Sheep predation by white tailed sea eagles has risen to a level where it is now almost impossible for some farmers and crofters to maintain their flocks.
There are now an estimated 130 breeding pairs of the giant raptors in the west of Scotland following species reintroduction 30 years ago – but the population is predicted to soar to 700 pairs by 2040.
Not only are young lambs being killed, but adult sheep of up to 60kg are also now being taken.
Skye crofter Alastair Culbertson said: “We can lamb in parks near the house to protect young lambs but as soon as they are turned out on the open hill they and their mother become targets.
“These concerns have repeatedly been rejected by RSPB’s local representative at the Skye and Lochalsh Sea Eagle Stakeholder Group, who puts all livestock loss down to crofters’ ignorance and their failure to manage their livestock properly.
"Many crofters believe that at a local level, RSPB is a direct threat to them and that at the national level, crofters’ concerns are nothing more than an irrelevant inconvenience.”
Mr Cuthbertson has recently resigned from the stakeholder group. He said there was no Sea Eagle Management Scheme, only a Crofter Management Scheme, ’designed solely to mitigate any adverse impacts crofters and their livestock might have on the expanding Sea Eagle population and to further the livestock reduction and removal agenda being driven by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), RSPB and the other rewilding proponents’.
He did credit SNH with acknowledging year-round predation, but said the body had failed to trial any of the non-lethal breeding control methods which stakeholders had proposed, such as nest site manipulation and control over the number of eggs fertilised.
Responding to Mr Culbertson a spokesman for RSPB Scotland said: “A plan for resolving local concerns in some areas about sea eagle interactions with livestock has been developed by SNH and NFUS, and we are committed to working along with other partners to implement this programme.”
SNH said it was committed to working with the wide range of expertise and experience represented on the various stakeholder groups ’to find ways to resolve the often complex and difficult issues surrounding sea eagle impacts on livestock’.