I used to dream of seeing the bird that has the sunlit eye
You will never forget the first time you see one fly
The sight of a soaring eagle over a Scottish landscape is one to admire
An iconic symbol of courage and strength that has the power to inspire
– Ewan Miles
White-tailed eagles in the UK ruled our skies for thousands of years with records dating back to c 2450 – 2000 BC but as some of our wildscapes slowly turned into manscapes they were persecuted to national extinction by the early 20th century. By the middle of the century a re-introduction programme was in place to give white-tailed eagles a chance to colonize our country again. Due to incredible work by committed conservationists, in this present day, the birds are beginning to get a foot hold in our landscape once more.
In January 2014 some Argyll farmers spoke out and want action taken on the increasing white-tailed eagles in the district and there were some comments that really stood out. The sea eagles were referred to as ‘aliens’ which is of course completely untrue. Another comment was their worry of the intrusion of sea eagles affecting the golden eagle. If you look at the bigger picture, they used to live side by side for thousands of years in the UK. The biggest standout comment was “it’s only a matter of time before a small child is attacked”. This statement is not constructive and worthless to discussion.
Of course the interest of livestock loss during the lambing season is the concern of farmers. White-tailed eagles are known to feed on dead lambs and potentially weed out weak lambs but there is little evidence of birds targeting healthy stock. Overall, an eagle’s impact on lambs and hoggs is minimal. If there is a diverse environment and abundance of natural food then there is no need for eagles to go after domesticated animals. In terms of the worry of birds increasing in numbers, during the lambing season, eagles are extremely territorial so there is never going to be more than one pair working an area.
Some people need reminding of the simple fact that this is not our world; we share it with millions of species. We are a part of nature, we rely on nature and we all need to learn to live with nature.
Scotland’s eagles are an important part of the country as nature-based tourism is valued at 1.4 billion pounds directly towards the Scottish economy. Tourism spending on nature-based activities in Scotland is worth nearly 40% off all tourism spending in the country. Viewing wildlife is the sole reason for millions of visitors to Scotland every year.
Any negative media publicity or any action on eagle control measures is very dangerous and could tarnish the country’s reputation and affect rural economies reliant on wildlife tourism. For example, if I was looking for locations around the world to view wildlife, countries’ reputation through media and journalism dictate everything. If I was to focus on whale watching, the nations that would put me off visiting are those that still participate in the brutal whaling industry. If I wanted to view large bird migrations then the massacres in Malta, for example, would stop me from visiting the country which has huge potential for tourism were it not for the large murder of migrants each spring and autumn. Publicity of control measures and talk of culling iconic species could have a big knock-on effect for Scotland.
Let’s hope this talk of eagle action is put to bed and we can carry on improving Scotland’s great reputation as a world class wildlife destination. Eagles will always mean a lot to me as my early encounters with them inspired me to a lifetime’s love of the natural world. Now that is power and value that you cannot put a price on.
This article was re-printed with permission of the author from: http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2014/01/21/argyll-eagle-action-scotlands-soaring-reputation-could-be-shot-at/