Policing nature

Lasers are to be deployed against Britain’s biggest bird of prey to stop them taking sheep.

Farmers will be able to apply for licences to fire the beams on to hillsides on the west coast of Scotland to discourage sea eagles from areas where they are believed to be feeding on lambs. The method is being trialled by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and its partners in response to concerns among the crofting and farming communities.

White-tailed sea eagles were reintroduced to Scotland in the 1970s and the population stands at an estimated 106 breeding pairs. It is thought that the figure could double within ten years.

According to sheep farmers and crofters, the birds are not only taking large numbers of lambs but threatening rural livelihoods. Laser licences will be granted to farmers in areas where lambs have been taken by the birds.

The beams create patterns that disorientate the birds and make them fly away. The lasers cause the birds no harm and deter other predators from preying on farm animals.

That is from the London Times.  And from Jonathan Franzen.


That's pretty clever, and good. I'm a big fan of deterring natural predators from preying on livestock, without having to resort to killing a bunch of them.

...there was no need at all to deter these White-tailed sea eagles -- until British government bureaucrats (Nature Conservancy Council - NCC) brilliantly decided to "reintroduce" them to Scotland from northern Norway.

The government always knows best and is the ideal entity for "Policing Nature".

I am surprised that the distance between Norway and Scotland would prevent the natural dissemination of eagles; eagles fly after all. Golden eagles are pretty much all over our planet. There was even a golden who somehow made it to Kawai some years ago. He ruled, of course, but hadn’t brought a mate which limited his impact. Bald eagles certainly are also capable of long flights.

No reason to think it has prevented it. They've had low populations until quite recently, so no pressure to expand their range. But recently they have been found in areas that hadn't been inhabited in living memory.

There isn't enough natural game in that area to support that many eagles. The lambs are the natural game now. I suspect this won't work in the long run.

A better answer would be to pay the farmer what the lambs are worth. If these eagles are so damned important then spend some money on them. The farmer would make the profit they need to stay in business and the eagles would have food. It is of course possible that after paying out $5000 a year per eagle that the state would decide that just maybe we don't need that many eagles and decide to cull them.

let the bot speak a ho's

That is all well and good but won't the sharks die if they are kept out of the water on a Scottish hill side? I mean sharks are people too.

There should be a little box on your income tax form that would kick £10 towards all the farmers in the affected region. I would tick it. I suspect a lot of other British people would too. Win-win. Except for the lambs. And I suppose the sharks. Flopping about on a windswept hillside.

Good idea, except there is no income tax form in Britain for most people.

Also, would you tick a £10 box for every small group of people in Britain with a similar or worse plight?

Also, British farmers are already being subsidized to a high degree.

British sheep farmers are always constantly complaining that they are on the edge of ruin. I usually assume they are being less than honest. But perhaps they are. In which case I suggest we treat them like pandas - anything this close to extinction deserves to die.

I prefer to see the money not as a subsidy for a bunch of complaining self-pitying farmers but for the sea eagles.

I'd take it a step further. We could accelerate this by letting people tick a box to add 10 quid to a sea eagle breeding fund. Soon enough the self-pitying farmers would go the way of the...birds.

You know I am not sure that laser beams are enough by themselves. I mean foxes are pretty cunning. And determined. They also come low to the ground which is very different to a sea eagle.

So I think the laser beams need to be spread out more and supplemented by some sort of auditory deterrent.

I think the spreading could be done easily. You need some sort of mirrored device, preferably curved, that you can rotate. So that every part of the farm would be covered, at least intermittently. A sphere would be a cheap and simple shape.

The auditory deterrent would be harder, but the technology is simple enough. Loud speakers are available in a wide range of sizes at a very reasonable price. I would recommend some Donna Summers, or perhaps Thelma Houston's Don't Leave Me This Way and of course Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive to inspire the little lambs. I mean if that does not put off predators, what will?

This could really work. It would certainly be an interesting change of pace for the Wee Frees of the Highlands.

They are projecting different shapes onto the hills to scare off the sea eagles. They are not trying to move the lasers around to fire directly at or near the animals.

SMFS, I find your idea intriguing. Perhaps Parliament could help get the sheep out of their Funk?

Disco will never die!

i need the nipples, on g & h, to find my bearings

a big buck, napoleon, wALKs in2 the room, speaking

as much, as puffy, tries not to chirp

somebody, get art deco in here, for the ambiance

Won't someone please think of the poor White-Tailed Sea Eagle's right to feed on wool-bearing creatures?

Wow. In the US, you can be marked a felon for life simply for owning an eagle feather. In Scotland, you can shoot lasers at them to deny them food.

Of course, the eagle is the national animal of the US, while in Scotland it's the unicorn.

I'd be interested to hear the Scottish legal position on shooting lasers at unicorns.

Except when you're Native American, they let you do it.

If lasers deter sea eagles, why aren't they used to deter American Bald Eagles that fly into wind farms?

Why aren't they used to deter the geese and swans that crap all over the place?

Not enough credit is given to the highly underrated turkey buzzard, without which our roads and fields would be covered with rotting corpses. And according to Thomas Jefferson, the turkey buzzard also provides a useful warning: Jefferson said that he never saw three physicians talking together without glancing up to see if there were not a turkey buzzard hovering overhead. Notwithstanding, my sunbelt city was so opposed to hundreds of turkey buzzards hovering over the city that the city placed speakers atop high rise office buildings that emitted a high-pitched sound to scare them off. One may purchase the device from Amazon, but I suggest that the threat from the buzzards is far less than the threat from physicians.

"Laser licenses?"

It's a cause for celebration whenever The Times (not the "London Times", please") mentions anything in Britain that's happened outside the triangle London-Oxford-Cambridge.

Anyway, just wait for the howls for compensation when eco-loonies get wolves and lynx running around in the Highlands. Strangely, rather than the eco-loonies having to pay the compensation, the burden will fall on me. I might even buy a rifle again and go and shoot some of the bloody things.

I'm just trying to imagine an enormous bird the size of an airplane swooping down to pluck a fully-grown sheep off the land with its two foot long claws. Trailing smoke from feathers burned by a laser.

A similar problem exists with the re-introduction of Mexican grey wolves into eastern Arizona and western New Mexico: https://youtu.be/OeqzdZt10XA

This doesn't seem any more exciting than fences. On the other hand, I do wonder how much 'animal welfare' rules will start applying to wild animals, once we have more means to control them (even if these are just incidental to other control infrastructure). Say, do we protect wild lambs (or baby endangered species in the wild)? Fenced nature is no longer wild, what happens when we have technological capacity to control more/most nature?

Of course the Real Answer is to train the stupid birds to leave the lambs alone and to take fawns instead. The deer population has exploded and the ruddy things are just vermin now.

Sure, we try to limit the lasers to our friends the farmers, but next thing you know the eagles will have them and use them against jets.

The title of this post invokes a 2001 paper by Tyler about whether humans should restrict how animals treat each other: https://www.gmu.edu/centers/publicchoice/faculty%20pages/Tyler/police.pdf

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