Laser trial hopes to help crofters save livelihood from UK’s biggest birds

Various trials are underway by SNH and its partners on how to reduce the impact of sea eagle predation on sheep farming.

Crofters across the north are striking back against Britain’s biggest bird in a bid to stop them taking their sheep.

Farmers on the west coast will be granted licenses to fire laser beams onto hillsides to discourage sea eagles from landing in areas where they are commonly known to feed on lambs.

The method is one that is being trialled by Scottish Natural Heritage and its partners in response to concerns among the crofting and farming communities.

Ross Lilley, SNH sea eagle project manager, said the agency was working closely with farmers and crofters.

He said: “We recognise the serious concerns that some farmers and crofters have about the impact of sea eagles on their livestock.

“The trial is about finding a balance between livestock farming and wildlife and recognising the benefits that each brings to us all.

“This is a great example of working together to tackle issues faced by farmers and crofters whilst ensuring healthy populations of this spectacular species.”

Various trials are underway by SNH and its partners on how to reduce the impact of sea eagle predation on sheep farming.

Other new scaring techniques are also being trialled, including audio or light-based scaring methods and if successful could be used in future as part of a range of options to protect livestock.

The work is part of the Sea Eagle Action Plan, managed by the National Sea Eagle Stakeholder Group.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management for RSPB Scotland, said: “The sea eagle is an important part of our natural heritage and a considerable benefit to the tourism economy in Scotland. The population of sea eagles is increasingly healthy, and this species is expected to re-colonise its former range over much of Scotland in the coming years.

“We accept that non-lethal management approaches may assist with resolving conflicts with livestock, whilst also ensuring suitable safeguards are in place for a species, which rightly receives the highest level of legal protection. An effective partnership approach is working towards shared outcomes.”

Andrew Bauer, of National Farmers’ Union Scotland, said: “Farmers and crofters affected by sea eagles will be hoping the trial is a success, but can be reassured that regardless of the outcome, their plight is recognised and work to remedy it will continue.”