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Sea eagles are not only killing lambs, but could threaten the future of Scotland’s iconic golden eagle – and traditional hill farming – according to a farming union.
The warning comes after reports in the farming press of a golden eagle being killed by a sea eagle at Kilninver, near Oban.
Farmer Colin MacFadyen was busy on his lambing rounds at the low-lying Clachan Farm on April 5 when he noticed a sea eagle pecking at the body of a newborn lamb which had been alive a few hours earlier. Around two feet away was the carcase of a golden eagle. Quoted in The Scottish Farmer, Mr MacFadyen said: ‘…it was obvious from the talon marks around its head that the other bird had killed it.’
Colin’s father is NFU Scotland Environment and Land Use chairman Angus MacFadyen who said: ‘This incident is another stark reminder of the invasive and dangerous affects sea eagles have had in some areas since they were re-introduced into in Scotland.
‘Sea eagle predation of lambs is a serious issue for hill farmers, like myself, not just around Oban but throughout the west coast and the islands. It is our lives and businesses which feel the devastating effects of losing livestock to these apex predators with little to no recourse to stop it.
‘With sea eagle predation so widespread in these areas, it is difficult for farmers to maintain the centuries-old tradition of self sufficient hefted breeding flocks on these hill farms. These systems are vital to farmers and crofters in these areas and need to be maintained.
‘As this incident shows, it isn’t just livestock being negatively affected by these sea eagle attacks. The native and iconic golden eagle, as we can see from this most recent incident, can also be seriously affected by this intrusive species.’
A spokeswoman for Scottish Natural Heritage said that a post mortem had confirmed the dead golden eagle’s injuries were ‘consistent with wounds inflicted by the talons of another eagle’.
The spokeswoman continued: ‘The two species do interact, sometimes aggressively and are capable of killing each other, and this is natural behaviour. To date we have no evidence that one is negatively affecting the other.
‘Scottish Natural Heritage runs a Sea Eagle Management Scheme which aims to reduce the impacts of damage which may be caused by sea eagles. There is information on this scheme on the Scottish Natural Heritage website.
The golden eagle. Photograph: M Hamblin (rspb-images.com). no_a16GoldenEagle01