With lambing season now underway, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and its partners are reminding farmers on the west coast that the sea eagle management scheme is open for applications.
This year, along with RSPB, Scottish Crofters Federation and NFU Scotland, SNH has developed a 'tool box' of measures to help land managers, including using on-call contractors to respond to complaints, to see if post-mortems can take place, to access ‘scaring’ equipment and to survey and monitor nests. Local area staff may also help look into any queries or complaints during the lambing season.
Over the last two years, the management scheme has committed to 50 contracts with land managers worth £164,652 for work such as extra shepherding, fencing, sheep tick and fluke treatment, and management directly benefitting sea eagles. This included work in Skye, Wester Ross, Lochaber, Mull, Lorn, Islay, and the Outer Hebrides.
As well as supporting sea eagles and tourism, the aim of the scheme is to help farmers reduce the risk of losing livestock by keeping them healthy and safe.
SNH is also keen to deal with any issues that arise which haven’t been addressed by the scheme, as sea eagles move into new territories or come into conflict with livestock. For this service, farmers and crofters should contact their local SNH office to discuss what options are available to help.
SNH’s Ross Lilley, the Sea Eagle Scheme Manager, said:
“I’d encourage any farmers or other land managers with concerns about the impact of sea eagles on their livestock to look into the scheme. Sea eagles are a protected species, but we recognise their presence can occasionally lead to conflict with livestock rearing, and we want to help minimise this where possible. For any advice, staff at local SNH offices are there to help.”
NFU Scotland's Director of Policy and Regions, Jonnie Hall, said:
"The conservation success story of Scotland's sea eagles owes a huge amount to the extensive farming and crofting systems of the West Coast that have provided the landscape, habitats and food stocks for the species to thrive. On vulnerable farms and crofts, every lamb counts and any measures available to farmers and crofters through the scheme that help mitigate any adverse impacts of sea eagles are welcome.
"Practical measures to help improve hill flock productivity are available through the scheme. These are there to be taken up by the increasing number of farmers and crofters who are hosting the birds but may not benefit from the wider economic lift generated by their resurgence."
The sea eagle management scheme is open to anyone who manages land within the vicinity of breeding sea eagles in Scotland. The scheme is operated on behalf of the Sea Eagle Partnership, which includes the Scottish Government, NFU Scotland, RSPB, Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), Scottish Crofting Federation, FCS and Visit Scotland.
The management scheme also provides funding for projects which benefit sea eagles and tourism, such as improving feeding habitat nesting sites or roosts and helping people view sea eagles.
For more information, as well as application forms, see www.snh.gov.uk and search for ‘sea eagle management scheme.’