25/09/2020
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Golden Eagle tag found discarded in river

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A satellite tag removed from a missing Golden Eagle has been recovered from a Highland river. 

In 2016 the bird's tag stopped transmitting suddenly on a grouse moor in Perthshire and despite searches by Police and RSPB Scotland, it was never traced. Now the tag has been found – wrapped in heavy lead sheeting and disposed of just a few miles from the last known location of the bird. 


The Golden Eagle's tag and the lead sheeting it was wrapped in (RSPB).

The object was spotted by a walker and his son on the banks of the River Braan near Dunkeld in Perthshire on 21 May. On closer examination, they found the tag wrapped in a piece of lead sheeting. The tag bore a label bearing contact details and a serial number, subsequently allowing the police and RSPB to jointly attend recover and identify the object. Police Scotland have since held the tag for several months to conduct forensic analysis, which is ongoing.  

After fledging from its nest, this young eagle had remained on its parents' territory until November 2014. Over the following 18 months, it explored Scotland's uplands before it moved into Strathbraan. Within a few days of arriving here, on 1 May 2016 his tag, that had been functioning exactly as would have expected, suddenly and inexplicably stopped. It was suspected that the bird had been killed, and the tag destroyed. 

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As with all such cases, this suspicious disappearance was reported to the police. A search of the land around the bird's last known location on a remote hill took place and the disappearance was discussed with local land managers. No evidence of what had happened to the bird was uncovered.  

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland's Head of Investigations said: "As is the case in virtually every raptor persecution investigation, nobody seemed to know anything and, as is the case with every suspicious satellite tagged raptor disappearance on a grouse moor, spurious alternative theories as to what may have happened to the bird and tag were suggested. However, now we know the truth. 

"This young eagle was killed illegally. The tag was clearly removed from the bird, its antenna was cut off, and the tag was then wrapped in a piece of lead sheeting, presumably because the perpetrator thought this would stop it transmitting. The package was then cast into the river, never to be seen again. Or so they thought. 

"This discovery gives unequivocal proof not only of what is happening to these birds, but also the lengths to which the criminals involved in the killing of our raptors will go to dispose of evidence and evade justice. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the vast majority of other birds of prey and their tags that have disappeared on Scotland's grouse moors have suffered similar fates."