RSPB Scotland has Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association on the hop on golden eagle death

There is an endemic opposition between RSPB Scotland, with its concern for birds and gamekeepers - with some of Scotland’s sporting estates too often caught illegally trapping or poisoning protected raptors.

A golden eagle was found dead with its wings folded along its body, under a tree, on a Deeside Estate in May 2012.

An official post mortem report 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.’

Golden eagle feathers were found leading from a nearby layby to the tree where th da eagle was found. It had evidently been placed there seriously injured but still alive, and had taken a few days to die painfully.

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association itself admits that the estate in question is reportedly under continual scrutiny, while sneeringly dismissing the notion that such deaths are ‘crime’.

The practice on many of Scotland’s sporting estates is good but there are rogue estates known to wildlife crime police for persecuting raptors by using illegal trapping and toxic poisons like carbofuran. If any estate is under continual scrutiny, it will not be on a whim.

Tayside and Grampian Police are involved in the aftermath of this death.

This case attracted a lot of attention and this morning the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association reacted defensively, releasing a press statement and a report on an investigation it has carried out itself into the incident.

It has to be said that any objective reader would not find the words ‘investigation’ and ‘report’ at all compatible with the two and a half page document these terms describe, which reads more like a press statement.

The RSPB had issued an earlier account of the death of this eagle, four months or so after the event. In this, it had suggested that the post mortem results:

  • of injuries consistent with the eagle’s legs having been broken in a spring trap
  • alongside the trail of feathers from the layby to the tree under which the dead eagle was found
  • and the folding of its wings

were together  indicative of illegal trapping with the bird removed from the scene after a considerable time in the trap – and being left there to die.

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association [SGA]  ‘investigation’ suggests that the eagle might have broken both legs on the deer fence in the area in which GPS signals indicated it had stopped flying. They suggested it might have been in full flight in pursuit of prey and collided with the fence.

This suggestion takes no account of the other bodily damage that would result from such a collision and does not appear to have been evident at post mortem. It also presents no coherent proposition on quite how an eagle, following a crash of this magnitude, would have got to the place where it as eventually found dead under the tree.

The SGA statement suggests weakly that it would somehow have got air under its wings and flown there.

In some anger at the SGA press statement this morning, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Species and Land Management, Duncan Orr-Ewing says:

‘We reject absolutely these unprofessional assertions of the SGA in today’s press release concerning the case of the dead golden eagle found on Deeside in May 2012.

‘Our previous media statement followed proper discussion and approval from the police, and was in full accordance with our joint working protocol.

‘The official post mortem report 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.”

‘This is a rather desperate statement from the SGA, which seemingly does more to reveal their true nature as apologists for the worst types of wildlife crime, as they try to defend the indefensible. Indeed, it calls into question their very commitment to the aims and objectives of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAWS).

‘The illegal killing of golden eagles in Scotland is still a serious conservation issue, undermining the health of their population, and bringing international shame to our country.

‘Over the past few years there have been a number of appalling cases involving the criminal killing of golden eagles, some of which have only come to light following the use of satellite tag technology.

‘Rather than seeking excuses, we believe that the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s efforts would be better directed at tackling those within their sector who still encourage such outdated practices.’

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