Knowledge is missing in the eagle discussion.

Fear is spreading on social media about how the golden eagle population in Norway is ‘out of control’. But the media is not from the scientists, on the contrary, there is a deeply worrying concern coming from the experts studying them, writes NRK.

I have followed this case for a year now, reading all the NINA reports on Norwegian golden eagles, easily accessible for every Norwegian online. Reading newspaper articles on conflicts between livestock farmers and predators, and last but not least, checking the online data at http://www.rovdata.no for registered animals being attacked or killed by predators, narrowing it down to specifically ‘eagle attacks’. Guess what, while 2016 has been the year with the least registered attacks in almost 10 year, the compensation payed for lost livestock by predation has in the same time doubled. In 2006 the loss of reindeer claimed by golden eagles exploded from 1000 to 2000, compentaiting the Sami farmers with 26,4 million Norwegian kroners. Reading all of this information leaves it dangerously clear even for me; nobody has, or is yet, including the experts in the discussion in the Norwegian Parliament. Had they actually used the knowledge from the experts, then they would be updated on several things that do not comprehend their action of legalizing to cull as much as what might well be 200 eagles. There are so many actions before killing needs to be an option, one is the fact that, unless documentation can be provided that it is the eagles doing the claimed attacks, the law already states that it is allowed to take it down. It is nationally accepted that eagles may take 2-4% of livestock, and this will be compensated, they do not take more than that, but still the ‘the call of wolf’ continues. Documentation – evidence – work. For many that is a threshold. So the rules are bent, and twists spread like fire. Did you know you can claim in self-defense that a predator was attacking an animal, even though it was just flying or crossing the ground?  An eagle soaring over the farm is practically an attack, and farmers support each other for taking such shots whenever the animals cross by. Eagles soar over large territories,  if they soar over the wrong farm, it will be their last journey.

I did a presentation in Ireland in fall 2016 on this case at the annual international meeting of http://www.iaf.org to raise awareness as Norway seems to not take into consideration either publishing much info in English, or thinking that this is a case of international concern. International conservationists are deeply concerned about the lack of information to take such extreme decisions as by culling. Not to mention, some of these eagles migrate to Sweden, what about the Swedish protection law? The golden eagle population is a success conservation story, together with the Norwegian peregrine, which also almost became extinct due to the earlier predator persecution.

My worry now is, is the cull officially on, why are there no official leaks of the processes, is the killing going ‘under the raider’ to prevent international rage?

Short, worrying facts:

It became official in June 2016 that killing golden eagles will take place in Northern Norway as a ‘test project’ to manage the population.

Livestock animals die of many other reasons than predatory attacks, but claims by predation will give a good profit for lost animals.

The golden eagle population is finally stable after rising form ‘the ashes’ as a result of the predator persecution that started 200 years ago.

Only about 4/5 of the population is breeding.

The breeding pairs have very few young, often only one chick, and experts calculate that within the next 30-50 years, the golden eagle population will sink to half of the estimated numbers, leaving it endangered once again.

The killing of golden eagles will be aimed in late spring, when the golden eagles breed themselves. Killing of one, or both adult eagles, will leave the eagle chick to starvation and death, breaking the animal ethics on welfare as this is human involvement.

Support our Norwegian Eagles before we need conservation actions, sign the petition:

More on this on my blog, is Norway breaking the Bern Convention?  The Rise and Fall of the Golden Eagle in Norway.

For more info, check out BirdLife Norway, or on Facebook.

pr2pJ6Jk1FVNgykgFYKp_gdFZohkuBGCD_XfZM9e_pyQ PHOTO OF WTHITE-TAILED EAGLE: LINDA BJØRGAN via NRK

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Illegal golden eagle hunt is out of control in Sweden.

In June last year Norway decided to start a cull of golden eagles in the North of the country sometime in spring 2017. Shortly after, motions were set in Sweden to try to do the same, but this proposition was rejected by the authorities. However, it has not stopped the killing in Sweden, it just goes on illegally. On top of this the current focus is also on predator conflict of another kind, wolves. It has become a heated debate on many levels, but such cases still needs more international attention. We need public awareness, and we need to keep the ordinary protection of our wildlife so it does not fall under long term effect for both population and ecosystem.

