One of the problems in breeding success for Golden Eagles is the availability of prey. Though on occasions twins may be hatched, because of sibling competition for food, the chances of both young birds surviving is very low. Consequently a collaborative project commenced in 2000 between Scotland and Ireland, 'The Irish Golden Eagle Reintroduction Project' which removes a small number of these surplus but at risk birds from their Scottish eyries, for eventual release in the wild to re-establish a breeding population in the mountains of the west of Ireland. The project is co-ordinated by Scottish Natural Heritage. There are currently a number of Eagles participating in this project, from all accounts doing well, a fine example of conservation collaboration along the celtic fringes and it was a Skye bird which provided the first Irish breeding record.'

    Brood management: 'a fine example of conservation collaboration'

    Ho hum......

    • James O'N says:

      The reintroduction of birds to Ireland using surplus eaglets from Scotland is not 'brood management'. It is a reintroduction program.
      Brood management is where the numbers of nestlings in the wild are controlled by artificial means for the benefit of humans/another species (such as grouse?).

      There is indeed plenty of law in the area of protection of birds of prey. Clearly it's no deterrent, as 'letting it do its work' has resulted in, as you can see from the commissioned report, continued widespread raptor persecution. Hence the need for further incentive not to break the law.

      I'm not sure why you bring up those passages highlighting factors such as declining food supply and habitat degradation (both of which are human-caused problems of course!). Yes, absolutely for effective conservation measures you need to ensure that there is enough food and habitat for breeding eagles. Conservationists know this. But Scotland-wide, in the areas without widespread persecution, such as the western areas, eagle abundance and range has been increasing. So they're not doing too badly. Except, as the commissioned report very clearly finds, in some areas of grouse moor, where there is a clear and significant effect on the success of eagles due to human-caused persecution. All the conservation measures to increase habitat and food in Scotland won't stop the damage to the eagle population due to persecution.

      So I'm not too sure what your point is. Ignore the persecution, let things keep on as they are, and start fiddling about with baby eagles - like they're planning to do with Hen harriers in England?

      • Tim Bidie says:

        The point is that there are many better ways of helping raptors in general than a 'Ban it!' approach to driven grouse shooting.

        We know what happens to raptor populations and ground nesting bird populations when driven grouse shooting stops.

        There could have been no reintroduction of golden eagles in Ireland without brood management in Scotland - but very much enjoyed the humour.


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