Of course it was, but how do we know for certain? Because thanks to Ian Thomson, a man who knows more about ‘sorting fact from fiction’ when it comes to raptor persecution than probably anyone else on the planet (the inevitable result of a career spent investigating the endless crimes committed by Scotland’s grouse estates), there is unequivocal clarification that the Golden Eagle found dead on the notorious Invercauld Estate in the so-called Cairngorms National Park in March was indeed found on a grouse moor – and not on tenanted farmland, which was how estate manager Angus McNicol appeared to be trying to spin the story a few days ago (to quote from newspapers covering the discovery, “The area where the bird was found is on a let farm in an area which is managed for sheep farming and is on the edge of an area of native woodland regeneration. It is not managed for driven grouse shooting“)…
Ian, who is directly involved in the investigation and would not risk his reputation and integrity by simply making things up (in stark contrast with the grouse shooting industry of course), left a comment on the Raptor Persecution UK blog which firmly contradicted Mr McNicol’s ‘assertion’ :
‘The eagle was found poisoned next to a Mountain Hare bait…within 200m of a line of grouse butts and a landrover track‘
Killing a Mountain Hare, splitting it open, and sprinkling in a few grains of a banned pesticide like Carbofuran is a well-used ‘trick’ of gamekeepers to illegally kill raptors – especially Golden Eagles which typically hunt hares in the uplands but will happily scavenge them too. (Incidentally, one reason shooting estates were so keen to ‘cull’ Mountain Hares was that a supply of hares meant resident eagles, and many estates don’t allow that despite what the law says.) Leaving the bait and corpse around long enough to be found is not typical, though, and we’d hazard a guess that someone will have recieved a right rollicking in an office somewhere for not disposing of the evidence more quickly.
So, definitely poisoned and definitely on a grouse moor. One more protected bird killed illegally simply so that shooting can maximise its profits by selling farmed grouse to people who clearly couldn’t care less about the nation’s wildlife or their role in supporting an industry underpinned by this sort of crime.
Good men like Ian Thomson has battled politicians, lobbyists, and even some conservationists, for decades. He deserves far better than mealy-mouthed platitudes about ‘zero tolerance’ and ‘bad apples’ and having to listen to the lies of its lobbyists and employees
Let’s stop fannying about here. In our opinion (and it’s one we have stated many times) the grouse shooting industry has long passed the point of no return. Licencing will simply legitimise the industry and put a permanent block on closing it down. The land could be put to much better ‘public good’ usage if it was turned over to rewilding, conservation, and carbon storage. And with grouse shooting gone, criminals wouldn’t be paid to kill some of the most precious, threatened, and highly protected birds in the UK…
- Header image copyright RSPB Scotland March 2021