An animal charity has admitted it fears a rare eagle last traced in the north-east has been killed illegally.
The young white-tailed eagle, which was satellite-tagged, has not been recorded since July 22 when it transmitted over a grouse moor in Aberdeenshire.
Now animal welfare organisation RSPB Scotland say it believes the animal has been killed, along with another which was last recorded in the Highlands on the same day.
Police were notified of the bird’s disappearance and searched the area in which it was last found without success, sparking fears it was dead.
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Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations, said: “Yet again, rare, protected birds of prey have disappeared in highly suspicious circumstances, with their last known locations on grouse moors.
“And yet again, we can be almost certain that these birds have been killed, with those responsible destroying all the evidence.
“The disappearance of these two eagles is more than a loss of two birds; it means any future breeding success they might have had – helping to boost the numbers of these rare birds – has also been destroyed.
“Illegal persecution is seriously undermining the re-establishment of a white-tailed eagle population in this part of Scotland.”
White-tailed eagles became extinct in Scotland in 1918 due to illegal persecution and reintroduced through a programme run from 2007–2012.