Police are hunting cruel thieves who stole an eagle owl from a rescue centre.

The thugs nicked the Eurasian eagle owl, called Maximus, from Blue Highlands Bird of Prey Rescue Centre in Brora, Scottish Highlands.

Eurasian eagle owls are considered to be one of the largest in the world and are a protected species.

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They have orange eyes, distinctive feathery ear tufts, and can have a wingspan of up to 6ft.

Devastated staff at the centre said the theft has left Maximus' mate of more than 18 years ‘traumatised’.

The thieves also took an injured juvenile herring gull, named Buster, who had a broken wing.

Police Scotland has today (Wed) issued an appeal for information about the theft which is believed to have occurred between 9.30pm on Monday and 7.30am Tuesday.

The centre has also launched a crowdfunding page in a bid to raise money to up security on the premises - raising £654 in less than 24 hours.

A post on the GoFundMe page reads: “Maximus our male Eurasian Eagle Owl, has been stolen.

"His lifelong mate of 18 years has been left in shock, traumatised.

"He would have protected her with his life.

"They had been mating, and they have a nest ready for eggs and chicks, but now she is alone.

"Buster a juvenile herring gull who was recovering from a broken wing, in an adjacent pen is gone too.

"Two birds stolen. We urgently need your help.

"Please will you support our enhanced security measures fundraiser even with just a pound or two, so that we can fully protect our birds and their futures.”

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A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “Police in Sutherland are appealing for information following the theft of Eurasian eagle owl from a property in Brora, Sutherland.

“Anyone with information can contact police.”