Testing new ways to protect lambs from sea eagles

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Trials are underway by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and its partners on how to reduce the impact of sea eagle predation on sheep farming.

Removing trees where sea eagles nest next to lambing areas and new scaring methods are two techniques being tested on a small number of ‘monitor farms’ in west coast locations.

These methods are being trialled in places where other management measures, such as extra shepherding, have failed to prevent loss of livestock.

SNH granted a licence this week to Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) to fell two trees where sea eagles have nested previously. It’s hoped that removing nest trees will encourage birds away from areas where they’re feeding on lambs, as eagles can move nest locations when nests are destroyed by natural causes.

The licence will only be granted for periods outside the breeding season to ensure that nesting birds aren’t disturbed.

New scaring techniques are another method being researched, including audio or light-based scaring methods.

If successful, these techniques could be used in the future as one of a range of options to protect livestock where impacts are thoroughly demonstrated.

This work is part of the Sea Eagle Action Plan, managed by the National Sea Eagle Stakeholder Group.

Ross Lilley, SNH Sea Eagle Project Manager said: “We recognise the serious concerns that some farmers and crofters have about the impact of sea eagles on their livestock.

“We’re working closely with farmers and crofters, National Farmers Union Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Forest Enterprise Scotland and others to thoroughly understand the part sea eagles play in livestock losses.

“The trial is about finding a balance between livestock farming and wildlife and recognising the benefits that each brings to us all.

“This is a great example of working together to tackle issues faced by farmers and crofters whilst ensuring healthy populations of this spectacular species.”