The mystery surrounding the disappearance of eight of Scotland’s majestic golden eagles has sparked a row between a bird charity and a landowner’s group.
RSPB Scotland has issued an appeal for information following the disappearance of another young golden eagle, the eighth of this species to vanish in the same area in less than five years.
The young female golden eagle, named Brodie, hatched two years ago and was fitted with a satellite transmitter shortly before she fledged from her nest.
It was being monitored by conservationists as part of a national study to improve understanding of the movements and survival of young golden eagles.
The bird’s last recorded position placed her in the northern Monadhliath mountains, south east of Inverness on July 2.
Since November 2011, eight golden eagles, all less than three years old, fitted with satellite transmitters have disappeared in the same area.
Satellites continue to transmit if a transmitter becomes detached from a bird, or if a tagged bird dies naturally allowing recovery of the body.
Despite comprehensive searches, under the authority of the police, of the areas around the last recorded positions of all eight eagles, none of the birds or transmitters have been recovered, and no further data has been received from the transmitters.
RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, Ian Thomson, said: “These eight birds have all disappeared in an area where driven grouse moor management dominates the landscape, and where there have been many previous cases of illegal killing of protected raptors, including the poisoning of a golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle as recently as 2010.
“Given the reliability of the transmitters, the chance of so many birds disappearing over such a short timescale without some kind of human interference is so small as to be negligible. The pattern we see here is consistent with the birds having been killed and the transmitters destroyed.”
Tim Baynes, Director of the Scottish Moorland Group, said: “There is no clear evidence of the golden eagles having even died in the Monadhliath area, let alone having been persecuted on grouse moors as RSPB is alleging.
“It is now over a month since the disappearance of this latest eagle and it would have been in everyone’s interests if the matter had been raised immediately. There are other explanations for satellite tags stopping working and the failure of RSPB to involve land managers in trying to establish the facts is disappointing.”