Missing golden eagle Merrick 'was shot while sleeping' as cops hunt killer

Cops are hunting the killer of a majestic golden eagle called Merrick who mysteriously vanished last year and is now believed to have been shot.

Human “persecution” has been officially blamed for the disappearance of Merrick (F43), a female golden eagle that was relocated from the Angus Glens to the Scottish Borders in 2022 and reported missing last October.

Now, police believe she was shot and killed while roosting asleep in a tree, with those responsible then destroying the bird of prey’s satellite tag which tracked her movements.

Investigators found grisly evidence of blood and feathers at her last known roosting spot.

The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project - the conservation scheme which brought Merrick to the area - condemned whoever carried out the “deplorable” act.

Sharing details of the wildlife crime probe with police permission, project manager Dr Cat Barlow said: “We can confirm that Police Scotland has found clear evidence that a wildlife crime has been committed. They are confident Merrick’s disappearance was due to persecution.

“The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project is incredibly angry, upset and disappointed that her disappearance appears to have been at the hands of an individual or individuals who consider themselves above the law.

“This incident, and the staunch support we have had, makes us utterly determined to fight the persecution of golden eagles and continue our successful work.”

Police say they are treating the missing bird as 'suspicious.'
Police say they are treating the missing bird as 'suspicious.' -Credit:Police Scotland

Eagle Officer John Wright, who inspected a Sitka Spruce tree which was Merrick’s last known roosting spot, said he first spotted golden feathers lying on moss under the tree.

He continued: “I saw a film of blood stretched across the grass stems. It subsequently turned out that a considerable amount of blood was present in and below the moss layer.

“As I stood back from the feather and blood location, I could see small downy feathers scattered in the dense spruce foliage below the roosting branches.

“Merrick had been roosting (sleeping perched) in a tree when her tag stopped transmitting.”

Dr Cat Barlow added: “Looking at the evidence, Police Scotland believe she was shot then fell to the ground, where she bled considerably through a single wound.

“Police Scotland believe that someone then removed her body and destroyed her satellite tag.”

Before vanishing last autumn, Merrick had been thriving and exploring the skies all over south of Scotland and Northern England.

The stunning bird was photographed on her trip in Weardale and filmed in the Nidderdale area of outstanding natural beauty.

During the eight days before her disappearance, she was exploring the Moorfoot Hills. Then on October 12, her tag suddenly stopped transmitting, indicating “no malfunction”, which strongly suggested human interference.

Chair of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, Dumfriesshire farmer Michael Clarke, said: “Whoever committed this deplorable wildlife crime should hang their heads in shame."

Detective Sergeant David Lynn, Police Scotland Wildlife Crime Coordinator, said: “We are determined to protect these magnificent birds. We work closely with a number of partners to tackle wildlife crime, which can be challenging and complex to investigate.

“I urge anyone with any information to contact us through 101 quoting reference number 1193 of 18 October. Alternatively, please contact Crimestoppers though 0800 555 111, where anonymity can be maintained.”

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