I was pleased to be able to write this back in April:
‘Scotland’s iconic Golden Eagle population continues to grow impressively. Breeding pair numbers now stand at 508, from 442 and up 16% from 2003.’
However, things are clearly not quite as optimistic as it seemed at the time. On the gov.scot site we could read only yesterday:
‘Almost a third of golden eagles being tracked by satellite died in suspicious circumstances, scientists have found. The Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) research identified that the majority of cases were found where land is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting.’
This news has prompted the Scottish government to act. The Environment Secretary has announced these:
- Set up an independently-led group to look at the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices such as Muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls, and to recommend options for regulation including licensing and other measures which could be put in place without new primary legislation;
• Immediately review all available legal measures which could be used to target geographical areas of concern;
• Increase resources for the detection and investigation of wildlife crime and work with Police Scotland to pilot the use of special constables in the Cairngorms National Park;
• Rule out giving the Scottish SPCA more investigative powers, in light of legal advice;
• Examine how best to protect the valuable role of gamekeepers in rural Scotland;
• Commission research into the costs and benefits of large shooting estates to Scotland’s economy and biodiversity.
She has also said:
‘We have already targeted wildlife criminals, and those who sanction such crimes, by introducing measures such as vicarious liability and restrictions on the use of general licences. But Scottish Ministers have always said they would go further if required – and that is what I am doing today. The continued killing of protected species of birds of prey damages the reputation of law-abiding gamekeepers, landowners and indeed the country as a whole. Those who carry out these crimes do so in defiance of the will of Parliament, the people, and their own peers. That must end.