AN EXPERT group is being set up to look at new ways of protecting golden eagles and other birds of prey after eights birds disappeared in the Monadhliath Mountains south-east of Inverness between 2011 and 2016.
Researchers found one in three satellite-tracked golden eagles died in suspicious circumstances between 2004 and 2016.
According to the Scottish Natural Heritage study, the majority of bird death cases were found where land was intensively managed for driven grouse shooting.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham will now set up a group to examine the way grouse moors are managed to ensure they are done so sustainably and within the law.
Ms Cunningham said the researchers’ findings were “deeply concerning” and gave rise to “legitimate concerns that high numbers of golden eagles, and other birds of prey, continue to be killed in Scotland each year”.
She said: “There is every reason to believe that similar levels of persecution affect untagged golden eagles, as well as those we are able to track via satellite tags.
“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 – and that is what I am doing today.”
The RSPB said it was a “damning indictment of Scotland’s driven grouse shooting industry”.
Director Anne McCall welcomed the government’s intent “to target areas that were destroying our natural heritage”.
David Johnstone of Scottish Land & Estates said the “illegal activity” was damaging grouse shooting’s contribution to rural economies.