And we thought we had heard it all when the Under Secretary for State in England Richard Benyon proposed controlling buzzards. The fact that control of sea eagles is even being discussed will appaul a huge number of people, not only throughout the UK but across the world, what on earth are we thinking about, lets get a grip of this stupidity now and stop it in its tracks?
Sea-Eagles could in theory be shot legally by farmers – if they can gather enough evidence to prove eagles are significantly damaging livestock, according to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
The impact of birds of prey in general and sea eagles in particular has been felt by farmers throughout Scotland with those on the Island of Mull suffering most. Farmer Bert Leitch told a meeting of the Mull Community Council: ‘As the number of sea eagles get greater the number of lambs are reduced. All these birds are protected, but SNH now accept that if we have evidence we can apply for a licence to shoot them.’
Ron Macdonald, head of policy atSNH, said the ‘bar would be very high’ for anyone making such an application for a licence.
Asked what evidence would be required to back up a licence application, he said that post mortems confirming lambs had been taken alive by sea eagles would be necessary but Mr Macdonald did not know how many would be required. He admitted that ‘lambs are taken both dead and occasionally alive.’
When questioned if a farmer applying for a licence with proof they had lost a lot of lambs to eagles be granted it he said:’ We would look at the issue as to whether there are alternative solutions available, creating hill parks with sweeter grass and stopping stock from ranging too widely. This wouldn’t stop eagles but it would make the management and shepherding of stock easier, Sea eagles are less afraid of humans than golden eagles but the presence of humans tends to make them very wary.’
Mr Macdonald also suggested that funding could be provided for lambing sheds from capital works scheme which was launched in 2011 and is open for applications until autumn 2013.
A lot of this is about trying to minimise the effect of the eagles, but people have a right to apply for a licence,’ said Mr Macdonald.
‘We thought we had been making progress with this, we can fully understand that people are concerned and think it is hard enough to farm without having to face losses due to birds of prey.’
Tim Barnes from Rhemore , Drimnin,Morvern said: ‘From the point of view of hill farmers in this area, the control of sea eagles is a necessity. If the average 80% lambing is reduced by sea eagle predation, even a relatively small number of lambs lost can push a flock to the tipping point of 70% where a spiralling decline in the quality of the ewe flock is reached.
‘SNH and the RSPB employed people to study eagles’ predation of lambs on Mull in 2003 and appear to have come up with less than robust conclusions which they are reticent about substantiating.’
RSPB Mull Officer Dave Sexton said: ‘Personally speaking, if such a licence was ever issued I believe the British public would view it as a very dark day for Scotland on the world environment stage. Golden eagles, regarded by many as Scotland’s national bird and white-tailed eagles only slowly recolonising their native land are both still regular victims of illegal persecution.
Certainly the Norwegian Government who supplied all the donor eagles for the Scottish reintroduction scheme will now be feeling betrayed and bewildered by this talk. We doubt if any more sea eagles will be supplied to Scotland in the foreseeable future. It also places the reintroduction of sea eagles into England very much in jeopardy. If in the unlikely event any licenses to kill the sea eagle are granted Scotland’s green image will be damaged beyond repair. We also support what Dave Sexton has already stated, the British public will have something to say about any licenses granted to cull sea eagles, and rightly so.