A golden eagle reported missing last month is believed to have come to harm, police have said.
The bird was last seen in the Fountainhall area of the Scottish Borders on Oct 12.
Police Scotland have since said they believe the bird has come to harm and are treating its disappearance as suspicious.
The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, a conservation group, expressed “shock, sadness and disappointment” at the bird’s disappearance.
The golden eagle, called Merrick, was translocated from Rottal estate in the Angus Glens to the Scottish Borders in 2022.
It is part of a project to increase the presence of golden eagles in southern Scotland.
Before its disappearance, Merrick was “thriving and exploring all over south of Scotland and Northern England”.
Michael Clarke, the chairman of the conservation group, said: “The disappearance of any golden eagle is extremely upsetting, but particularly when there is evidence to suggest that they have come to harm under suspicious circumstances.
“The project’s translocated eagles have captured the hearts and minds of many people, including children, who will all share in our utter shock, disappointment and sadness at the nature of Merrick’s disappearance.
“We’re grateful to Police Scotland for their support and using all the resources at their disposal to establish the full circumstances.”
Det Sgt David Lynn, wildlife crime co-ordinator for Police Scotland, said: “Since the report was made, officers have been working with a range of partner agencies to establish more details and gather further information to establish the circumstances.
“The bird was last seen in the area to the west of Fountainhall, between Heriot and Stow on Thursday, 12 October. A full search of this area was carried out and officers believe the bird has come to harm and are treating its disappearance as suspicious.
“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.”
Alex Hogg, the chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said: “The Scottish Gamekeepers Association strongly condemns wildlife crime in all its forms.
“Everyone who has supported the South Scotland Golden Eagle project will be extremely disappointed at this news.
“As an organisation, our support is reflected in the fact that 23 of the project’s 28 donor eaglets have come from gamekeeper-managed estates. We remain proud of that involvement and will continue our support.”