A wildlife charity is on the hunt for a potential golden eagle killer after the bird’s satellite tag was found wrapped in heavy lead at a river.
The bird of prey has been missing since its tag stopped transmitting suddenly on a grouse moor in Perthshire in 2016.
Despite searches, it was never found.
Following the recovery of its tag, RSPB Scotland now believe it was illegally killed and said it shows the “lengths raptor killers will go to conceal crime”.
Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations said: “As is the case in virtually every raptor persecution investigation, nobody seemed to know anything and, as is the case with every suspicious satellite-tagged raptor disappearance on a grouse moor, spurious alternative theories as to what may have happened to the bird and tag were suggested.
“However, now we know the truth. This young eagle was killed illegally.
“The tag was clearly removed from the bird, its antenna was cut off, and the tag was then wrapped in a piece of lead sheeting, presumably because the perpetrator thought this would stop it transmitting.
“The package was then cast into the river, never to be seen again. Or so they thought.”
After fledging from its nest, the young eagle had remained on its parents’ territory until November 2014.
Over the following 18 months, it explored Scotland’s uplands before it moved onto Strathbraan.
On May 1, 2016, his tag “suddenly and inexplicably stopped”.
Four years later, the lead package was discovered by a walker and his son on the banks of the River Braan near Dunkeld on May 21, just a few miles away from the bird’s last known location.
It’s now in the hands of Police Scotland for forensic analysis in the hope to catch those responsible.
Mr Thomson added: “This discovery gives unequivocal proof not only of what is happening to these birds, but also the lengths to which the criminals involved in the killing of our raptors will go to dispose of evidence and evade justice.”