Farmer fury about lambs killed by sea eagles

Sheep farmers on Scotland’s west coast who say sea eagles are taking thousands of lambs a year will tell the Scottish government next week that the status quo is no longer an option.

As Scottish hill lambing prepares to get under way, NFU Scotland will deliver a wide-ranging Sea Eagle Management Plan to the Scottish government and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) – and make the point that the reintroduced birds are now jeopardising extensive sheep farming on the west coast.

SNH says there are 80 breeding pairs of sea eagles on the west coast, but gives no estimate of juvenile bird numbers.

NFUS declined to reveal the details of the plan, which was drawn up following meetings and 103 responses to a survey of sheep farmers on the west coast and in the Scottish islands.

However, NFUS deputy director of policy Andrew Bauer said almost nothing that was being proposed would be deliverable overnight.

“Farmers accept there are international obligations under the birds directive, so sea eagles have to stay, but we need to find a way where they co-exist with sheep farming,” he said.

“It will be a long road to find a solution, but other stakeholders now accept that sea eagles take live, viable lambs and don’t just prey on dead or weak ones.”

Read also: Why sea eagles and farmers don’t mix

Lachlan MacLean, a sheep farmer on Mull, said the problem was getting worse every year and he now had seven pairs of sea eagles preying on his livestock.

“In the first five days of lambing last year, nine lambs were lifted,” he added. “A neighbour watched one being taken from the lambing park as I was lambing another ewe only 400 yards away. Farming here is marginal anyway and sea eagle numbers are growing. We need to ask when enough is enough.”