Mystery over Golden Eagle's 'disappearance'
Police searches have been carried out on an estate in Aberdeenshire after a satellite-tagged Golden Eagle went missing in suspicious circumstances.
RSPB Scotland says it is the latest in a series of incidents around the North Glenbuchat Estate on Strathdon.
But the estate has released video which it believes shows the bird alive and well after contact was lost with it.
Workers at the estate recorded a further video they think shows the eagle on Saturday.
The young male Golden Eagle was lost from satellite tracking systems at the start of the month.
Police have been searching the area around the estate for evidence of the eagle or the tracker.
Nothing has been found and an appeal has been made for information about the disappearance.
Numbers of golden eagles in Scotland reached very low numbers in the mid-19th Century, but have been steadily recovering since then.
RSPB Scotland said last year there had been a 15% rise since 2003, when the last survey took place, from 442 to 508 pairs.
There are not thought to be any golden eagles in the UK except in Scotland.
North Glenbuchat Estate director Laura Sorrentino said: "We have been made aware today of statement sent to media outlets by RSPB appealing for information on the whereabouts of a satellite-tagged golden eagle whose transmitter appears to have stopped working.
"RSPB suggests that the bird has died and that no data had been recorded from its transmitter since March 5 or 6 when it was last recorded in the vicinity of our estate.
"The estate head keeper filmed what he firmly believes to be the eagle in question yesterday afternoon at 2.17pm and that film was sent to the wildlife crime officer later yesterday. We will also be contacting RSPB."
She added: "The estate is shocked by the clear implication that the estate may have been involved in the disappearance of this eagle.
"There was an incident six years ago when a dead eagle was found on estate land and at that time the estate issued a very robust statement condemning the poisoning of birds of prey and emphatically denying any involvement.
"There is no evidence that the estate has been involved in any wrongdoing or criminal activity."
RSPB Scotland Head of Investigations Ian Thomson said: "As soon as we became aware of this bird's disappearance, we notified Police Scotland, in line with PAW Scotland (Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime in Scotland) protocols, who concurred that the circumstances were suspicious.
"These tags are very reliable and the sudden cessation of transmissions strongly suggests the bird has died.
"Had the bird succumbed to natural causes, we would expect to continue to receive data and to be able to locate and recover the body of the eagle with ease."
The bird's last recorded position was in Glenbuchat just before nightfall on 5 March.
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: "The SGA learned of this case at mid-day, Friday, so know nothing at this stage. Our message is clear, though. If any SGA member is convicted of a wildlife crime, they will be removed from the organisation.
"Our members have been actively involved in the counting of eagles on their ground for several years now and many have played, and continue to play, an active and necessary role in the conservation of the species in Scotland."
The Scottish government has ordered a review of satellite-tagging data following a spate of disappearances.