Before Wedge-tailed eagles were declared protected in the 70s, many sheep farmers would proudly kill and display eagle carcasses on their fences. Nowadays, many sheep farmers still believe in the old dogma and continue to poison and shoot them, but they now hide them out the back in the scrub. The hundreds or thousands of eagles killed and hidden has made it almost impossible to prosecute. But…
In late May 2018 DELWP raided a 2,000 ha property at a remote settlement adjoining the Snowy River/Alpine National Park close to the NSW border. A major landowner at Tubbut had hidden piles of dead eagles. There were 136 found but there could possibly be 400 that were poisoned over 2 ½ years. In late June, enforcement officers conducted another raid on four properties in Tubbut and Orbost, confiscating a vehicle, computers, phone, poisons and traps. A case is now being put together and a number of people could be prosecuted.
We believe this is simply the tip of the iceberg. Many sheep farming areas still see this 1950s myth persisting; that eagles are a major predator of lambs. In fact most losses are due to bad management, foxes, wild dogs and death from exposure to cold wet weather. Eagles simply clean up the dead lambs. The Age’s report can be read here.
In mid September 2018 a man was charged over the deaths. He was engaged as the farm manager and admitted he had killed 406 eagles during his employment there. He received a 2 week sentence and a $2,500 dollar fine. This is equivalent to $6 and 50 minutes jail time per wedge-tailed eagle!
The farm owner is still being investigated as of November 2018.
No wonder our wildlife is suffering an extinction crisis. Neither our political or judicial systems seem to care for our native animals.
A very informative article in the Australian Geographic gives a detailed overview of the reality of what eagles do or don’t do. The pest management and carcass clean up services would be far more valuable than the very rare healthy lamb that might be taken.
“Field studies have repeatedly shown that the true percentage of viable lambs killed by eagles is very small in relation to the number that die from other causes, and that eagle kills are economically insignificant for the industry as a whole…”