Page last updated at 11:13 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

Study to examine sea eagle claims

Sea eagle
Sea eagles are the UK's largest bird of prey

An independent study is to be carried out to investigate whether sea eagles are responsible for large losses of lambs in the west Highlands.

Crofters in Gairloch and on Skye, the Scottish Crofting Foundation, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Government and RSPB have met on the issue.

Funded by SNH, the study will log incidents, the activity of predatory wildlife and any livestock loses.

The sea eagle is the UK's largest bird of prey.

Willie Fraser, of the crofting foundation, said: "Four holdings on the Gairloch Peninsula have lost more than 200 lambs between May and September and they are adamant that the majority are victims of the sea eagle.

"We want a solution to this problem by next spring and are willing to do what it takes to find a solution.

"SNH have agreed to fund an independent research study and we are pleased to be directly involved with this."

Ron Macdonald, head of policy and advice at SNH, said data would be gathered on sheep deaths as well as the loss of lambs.

He said: "Local land managers want to find a solution and the priority for resources should be directed into monitoring and research in the field in order to understand the situation and ensure we get the right solution first time.

"The fundamental issue here is lamb losses and our aim is to refine and conclude a scientific specification shortly.

"It is hoped that a scientific monitoring project into sea eagle movements and predation habits could start next spring."

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