As the RSPB Scotland points out, the disappearance of a fourth satellite-tracked eagle in a part of Perthshire that’s home to several shooting estates over four years is “highly suspicious”.
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association complains its members are the “first to be accused when any bird of prey goes missing”, but the illegal killing of raptors undoubtedly happens, as a 2016 report on red kites by Scottish Natural Heritage found, and few others have a motivation. Each case is a further challenge to the rule of law that will eventually force parliament to react.
And that could lead to the licensing of shooting estates – with the threat of licences being revoked over killings of birds of prey – or a strict liability offence so that a landowner would be found responsible for the unnatural death of any raptor on their land.
Both are measures that estates would – and should – fear.
The sooner the shooting community realises that the death of a sea eagle represents a greater threat to their business than a live bird, the better the chances will be of protecting these magnificent creatures.