A ROW has broken out between the UK's largest wildlife charity and a Scottish police force over its efforts to solve bird of prey poisonings.
RSPB Scotland has launched a stinging attack on Tayside Police for its "apparent lack of follow up" to a series of alleged wildlife crimes linked to a shooting estate near Angus.
In the latest incident, a dead white-tailed sea eagle was discovered by RSPB staff on the Glenogil Estate, owned by multimillionaire John Dodd, co-founder of Artemis Investment Management. Tests revealed the bird of prey, brought to Scotland from Norway as part of a reintroduction programme, had died from the illegal pesticide carbofurin.
However, an appeal for witnesses following the discovery on 6 August was not made by Tayside Police until last week – more than six months later. A press release was only sent out by the force after questions were asked by The Scotsman.
RSPB Scotland is understood to be furious about a lack of action by Tayside Police. A spokesman for the charity said: "There has been no rapid follow-up search under warrant."
He added that there had been "no look for further evidence" in this case, or following other instances of alleged wildlife crime on or near the Glenogil Estate.
These have included the discovery of cubes of poisoned venison on fence posts, close to another poisoned sea eagle, in 2008.
The spokesman added: "The RSPB wishes to see all such cases followed up vigorously using the full force of the law."
A spokeswoman for Tayside Police responded: "We would ask the RSPB to get in touch with us if they require further explanation on the legal processes that are required before any search warrants can be obtained."
She said Tayside Police had to "work within the framework of the law" and added: "It is imperative that we weigh up all the facts and circumstances before any further action is taken."
She defended the decision to make the discovery of the latest poisoned sea eagle public after more than six months had passed. "This was in order to allow time for police inquiries to be carried out without the information being in the public domain," she said.
Mr Dodd has denied any wrongdoing by himself or his staff, and has claimed that he has been unfairly targeted by wildlife campaigners and police.
The Scottish Government docked 107,000 of Mr Dodd's farming subsidy in 2008 following an investigation that found traces of illegal pesticides on his estate in 2006. He is appealing the decision.
In 2008, a thematic review by the Scottish Government led to a series of plans to step up efforts to tackle wildlife crime, including a dedicated wildlife crime officer for each force.
However, there have been criticisms from RSPB Scotland that this has not happened.