Sea eagles blamed for lamb deaths

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The Independent Online

Scottish farmers are blaming sea eagles for the deaths of hundreds of lambs, it was reported today.

The birds of prey were brought from Norway as chicks and raised in aviaries before being released into the wild in the north-west Highlands.

But according to the BBC, farmers in the area claim the eagles have killed more than 200 lambs and are calling for more to be done to tackle the problem.

The birds are being reintroduced by RSPB Scotland, SNH and the Forestry Commission as part of a five-year conservation project.

Fifteen white-tailed sea eagles were released last month and William Fraser, chairman of Gairloch and Poolewe branch of the Crofting Foundation, said he believed these birds were responsible for the killings.

Speaking to Radio 4's Farming Today, he said: "This year has been particularly bad. The crofters know how many lambs they put out after lambing season and one woman has lost 50% of her animals.

"She actually saw a sea eagle lifting a lamb from her field and flying off with it.

"We've had lambs that have had their necks sliced, they then can't lift them and are found going round in circles."

However, the RSPB told the BBC it had inspected one nest containing the remains of a number of lambs and said it did not believe the birds were behind all the deaths.

A spokesman for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) told the Scotsman: "We are aware of these concerns and very surprised at the numbers being talked about. There is no doubt that they will take lambs, but usually dead or weak ones, and we've never heard of it being done on this scale."