Scottish Highlands crofters blame sea eagles for leap in lamb deaths
More than 200 lambs have died since August because farmers say that Sea Eagles are killing them and thus threatening their livelihoods.
Fifteen of the birds were released in August and since then farmers in Gairloch, in the north-west Highlands say that the eagles have been killing their new flocks.
One woman reported seeing one of the sea eagles swooping down on a lamb and lifting it from the field in its talons.
The crofters said the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage, who reintroduced the birds to the area, were not taking their concerns seriously enough. The RSPB said it was unlikely the birds were responsible for all the deaths.
This was the second year that the so-called "flying barn doors" were released into the Scottish wilderness. The birds, which have a wingspan of up to 3 metres (9ft) and can weigh around 7kg (15.4lb), were collected as chicks from nests in Norway and raised in special aviaries before they were set free.
Sea eagles have taken several lambs in the past but the death toll this year far exceeds past totals, the farmers said.
William Fraser, the chairman of the Gairloch and Poolewe branch of the Crofting Foundation, said the birds were directly to blame for the rise in lamb deaths.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today this morning, 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, it seems as if there are only three breeding pairs in the area and that it would be hard for them to be responsible for all the lamb deaths.