A farm manager has been fined £1,200 for possessing a banned poison so toxic a quarter of a teaspoon’s worth can kill a man.
Tom McKellar pleaded guilty to the offence after the discovery of a dead golden eagle close to the West Highland Way.
McKellar was sentenced today at Oban Sheriff Court after admitting possessing carbofuran.
But campaigners expressed disappointment that no-one had been charged with causing the death of the eagle, which is protected under law.
A group of hillwalkers found the eagle’s body facedown while walking on Beinn Udlaidh near Bridge of Orchy in June 2009.
The following day, the group contacted the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland, who immediately notified Strathclyde Police.
That afternoon, the local police wildlife crime officer and RSPB Scotland investigations staff recovered the eagle carcass from the remote hillside.
It was photographed and seized as evidence by the police, meanwhile a post mortem examination by Scottish Government laboratories confirmed the bird had been poisoned with carbofuran, a substance banned since 2001.
Further police investigations, including a search of land and buildings at Auch Estate, Bridge of Orchy, through which the West Highland Way passes, recovered a quantity of carbofuran and a carbofuran-poisoned dead fox.
They also discovered two handguns in the attic of a house occupied by estate employee Tom McKellar.
In subsequent days, the carcass of a sheep, laced with carbofuran, was also found on a hillside in the area where the eagle had been found dead.
In December 2010, at the High Court in Glasgow, McKellar was convicted of possession of two hand guns, and was sentenced to 300 hours community service.
Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations, said: “RSPB Scotland has invested considerable resources in assisting Strathclyde Police in the investigation of this significant case.
“We heartily commend the efforts of the police in their rigorous follow-up to the illegal poisoning of the golden eagle on Beinn Udlaidh, leading to this successful prosecution.
“We are very disappointed that, at the conclusion of the investigation, no-one has been charged with the poisoning of this golden eagle, one of our most vulnerable and iconic bird species, or with the laying out of poison baits in the open in our countryside.
“While we welcome the conviction, yet again, we are dismayed that the final result of a high profile enquiry poses little in the way of a deterrent to those who continue to flagrantly disregard our wildlife protection laws.
“The illegal killing of protected birds of prey remains a persistent problem in some parts of Scotland, with, for example, six further golden eagles confirmed as illegally poisoned since this incident, including one in Lochaber earlier this year.
“We call upon the Scottish Government to urgently review the penalties imposed by the courts on those who break our wildlife laws.”