POLICE are investigating after one of Scotland’s rarest birds was found shot dead beside a Highlands loch, the RSPB said today.
The black-throated diver, which is not considered a threat to livestock, was discovered on the shore of Loch Gowan, near Achnasheen in Wester-Ross, by a locally based Scottish Government biologist who alerted RSPB Scotland.
A post-mortem by vets from the Scottish Agricultural College revealed that the bird had been shot in what the RSPB branded an “inexcusable crime”.
There are only around 240 breeding pairs of the birds left in the UK, all of which are confined to the north and west of Scotland.
Conservationists were angered and mystified by the attack on the diver, which is believed to be the first of its kind in Scotland.
Unlike birds of prey, which have been persecuted over concerns among some gamekeepers that they pose a threat to grouse, the diver is not seen as a danger to any other creatures.
A spokesman for RSPB Scotland said: “This is an appalling and inexcusable crime. Black-throated divers are stunning and very rare birds, with their UK stronghold in the Highlands of Scotland. It is truly shocking that one of these birds has been deliberately targeted, with a complete disregard for both the law and the rarity of this species.”
Police enquiries have been unable to identify a suspect so far, the charity added.
Jim Raffell, the biologist who found the bird, said: “To find a dead black throated diver is very sad, but to then be informed that that it had been shot caused me much upset and made me very angry. How any person could deliberately shoot such a beautiful, enigmatic and uncontroversial bird is outrageous. I hope that by raising awareness of this crime, it will never be repeated.”
Anyone with information about the incident should contact Police Scotland on 101, or RSPB Scotland on 0131 317 4100.