A conservation charity has appealed for information following the “suspicious” disappearance of a golden eagle.
The young male was last located in an estate in the Cairngorms, but concerns for its welfare were sparked after its satellite tag stopped transmitting three weeks ago.
RSPB Scotland said the sudden lack of data from the tag “strongly suggests” the bird is no longer alive, but believes the death is not due to natural causes. The wildlife charity said the eagle was last recorded in North Glenbuchat, near Strathdon in Aberdeenshire.
The RSPB said the bird, known as 338, left its nest in Deeside last summer, before spending much of its time on the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park. It said the tag “inexplicable” stopped working before nightfall on 5 March.
Despite enquiries at the estate by Police Scotland, assisted by RSPB staff, there have been no signs of the bird.
North Glenbuchat is controlled by Lord Milford-Haven, a cousin of the Queen. Several tagged golden eagles have disappeared in the area in recent years. In 2011, the body of one of the birds was recovered at Glenbuchat. Tests showed it had been poisoned.
Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations, said: “The circumstances surrounding the disappearance of eagle 338 are similar to a number of previous cases currently being considered by an independent review of satellite-tagged birds of prey commissioned by the Scottish Government.
“If this review reveals a geographical pattern to disappearing golden eagles, we will be pressing the government for firm action, including the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting.”
Laura Sorrentino, director of North Glenbuchat Estate estate, said: “The estate is shocked by the clear implication that the estate may have been involved in the disappearance of this eagle.
“There was an incident six years ago when a dead eagle was found on estate land and at that time the estate issued a very robust statement condemning the poisoning of birds of prey and emphatically denying any involvement.
“There is no evidence that the estate has been involved in any wrongdoing or criminal activity.
“We take our legal and wildlife responsibilities very seriously and our keepers are also fully aware of their responsibilities.”