Golden Eagle Tom vanishes without trace

Tom the Golden Eagle who hatched in Argyll. Photo: RPUK Photo: RPUK

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An online video mourning the suspicious disappearance of Tom the Golden Eagle from Argyll, has been viewed by thousands of people so far.

Tom, who hatched in Argyllshire and was just eight weeks old when he was tagged as part of a project to monitor his travellings, had made it to Mull in his short life but decided not to stay.

His last known location before his tag ‘failed catastrophically’ was in Strathbraan in Perthshire, an area where two other tagged young golden eagles have vanished previously and a spot ‘infamous’ for its raptor persecution, according to TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham, who fronts the video.

Speaking to The Oban Times about Tom’s disappearance, RSPB Mull Officer Dave Sexton said: ‘I’m desperately sad and angry, as many others will be, that yet another of Scotland’s national birds has vanished without trace on a driven grouse moor, a notorious raptor persecution hot spot, in Perthshire. How many more incidents like this involving our magnificent birds of prey will it take before our Scottish Government acts?

‘Mull is known as Eagle Island and it’s no surprise this young male golden eagle chose to spend so much time with us. I’m lucky enough to see golden eagles on a regular basis and may well have seen Tom soaring and gliding over the Mull mountains, possibly interacting with our resident pairs. If only he’d chosen to stay, he might still be alive today. But he’s now joined a long list of other eagles which have vanished on intensively managed, driven grouse moors with zero tolerance of predators.

‘Our first First Minister Donald Dewar called it a national disgrace many, many years ago. It still is, as well as being an international embarrassment and highly damaging for Scotland’s wildlife protection reputation.’

Tom’s satellite tag showed his last known location on May 18 to be in Strathbraan, Perthshire.  Worryingly it is the same place, says the Raptor Persecution UK (RPUK) video, where two other tagged golden eagles known to them and named Adam and Charlie both disappeared within hours of one another in 2019.

Chris Packham and RPUK started a tagging project together in 2017 to monitor eagles’ movements as they try and make their way in the world. Tom is now the fourth from the project to have gone missing.

What is known for certain is that Tom survived for a year, travelling to explore the west of Scotland, out as far as the Isle of Mull, before making a fateful journey east towards the grouse moors in the spring of this year, says RPUK.

Police Scotland were notified of the sudden loss of tag transmission and after examining the tag data agreed that the circumstances were indeed suspicious.

‘They undertook a search of the grouse moor but, of course, didn’t find any evidence – no tag, no carcass, nothing. In late July the police gave us permission to publicise this incident,’ said an RPUK spokesperson.

Since Saturday, more than 21,000 have backed an online call by the RSPB and Wild Justice for action on illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors.

Tom’s tag signal had been strong until it ‘failed catastrophically’ on the morning of May 18 this year, the video mentions the tags are reliable pieces of expensive technology, designed to last three years and not to fall off.

The area where Tom disappeared features in a government commissioned report identifying spots known for raptor persecution.

Chris Packham showing a RPUK photograph of Tom in the video described him as ‘an absolute stunner’ and a ‘beautiful little bird’.