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Independent.ie

Friday 20 July 2018

Laser beams could be used in UK to protect sheep from eagles

White-tailed Sea Eagle flying over Mountshannon, Co. Clare. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan.
White-tailed Sea Eagle flying over Mountshannon, Co. Clare. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan.
White-tailed sea eagle

Auslan Cramb

Laser beams could be shone on to Highland hillsides in a bid to protect flocks of sheep from Britain’s biggest bird of prey.

The technology is to be trialled in Argyll in an area where crofters and farmers have repeatedly complained that Scotland’s white-tailed sea eagles are taking their livestock.

The unusual move will be tried along with other measures, including cutting down trees close to one lambing area in a bid to stop the huge raptors nesting in them and preying on lambs.

The conservation agency Scottish Natural Heritage said the trials would be "carefully monitored”, with lasers being shone on to the hills and not directly at birds.

David Colthart, a farmer and member of the Argyll and Lochaber Sea Eagle Stakeholder Group, said not all sea eagles were a problem but some did prey on lambs.

He added that if the laser trial was successful it could be rolled out under licence to other areas where the birds were causing problems.

Farmers and crofters in areas including the Isle of Skye and the Gairloch peninsula have complained of the birds killing lambs and larger ewe hoggs (sheep up to 18 months old).

Last May, a photograph emerged of a sea eagle carrying a new born lamb in its talons as it flew over the village of North Connel in Argyll.

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The rare raptors are have been the subject since 1975 of a successful, but controversial, reintroduction programme in different parts of Scotland, most recently on the east coast.

Ross Lilley, SNH's sea eagle project manager, said the "serious concerns" of some farmers and crofters about the impact of sea eagles on livestock had been acknowledged.

He added: "At this point, no trials on laser-scaring deterrents for sea eagles have been undertaken.

"They are under consideration along with other options. A carefully monitored trial will be critical to make sure lasers are a safe and effective method before we proceed any further."

A report in 2016 predicted the number of sea eagles was likely to reach around 220 pairs by 2025, with potential for a much larger population by 2040. Sea eagles became extinct in the UK in 1916, largely due to persecution.


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Telegraph.co.uk