CONSERVATIONISTS battling to protect Scotland’s birds of prey are in an “arms race” with criminals, it has been claimed.
By DAVID SCOTT
PUBLISHED: 20:16, Fri, May 18, 2018 | UPDATED: 20:29, Fri, May 18, 2018
Ian Thomson, head of investigations at RSPB Scotland, made the claim after a series of satellite-tagged birds of prey including golden eagles and sea eagles disappeared in suspicious circumstances.
He said satellite transmitters had led to a “massive reduction” in illegal poisoning cases in recent years as those targeting raptors know that if a tagged bird stops moving, somebody will look for it, increasing the chances of its killer being caught.
But while tagging technology was improving, it had also brought about a change in tactics as those who would persecute protected species tried to stay a step ahead, he warned.
Mr Thomson said: “The technology is changing all the time. A few years ago these GPS satellite tags could only be fitted to big birds like eagles or cranes or storks and things like that and now we are fitting them to smaller birds of prey like hen harriers.
We know from the disappearance of satellite-tagged birds that these birds are being literally shot off their perches
“But at the same time we have to recognise that in some perverse way we are almost in a strange arms race because those who are killing birds of prey, rather than chucking out half a rabbit laced with carbofuran, now they are wandering about at 2am with thermal imaging gear.
“We know from the disappearance of satellite-tagged birds that these birds are being literally shot off their perches in the middle of the night. And that’s difficult to combat and they know that.
"We’ve caught people on camera committing wildlife crimes. A solution to that is they all go out wearing balaclavas.”