New measures have been announced to protect birds of prey

The new measures have been announced by Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham.
The new measures have been announced by Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham.

New measures have been announced to help protect birds of prey.

The move comes after research by scientists revealed almost a third of golden eagles being tracked by satellite died in suspicious circumstances.

Research by scientists has revealed almost a third of golden eagles being tracked by satellite died in suspicious circumstances.

Research by scientists has revealed almost a third of golden eagles being tracked by satellite died in suspicious circumstances.

The Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) research identified that the majority of cases were found where land is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham confirmed to the Scottish Parliament she will now set up an expert group to look at managing grouse moors sustainably and within the law. Following a request by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee the group will also advise on the option of licensing grouse shooting businesses.

The report studied the movements of 131 young golden eagles over a 12 year period, and found more than 40 had disappeared in suspicious circumstances. It also found there was no link between fitting satellite tags and the disappearance of golden eagles and ruled out any connection with the position of wind turbines.

In response Ms Cunningham outlined a package of new measures designed to protect birds of prey, the wider environment and the reputation of those who abide by the law.

A Golden Eagle in flight

A Golden Eagle in flight

These include: Setting 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.

The measures also include immediately reviewing all available legal measures which could be used to target areas of concern.

A spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “Losing, on average, four tagged eagles per year across Scotland is totally unacceptable. The illegal killing of any eagle is condemned wholeheartedly by the SGA and all law abiding gamekeepers.

“Although this study assimilates 12 years of evidence and makes difficult reading, it does acknowledge recent improvements in some grouse moor areas previously associated with suspected persecution.

“This change has contributed to the overall betterment of the golden eagle’s conservation status.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “We welcome the publication of this extensive investigation into the fate of satellite tagged golden eagles in Scotland.

“The report leaves little doubt that human interference is stopping golden eagles from expanding into their full natural range. It is also highly likely that illegal persecution is causing the disappearance of golden eagles around some grouse moors in the Highlands.”

Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, added: “We welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement that immediate measures will be looked into to bear down on areas with a long and proven history of the criminal targeting of protected birds of prey and look forward to hearing more detail on what is proposed.”