Golden eagle’s slow, painful death

Golden eagles are an iconic sight in Scotland's glens
Golden eagles are an iconic sight in Scotland's glens
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A GOLDEN eagle has suffered an “appalling and lingering” death after its legs were broken in an illegally set spring trap.

Wildlife charity RSPB Scotland posted a reward on Monday for only the third time in its history in a bid to trace those responsible for the death of the young raptor.

RSPB investigators believe that the eagle, which had been fitted with a satellite transmitter, was left unable to fly after its legs were smashed by a trap set on a remote hillside overlooking Glen Esk in the Angus glens and was deliberately moved ten miles to a site on Royal Deeside, where it took up to five days to die.

The body of the golden eagle was found on 5 May, lying face down with its wings folded, under a tree and near a lay-by on a minor road between Aboyne and Banchory in Aberdeenshire.

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations, said the eagle had suffered a slow and agonising death.

He said: “This has been an appalling incident. It is absolutely disgusting that such a magnificent bird was subjected to such a level of suffering. The post mortem evidence suggests that this bird was caught in an illegally set trap, smashing both legs.

“The data obtained from the satellite transmitter indicated that the eagle did not move from one spot, on a hill high above Glenesk, for more than

15 hours.

“Then, during the night, when eagles do not readily fly, it has inexplicably moved to a new position, hidden under a tree and close to a road. Here, over the next four days, this eagle suffered a lingering death.”

Mr Thomson said a post mortem examination, conducted at the Scottish Agricultural College laboratory in Aberdeen, had concluded the severity of these injuries “would prevent the bird from being able to take off”.

The satellite transmitter, fitted to the bird after it had fledged from a nest in the Monadhliath Mountains, near Inverness, showed that the eagle had moved from Glenshee into Angus on 28 April.

The next day, the satellite readings showed the eagle had never moved from dawn until after dark at a single location, on a hillside overlooking Glenesk. Then, after nightfall – a time when eagles normally roost – the bird was shown to have moved, or been deliberately moved, ten miles to the location on Deeside where its body was eventually found. Temperature readings indicate it was probably alive until 4 May.

Mr Thomson said: “This bird would have endured a pretty horrific death. And there is no way an eagle is going to fly 15km in pitch darkness and then end up in a position that it could not have got to under its own steam. Something very odd has happened here.”

The RSPB has posted a £1,000 reward for information leading to a successful prosecution of those responsible for the death of the golden eagle.

RSPB Scotland director

Stuart Housden said: “Anyone who cares about our wildlife will be disgusted by what appears to be an appalling crime and the lengths taken to hide the facts from discovery.”