Scotland’s environment minister has condemned the shooting of a golden eagle which has left the bird close to death.
The incident follows two recent killings of eagles by poisoning and the use of an illegal trap.
A walker found the golden eagle on Saturday on a grouse moor close the Southern Upland Way near Wanlockhead.
The raptor is being cared for by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals after the incident, in north-east Dumfries and Galloway, and experts are treating the eagle at the charity’s national wildlife rescue centre.
Minister for the Environment and Climate Change Paul Wheelhouse said: “I am extremely concerned and disappointed that this golden eagle, a very rare sight in this part of Scotland, has been shot and critically injured. This is completely unacceptable.
“Shooting a protected wild bird is a criminal offence and I would urge anyone with information to contact the Scottish SPCA or Dumfries and Galloway Police.
“Thankfully this golden eagle has survived and is receiving specialist care, and I hope in time it makes a full recovery.”
Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “This eagle has been caused tremendous pain and suffering.
“It became grounded after being shot, which caused the feathers on its tail and wings to break and meant it was unable to search for food.
“If the eagle hadn’t been found on Saturday it is very likely it would have starved to death.
“Golden eagles are extremely rare and it is very concerning that someone would deliberately try to injure or kill such a magnificent creature.
“As well as being cruel, injuring a wild bird is also a criminal offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and we are very keen to speak to anyone who has information about this incident.
“This eagle will require lengthy rehabilitation and expert treatment in our care.
“Although it’s very early days yet, it is feeding now and we are hopeful it will make a full recovery and we will be able to release it back into the wild next year.”
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland said the bird also had extensive feather damage, suggesting it had been floundering on the ground for some time and had not been able to feed.
It is too early to tell whether the bird will recover, RSPB Scotland said.
RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden said: “With one golden eagle already found poisoned this year, and a second bird the apparent victim of an illegal trap, this is yet another appalling incident.
“Whoever pulled the trigger must have deliberately targeted one of our most iconic birds, with lethal intentions.
“Whoever it was has access to a shotgun, and the confidence to use it in this area. Much has been made of an apparent recent decline in the illegal poisoning of Scotland’s birds of prey, but this, and other recent criminal incidents, show that efforts to stamp out the illegal persecution of strictly protected wildlife have a considerable way to go.”
Luke Borwick, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners north of the border, said: “We are appalled and disgusted that anyone in Scotland would shoot at a golden eagle, our most iconic bird of prey.
“The incident is particularly distressing in the light of recent progress that has been made to eradicate incidents of wildlife crime, specifically illegal poisoning of birds of prey.
“Scottish Land & Estates members will continue to do whatever they can to support the police and the Scottish Government, working in partnership with other agencies and organisations, to eradicate wildlife crime in all its forms.
“We trust that this eagle makes a full and rapid recovery.”
Last month RSPB Scotland put up a £1,000 reward for information after the body of a golden eagle was found near a layby on a quiet country road near Aboyne.
The eagle, which had a satellite transmitter attached to it, was found on 5 May this year. Both its legs were broken.
The carcass was taken for a post-mortem examination at the Scottish Agricultural College laboratory in Aberdeen. This concluded that the bird had suffered two broken legs due to trauma ‘that could be consistent with an injury caused by a spring-type trap’ and that the severity of these injuries ‘would prevent the bird from being able to take off’.
Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations, said: “The post-mortem evidence suggests that this bird was caught in an illegally set-trap, smashing both legs.”