It seems to be the in thing to do….pick a random number, insert the name of an animal (e.g. pigeon, lamb, pheasant, grouse) and then insert the name of a predator (e.g. buzzard, sea eagle, peregrine, sparrowhawk, golden eagle) and bingo! You have a totally unsubstantiated ‘fact’ about the effect of raptor predation that can be used to further demonise birds of prey.
Following hot on the heels of Alex Hogg’s flawed mathematical equation on buzzard predation on his estate (see here), an Aberdeenshire farmer is claiming that golden eagles were responsible for 180 missing lambs [presumably on her farm] this year alone (see here). To support her claim, she posted a video on YouTube under the heading ‘Golden eagle attacking ewe and lamb’. What the video actually shows is a young golden eagle taking a curious look at a lamb and ewe – not exactly what you’d call evidence of an eagle attack! (See video here).
Of course this isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that farmers blame eagles for killing absurd numbers of lambs. In 2010 SNH completed a costly study (at the taxpayer’s expense) to investigate the effect of white-tailed eagle predation on lambs. This followed claims by local crofters that the eagles were consuming ‘200 lambs’ per year in Gairloch. Unsurprisingly, the scientific study found differently (see here).
The question of raptor ‘attacks’ was recently raised in the Scottish Parliament by Alex Johnstone MSP (who happens to be the local MSP of the Aberdeenshire farmer mentioned above). Johnstone wanted to know how farmers might be compensated for ‘what I believe are increasing losses’ [from raptor attacks]. Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson responded by saying that any potential action would need to be ‘evidence-based’. Well said that man. Video footage of the parliamentary question & answer here.