SEA EAGLES could fly off with young lambs and seriously jeopardise farming businesses, an Isle of Wight farm has warned.

Claudia and Andrew Hodgson, of Cheverton Farm, spoke out after a white-tailed sea eagle was pictured carrying off a lamb on the Isle of Mull by amateur photographer Douglas Currie, 74.

Natural England recently announced that 60 of the birds would be released over a five-year period on the IW this summer.

Mr and Mrs Hodgson said they have already lost more than 200 newborn lambs to ravens and rooks this year, as the birds peck out the eyes and inflict fatal wounds.

The Hodgsons said: "The sea eagles pose an even greater threat, and with an 8ft wingspan they are clearly more than able to take young lambs.

"We are not against a sensible level of natural balance of predators/prey, but to jeopardise our farming business by losing so many of our young stock before they have had any life is both unsustainable and quite frankly heartbreaking.

"Our main concern is that Scottish farmers report losing significant numbers of live lambs. This seems to be of little importance in terms of their release on the Island.

"We will no longer be able to lamb outside in the fields, which is by far the healthiest method for the sheep.

"If people start feeding them, like the red kites and seagulls, we could be in some serious trouble."

Tim Mackrill, ornithologist with the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, said there was no evidence the eagle in the photo killed the lamb — it was more likely the lamb was already dead and its carcass picked up.

He said: "The conditions in Scotland are completely different to the south of England and it is unrealistic to make comparisons.

"The eagles look for abundant and available sources of food. In the north west of Scotland, natural food for the birds is scarce, making them more likely to look for carrion.

"On the south coast of England, food is more readily available and abundant, particularly water birds and fish.

"White-tailed eagles have been successfully recolonised in the Netherlands and reintroduced in Ireland, places with very similar conditions to the south coast of England. There have been no cases of eagle predation on lambs there."

He said they recognise the concerns of farmers, and would like representatives from the farming community, and other key local stakeholders, involved in the next stage of the project and the steering group.

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