A report by Scottish Natural Heritage found that 41 golden eagles have disappeared without explanation, many of them over grouse moors.
The shooting community has condemned the illegal killing of birds of prey after a new report into the disappearance of golden eagles provided strong evidence of raptor persecution over Scottish grouse moors.
The Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) report followed the movements of 131 golden eagles between 2004 and 2016 and found that 41 had disappeared under suspicious circumstances, with the majority in areas managed for grouse shooting.
Satellite tagging and wind farms were ruled out by the report as alternative explanations for the eagles vanishing.
Shoot licensing could be on the way
The report comes at a precarious time for the Scottish game industry. As reported in Shooting Times earlier this month, the Scottish Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee made an official recommendation that game shoot licensing should be considered as a method of tackling wildlife crime.
Cabinet secretary Roseanna Cunningham has since confirmed that she will set up an independent review into the managing of grouse moors, including whether to introduce licensing, following the SNH report.
A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said the report was “difficult reading” and added: “Losing, on average, four tagged eagles a year across Scotland is totally unacceptable.
The illegal killing of any eagle is condemned wholeheartedly by the SGA and all law-abiding gamekeepers.”
Criminals “undermining” grouse shooting
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, noted that the persecution of protected bird species is at a “historically low level” but added that the report was “challenging reading for the grouse shooting industry” and said: “There is no question that the few people who continue to engage in such illegal activity are grievously undermining the very valuable social, economic and environmental contribution of grouse shooting to our rural communities.
“Action needs to be taken against wildlife crime and we believe in a two-fold approach of punishment and prevention is the most effective way forward.”