Sea Eagles in Scotland – problems of reintroducing species

Sea Eagles Release Programme

Various attempts have been made over the years, some successful, to reintroduce wildlife species into areas where they have become extinct in the past.

The ospreys in England are one well known example, and a similar scheme is currently underway to reintroduce sea eagles into Scotland. This season is the second in a five year plan to release young sea eagles taken as chicks from Norway and already there are some breeding pairs reported. They’ve been seen around the Isle of May in Fife as well as in the North West Highlands. But there is a problem. As the farming today programme on BBC radio 4 reported, crofters in Gairloch are complaining about the sea eagles taking lambs. It is claimed that as many as 50% of one farmer’s lambs have been destroyed and that conservation groups are not taking the problem seriously.


The RSPB pointed out that there are only three breeding pairs of sea eagle in the Gairloch area, and it would be highly unlikely the birds were responsible for the loss of all of the lambs. A spokesman for the crofting foundation said “We feel they put the birds here without our consent and without asking our advice.” So there we have a conflict of interest that may be quite hard to resolve. Sheep have been kept on hillsides ever since the land was cleared but white tailed sea eagles are historically indigenous to the country. How do we decide when to embark on a reintroduction programme? If there were a way to compete with the greys I’m sure we’d all be in favour of the reintroduction of red squirrels into the english countryside where they have been wiped out. Some people would reintroduce the wolf into Northern forests. But if it were possible to bring back the sabre toothed tiger and let them loose on Salisbury Plain I somehow don’t think it would happen.

Who decides?

Wild boar were once a common species in english woodlands and modern gastronomic tastes have brought about domestic cross bred boars, some of which have escaped and multiplied in the wild. Where this has become a problem they have been culled as an interloper, like the Canada geese in Victoria Park, Hackney. Who is entitled to make these decisions as to which species shall be allowed, reintroduced or culled? There is a difference between environmental concern and conservationism, habitat management, agricultural needs and possible pandering to a sentimental foem of tourism with attraction only to certain kinds of species which attract charity revenue.

Sea eagles have landed – video

Sea Eagles Update:

Lamb not on sea eagles’ menu, says RSPB

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds ( RSPB ) described the claims of some crofters as nonsense and said that the birds would have taken only carrion. It said that the birds thrived mainly on a diet of herring gulls, fulmars and fish fed to them by friendly trawlermen.

another source: Timesonline

I’m not very happy abut the fulmars!

Lamb-eating sea eagles upset Scottish farmers

William Fraser, chairman of the Gairloch and Poolewe branch of the Crofting Foundation: “In a few years time there’ll be no sheep left on the hills,”

It has also been claimed that bird watching is a hobby that creates little or no income for an area, whereas crofting / farming is a way of life and an income provider. On the other hand, eagles and the largest birds of prey are more likely to live off carrion so most of the sheep may be already dead.

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