Eagle death blamed on gamekeepers

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The Independent Online

Scottish police are failing to crack down effectively on gamekeepers who poison rare and legally protected birds of prey, say wildlife experts.

Scottish police are failing to crack down effectively on gamekeepers who poison rare and legally protected birds of prey, say wildlife experts.

Last week a young golden eagle was killed on the edge of Loch Tay by bait laced with rat poison containing alpha-chloralose, a chemical often used illegally by gamekeepers. The year-old eagle, which had been under 24-hour surveillance by a group of 100 volunteers, was the 10th bird of prey poisoned in Scotland this year, and the fourth in the Tayside area.

Police and the Scottish Gamekeepers' Association believe the eagle was killed by bait laid illegally for crows or ravens, but tension is increasing between conservationists and police over the best method of tackling those responsible.

The latest find provoked claims from senior conservationists that a long-standing strategy pursued by police on Tayside - the heartland of Scotland's game-shooting industry - of working closely with gamekeepers was proving ineffective. The Scottish Agricultural Sciences Agency (Sasa) near Edinburgh, says two of the three golden eagles poisoned this year were in Tayside.

Alan Stewart, the police wildlife liaison officer, denied his force's strategy was failing. He said the Tayside force had made three seizures of poison this year, and three incidents would involve reports to the procurator fiscal. "We train and educate people and try to use crime prevention, but if people aren't going to listen, we won't hesitate to take out a search warrant," he said.

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