Feasibility study for proposed reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to Cumbria

The BBC News website published an article a few days ago about the proposed reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to Cumbria. The article was based on a recent BBC radio interview with Dr Alex Dittrich from the University of Cumbria who is reportedly involved with the project.

This project is in its infancy, with an initial feasibility study completed in April this year and now the group, led by The Lifescape Project, is seeking an eye-watering £120-150k to undertake 12 month’s worth of further ‘sensitivity testing’ in addition to consultation with stakeholders and the public. This funding request does not cover the cost of an actual reintroduction, only the preliminary stages up to submitting a licence application to Natural England.

I’m not sure why the results of a previous, extensive stakeholder consultation from 2013, undertaken by the University of Cumbria to establish the views of the farming, fieldsports and conservation sectors to the proposed reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to Cumbria, isn’t being utilised here?

The most recent reintroduction project report (see below) was published in April 2022 and lists the members of a newly-formed group called ‘White-tailed Eagles Cumbria Working Group’. Those listed include the Lifescape Project, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, RSPB, the Solway Coast AONB, University of Cumbria, University of Leeds and Natural England. The report states that this group will ‘oversee the development of the proposed feasibility study and any subsequent post-release activities’. If things go to plan, the report suggests that the first release of white-tailed eagles could take place in ‘summer 2024’.

The report, which can be read below, isn’t off to a convincing start. The eagle photograph on the front cover looks like a Bald eagle from North America, not a White-tailed eagle from Eurasia.

The good news is that a local Conservative MP, Mark Jenkinson (Workington) is fully supportive of the proposal to undertake further feasibility studies and consultations. This attitude is very welcome and in marked contrast to the well-publicised anti-eagle hysteria of another Conservative MP, Chris Loder (Dorset).

The Federation of Cumbria Commoners (representing hill sheep farmers) on the other hand is already questioning the justification for restoring the sea eagle to its former range (see here) but, to me at least, the Federation’s response does seem to reveal an air of inevitability about the potential release and reintroduction of eagles to this part of the country.

5 thoughts on “Feasibility study for proposed reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to Cumbria”

  1. One of the requirements for a translocation (it can’t be a reintroduction as they are already in the UK and, indeed, England) is that the species shouldn’t be able to get there of its own accord. I would be very surprised if white-tailed eagles don’t get into Cumbria by themselves (as did osprey). Even golden eagles from the South of Scotland golden eagle project are starting to explore northern england (perhaps not entirely the best thing to do depending where they go).

  2. Allan knows more about the spread of white tailed eagles and osprey than I do but this news made the hairs on the back of my head stand on end. I have spent many happy years in Allonby on the Solway Firth and to see white tailed eagles there would be wonderful. To see them with Criffel in the distance would be the most wondrous of sights.

  3. This is excellent news. A long way to go, perhaps, remembering that Wild Ken Hill is not already hosting the species further South.

  4. I heard from a very good source recently that a proposal to re-introduce white-tailed eagles into Pembrokeshire reached an advanced stage this year but that the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales could not agree to it for fears of losses to the Pembrokeshire seabird colonies. This despite there having been a representative of the Wildlife Trusts on the ERW (Eagle Re-introduction Project) advisory “board”. Apparently they’re looking at somewhere in Gwent as a possible location now………

  5. “but that the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales could not agree to it for fears of losses to the Pembrokeshire seabird colonies.”

    I read, from the Roy Dennis White-tailed Eagle website (concerning the Solent area):

    “Are they a threat to other wildlife?
    No. There have been many studies on the diet of White-tailed Eagles across Europe and no quantifiable negative effects have been demonstrated on any one species. This is because White-tailed Eagles have a broad and varied diet and tend to favour the most seasonally abundant prey, including carrion. It is also important to consider that White-tailed Eagles will tend to target injured, sick or dying waterfowl when hunting.”

    and

    “Colonial nesting birds such as gulls and terns, and waders, including Black-tailed Godwits, fly up and harass eagles before they reach breeding colonies. Evidence from the Netherlands shows that they prefer to avoid these areas…”

    “However disturbance by White-tailed Eagles is not considered an issue by Dutch researchers at internationally important wetland sites such as Krammer-Volkerak.”

    There is a lot more….

    https://www.roydennis.org/white-tailed-eagle-project-frequently-asked-questions/#:~:text=As%20a%20generalist%20predator%20White,the%20diet%20throughout%20the%20year.

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