A MAJOR investigation has been launched by Police Scotland after an iconic golden eagle died in an Angus glen after being poisoned.
The body of the bird of prey was found earlier this month, and tests have now confirmed it had been illegally poisoned.
A force spokesman said: “Police Scotland is carrying out enquiries after tests established that a golden eagle found dead in Angus earlier this month was poisoned. The bird was discovered in the Glen Lethnot area in Angus after suspicions were raised by satellite tracking equipment that indicated it had remained in the same place for a significant period of time.
“As police investigations continue, officers request that anyone who was in the Glen Lethnot and surrounding areas between 10 and 25 November contacts the Police Scotland.”
Constable Blair Wilkie, the force’s Wildlife Liaison Officer for the Angus area said: ‘‘Given the rural location of this crime, we appeal to anyone who was out walking, working, or indeed out on the hills for whatever purpose between those dates, to get in touch.
“You may not think that any information you have is of value to us, but please let us be the judges of that.”
He continued: “‘It’s also important to stress to the public that in cases where poisoned baits are used to target birds of prey, the poisons present a wider threat. They are, without question, a significant health risk to both humans and animals.
‘‘If you find what you suspect to be poisoned bait - do not touch it.
‘‘Cover it if possible and contact the police with details of its location. A team of officers is continuing to conduct searches in the Glen Lethnot with a view to recovering the bait used to poison this bird.”
Anyone with information that could assist police enquiries should contact 101, or speak to any officer. Information can also be provided anonymously via the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
RSPB condemn death
RSPB Scotland condemned those responsible for the killing of the satellite-tagged golden eagle,.
A spokeswoman for the wildlife charity said the body of the eagle had been discovered after Roy Dennis, of the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, who was monitoring the eagle’s movements, became suspicious when the satellite signal remained static for several days.
She said: “He immediately alerted the police and RSPB Scotland investigations staff who later visited the area, which is intensively managed for grouse shooting, and a search of the moor allowed the recovery of the dead bird. Tests carried out by the Scottish Government laboratory of Science and Advice for Scottish agriculture confirmed that the bird had been poisoned.
“The eagle, named ‘Fearnan’, was ringed as a chick in a nest near Loch Tay in Perthshire in June 2011 and had spent much of its life in Badenoch, before moving to the Angus glens in early November. Just three weeks later, it had been poisoned.”
Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: “This appalling incident involving a species recently voted as the nation’s favourite bird, marks a dreadful end to the Year of Natural Scotland.
“We have recently submitted a petition to the Scottish Government, asking for the golden eagle to be officially designated as the national bird of Scotland. Incidents such as this show very clearly why this iconic bird needs not just our recognition, but also greater protection.”
He continued: “We sincerely hope that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice and would encourage those with information to come forward.”In the past five and a half years, another four eagles, a red kite and seven buzzards have been shot, poisoned or trapped on sporting estates situated in the Angus Glens.
“In January 2013, the nest tree of a pair of white-tailed eagles was felled. No-one has been prosecuted for any of these offences.”
Mr Housden added: “I will be asking the environment spokesperson of all the parties in the Scottish Parliament to take cross-party action to stiffen the penalties for those convicted of such offences and to look again at the regulation of sport shooting. The current state of affairs is simply unacceptable.”
Minister “angry” at death
Paul Wheelhouse, the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, said he was “disgusted and angry” by the poisoning of the iconic bird of prey.
He said: “The golden eagle is one of Scotland’s most iconic animals and was recently voted the winner of Scotland’s Big 5. I am disgusted and angry at the news of the discovery of a poisoned golden eagle in the Angus Glens which appears to be a deliberate, illegal and cruel action against a protected species.”
He declared: “The killing of our wildlife is a stain on Scotland’s reputation. A reputation on which many of our industries such as tourism, recreation and food and drink rely heavily. It is a great regret that such actions undermine the reputation of sporting estates at a time when there has been genuine progress on the part of the majority of estates and gamekeepers. The actions of a small and ignorant minority are extremely damaging and the Scottish public will rightly be outraged by this news and I share that sense of outrage.
“Crimes like this, and the buzzard found recently near Stirling, strongly reinforce the need, and give a very clear justification, for the measures I announced in July this year. I have said before that whilst there has been progress we will continue working to put those measures into practice, but there is more work to be done to tackle wildlife crime in Scotland. Police Scotland are carrying out enquiries and I will await any developments in this case with great interest.”