MP Calls for Hunting ‘Out of Control’ Sea Eagles Preying Upon Lambs in Outer Hebrides
A British lawmaker has urged that the country’s population of white-tailed eagles be limited by the government after posing an increasing risk to coastal farmers’ livestock.
“I’m not saying wipe them all out,” Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said recently, according to British media. “They are majestic birds. But clearly we need to manage it, and individual birds are getting a taste for eating stuff provided by man.”
“This re-introduction has got out of control. They are taking people’s livelihoods. Crofters and farmers are losing hundreds of pounds and they are threatening crofting as a way of life,” he added.
On Saturday, the SNP lawmaker tweeted photos of two mangled lamb carcasses, partially eaten, that he described as “Ugly work of the Lamb Eagle - commonly known as the Sea Eagle.”
The massive white-tailed eagle was hunted to extinction in the United Kingdom in the early 20th century, but reintroduced on the outer islands in the 1970s. It is a close cousin of North America’s bald eagle and of comparable size, growing to a wingspan of 8 feet and sporting fish-gripping claws up to 1.8 inches long. They are opportunistic hunters and carrion feeders, pursuing a variety of prey that includes fish and small mammals like rabbits. Or lambs, as are commonly raised on the windswept Outer Hebrides islands by farmers like MacNeil, who keeps 33 ewes.
“Rather than searching for their food, they’re having a buffet laid on by farmers and crofters. A lot of crofters are just scraping by and are now facing a cost of living crisis,” MacNeil said of the sea eagles.
According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, there are close to 200 breeding pairs of white-tailed eagles in the British Isles.
The problem of eagles hunting lambs isn’t new. An August 2021 article in the Scottish Farmer described the destructive effect sea eagles can have on sheep flocks, with one farm saying its number of ewes had fallen from 220 before the eagles were reintroduced to 140. In May 2019, a photographer on the Isle of Mull snapped a picture of an eagle carrying a lamb off into the sky.