POLICE SCOTLAND has confirmed that a white-tailed sea eagle found dead earlier this year was poisoned.

The satellite-tagged bird of prey was recovered from Donside, Aberdeenshire, in April. A post mortem has now established it died as a result of pesticide poisoning.

The death is being treated as suspicious. An investigation is ongoing and Police Scotland is appealing for information to help identify those responsible.

Police Inspector Sheila McDerment, who chairs the North East Partnership Against Wildlife Crime, said: “As well as being illegal, poisoning is a cruel way to kill a bird. It also puts the lives of other creatures and plants at risk and impacts negatively on our environment.

“This incident is particularly upsetting because these rare and beautiful birds had been re-introduced to Scotland after being extinct throughout the UK. Raptor persecution is one of six priorities set by the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit. In the North East we work closely with a number of partners to tackle wildlife crime. Members of the public are our eyes and ears. I appeal to anyone out there who may hold any information about this incident to help us bring the offender to justice by coming forward and telling us what they know.”

RSPB Scotland's head of investigations, Ian Thomson, said: "The news that this bird has been illegally poisoned is appalling. This crime would never have come to light had the bird not been fitted with a satellite tag, and the killing of this young eagle can be added to a litany of raptor persecution incidents in recent years, including previous poisonings and multiple disappearances of similarly-tagged birds of prey. Poisoning is vicious and indiscriminate and we join with Police Scotland in appealing for information.”

Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg commented: “Given the major progress made in virtually eradicating illegal wildlife poisoning in Scotland, hearing this news is extremely disappointing. The SGA condemns it wholeheartedly.

"In 2010, there were 32 wildlife poisonings in Scotland. That was unacceptable. The SGA committed to Scottish Government that we would do all we could to address the issue within our own industry. We delivered on that promise. Today, thankfully, these cases are now extremely rare in this country," said Mr Hogg.

"This incident sets back considerable progress made by stakeholders over the last decade – and more – in addressing poisoning. The SGA fully supported the Scottish Government’s illegal pesticide amnesty in 2015 and continues to educate on this subject. We acknowledge Sea eagles can pose problems in land management; something which is well documented, but this is absolutely the wrong way to address a conflict. The SGA reiterates its condemnation.”

Speaking from Scottish Land and Estates, chairman Mark Tennant said: “We wholeheartedly support the appeal for information from the police and are utterly appalled to think that any bird, particularly one as beautiful and as graceful as a Sea Eagle, has been poisoned by pesticide.

"We unreservedly condemn any illegal activity of this kind which undermines the great conservation work done by estate owners, land managers and gamekeepers. We understand that the dead bird was found in April and assume that it was reported to the police and the landowner or farmer on whose property it was found, once an autopsy had been performed, so that investigations could commence immediately. We would advise anyone finding a bird of prey which looks to have been poisoned to report the death at once to the police. Any time lapse will naturally make it more difficult to find and convict the perpetrator. Wildlife crime has absolutely no place in rural Scotland and that is why we have consistently supported tougher penalties for such crimes.”

If you have information about this crime, contact Police Scotland on 101, quoting crime reference number CF0160960720. You can also report information anonymously by contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.