THE Scottish Government has demonstrated its commitment to the management of white-tailed eagles in a recent visit to a monitor farm near Oban.

Local hill farmer and NFUS member David Colthart, who chairs the Argyll and Lochaber Sea Eagle Stakeholder Group, invited Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Roseanna Cunningham, to meet with local farmers as part of a drive by the union to ensure eagle management is taken seriously.

The minister met with Donald and Morag McCorquodale, along with Morag’s father Archie Buchanan, at their family farm at Achnaba, North Connel, to hear an update on the work that is being undertaken to mitigate damage by the WTE population on local sheep flocks.

This visit was also an attempt to keep up the momentum around this important issue which is having a severe impact on the livelihoods of farmers in the area, with monitor farm Achnaba alone suffering losses of 181 lambs over a seven-year period.

A recent report from Scottish Natural Heritage acknowledged that WTEs prey on live lambs and that there have been significant losses to sheep flocks in the absence of alternative prey.

Off the back of the work carried out between farmers, crofters, SNH and WTE monitor farms, NFUS is determined to ensure that action is being taken to address the issue of predation on sheep flocks.

With breeding pairs predicted to increase to as many as 900 by 2040, the union wants to ensure that issues around WTEs are understood and taken seriously.

Chairman of NFU Scotland’s Environment and Land Use committee, Angus MacFadyen said: “We thank the cabinet secretary for visiting Achnaba and hearing first-hand the experience of the Buchanan and McCorquodale families as one of the WTE monitor farms.

“It provided us with a valuable opportunity to highlight the work that is currently going on and ensure that government is sighted on the issues as the WTE stakeholder group, which includes NFU Scotland, moves forward with its work,” continued Mr MacFadyen, who has a hill farm at Kilninver near Oban.

“For some of our farming and crofting members on the west coast of Scotland and Skye, predation by WTEs of healthy lambs and, in some cases, adult sheep, is an unwelcome threat to their future viability. Not only is there an economic impact, but hill flocks in these areas are vital to managing the landscape and preserving biodiversity and destocking or removal of flocks would see land quickly revert to an ungrazed environment,” he stressed.

“That makes this a very emotive issue for those of our members affected by significant WTE predation on their stock and NFUS is committed through the collaborative approach with Scottish Government, SNH and other stakeholders to identify solutions.

“The valuable work currently being conducted by SNH staff, their contractors and farmers and crofters looking for successful mitigation measures must continue as we endeavour jointly to find solutions to the predation problem,” he concluded.

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