Farmers fear eagles will put lambs to the slaughter
FARMERS fear a plan to introduce eagles to the Isle of Wight could lead to lambs being killed.
The birds of prey, with a wingspan of up to 8ft, could prove a menace across the south coast, say farmers’ leaders.
The Forestry Commission is working with a charity to reintroduce whitetailed eagles, also known as sea eagles, to the Hampshire island in an attempt to boost tourism. The bird had been extinct in the UK but has been reintroduced in Scotland and Ireland.
Matt Legge, county chairman of the National Farmers’ Union said: “We did a lot of research on what went on in Scotland. There were concerns about damage to hare populations, and some reports of birds attacking adult sheep and lambs.
“If these birds are introduced and attack livestock there are no control measures. They can’t cull them because they are protected birds.”
However, Roy Dennis, director of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, said: “There is a lot of food for the eagles on the Isle of Wight – there are lots of other birds dying or injured, and the eagles would eat them. Farming is productive, and the sheep are big. They are not at risk.
“There is tremendous interest from ordinary people on the island. It would help with tourism.”
The foundation estimates eagle tourism generates up to £5million to the economy of the Isle of Mull and £2.4million to the Isle of Skye each year.
A spokesman for the The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: “The reintroduction of any species needs to be carefully managed … to ensure that the project works for local wildlife and local people.”