Conservationists have offered a £1,000 reward to help catch the poisoner of a golden eagle in the Scottish Borders.
The female of the region’s only breeding pair was found dead and a search of the surrounding grouse moor found bait containing the banned chemical carbofuran. The discovery came yesterday, on the first day of the traditional grouse-shooting season, the ‘glorious twelfth’.
Bob Elliot, head of investigations at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in Scotland said: “Despite being excellent golden eagle country, the Borders have been a real black hole in terms of golden-eagle breeding in Scotland. Sadly, illegal persecution of birds of prey continues to be a shameful fact of life in parts of Scotland in the 21st century, and unfortunately the evidence shows that there is a correlation between the location of grouse moors and the incidence of raptor poisoning.
“Now, after nine or ten years together, the Borders have lost their only breeding pair of golden eagles, and we hope that by offering a reward, a member of the public will help the police to catch the perpetrator and bring them to justice.”
The pair had this year bred a chick, which recently fledged. The young bird was still partly reliant on both parents for feeding and there are fears it will not survive.
Lothian and Borders Police, RSPB Scotland, the Scottish SPCA and the Scottish Executive were all involved in the investigation. The maximum penalty for killing an eagle is six months imprisonment and a £5,000 fine.
PC Mark Rafferty, wildlife-crime officer with Lothian and Borders Police, said: “Despite the efforts of myself and other wildlife-crime officers and our partners, the illegal and indiscriminate use of poisons is still alive and well in the Borders area.
“This incident goes to show that people are still willing to take this risk, and the result is that one of Scotland's finest birds has now been destroyed. This is criminal behaviour, and I’d ask for the public and particularly the gamekeeping community to come forward with information on this or any illegal wildlife crime.”
Anyone with information which may be helpful should contact PC Rafferty on 07785 248 455.
There are estimated to be 420 pairs of golden eagles throughout Scotland. However, a recent British Trust for Ornithology study found that persecution was most likely holding back the growth in numbers. Animal poisoning in Scotland recently reached a 12-year high with 39 confirmed deliberate cases in 2006.