Nine of ten golden eagles die in Sweden because of people. Recently four golden eagles were run over by car, and bodies of golden eagles are found full of shotgun hail. A golden eagle family was found killed, peppered by gunshots. The problem is growing, and dark numbers will follow. Other fatal problems are by new windmill parks, lead poisoning in food, trees with nests cut down an electrocution. In Norrland in Sweden, a place where golden eagles nest, the population has sunk the last 15 years and this does not look good for the future. Info from Swedish News.

While we wait here in Norway to see which direction the culling of golden eagles take, as reports and recommendations from Norwegian ornithologist are set aside, and this is the lowest of predation in a decade; the cull has become a political play in the ever so strong livestock keeping.  With the rate of the breeding decline of golden eagles, if it does not increase, the current stable population will fall by 50% within the next 10-20 years.

If you want to help, please share information about culling of golden eagles in Scandinavia; driven by a political game and from illegal approach due to fear of golden eagles taking livestock. More animals (sheep) die of giving birth to young than get taken by golden eagles. Please check my blog for earlier posts on the eagle situation in Norway.

Is Norway breaking the Bern Convention?

Translation of BirdLife Norway’s article 20.1.17 by Ellen, for original text see birdlife.no. 

Last fall Norwegian authorities neglected to follow up and fix their own oversight on the self-defense paragraph in regards to predatory attacks in connection to the Diversity law. A weakened rule of law for the goshawk and other bird of prey is the result. BirdLife Norway means this is in violation with the Bern Convention that protects European species and their natural habitats.

In a verdict from 2014, the Supreme Court let an accused man from Lierne in Trøndelag walk free after the suspect had shot a protected goshawk even though other measures were possible. The farmer noticed that the goshawk was pecking on a chicken. He found his shotgun and killed the goshawk, without trying to scare it or in any other means of making it leave. The Supreme Court convicted the accused, who appealed the case. After several rounds in the Criminal Justice Court it ended in Supreme Court where it was concluded that the law did not provide basis for prosecution.

BirdLife Norway has an assessment that this creates uncertainty around the legal protection on birds of prey in general. Preventative measures and alternative actions must always be considered before reaching for the gun. When the Supreme Court means that the legislation did not demand this in this case, that is serious problem.

The goshawk is categorized as near threatened (NT) on the Norwegian Red List, and is included in the Bern Convention’s list II over strictly protected species. The species is also in the list II of the Bonn Convention, which protects migratory species.

Weaker protection for wild predators in the Norwegian law
All wild animals are protected in Norway, unless the law states anything else, for example through regulations, that explicitly allow for killing/euthanizing. In this case it is the Diversity law  (Naturvernsloven) § 17 that opens for shooting protected wildlife if it is in relation to acute situation, where a raptor or other predator attacks a person or a domestic animal, it is then allowed to act on the so called self-defense rule.

The Diversity law § 17 second part, 1 point (about people):

Wildlife can be killed/euthanized when it is mandatory for posing an actual and significant danger for doing harm to a person.

The Diversity law § 17 second part, 2 point (about domestic animals):

Owner, or another responsible person on behalf of the owner, may kill wildlife in direct attack with cattle, reindeer, pig, dog and poultry.

With ‘mandatory’ it means that one is obliged to do a proper attempt to scare away the predator, before killing can be considered. Good fences is also a central and known method of preventing damage on for example poultry, a praxis the Bern Convention recommends.

The term ‘deemed necessary’ is essential in the understanding of the law. Earlier, when one decided upon the self-defense in the wildlife law (viltloven), there was established a common rule for both people and domestic animals, where it was determined that a permit always needed to be necessary. This permit fell away when the decision was moved from the wildlife law to the diversity law. The term was only included in the first point, which concerns attacks on people. It is this change that the Supreme Court did not have the opportunity to judge the man (from Lierne) for shooting a goshawk.

The Ministry does not wish to change the law
Proposition 118 L was treated by the Parliament this fall (2016). BirdLife Norway/NOF had waited for such a treatment, that today’s law could be mended. The Ministry of Climate and Environment has been clear that § 17 in today’s Diversity law is a result of a inadvertence, an oversight.  That predators get weakened by the Diversity law was not intended, it was a mistake. In the constitutional letter dated to 27.11.2014 in the preparations of the elaboration of Prop. 118 L, the Department stated that the meaning was to continue the content of the wildlife law.  BirdLife Norway answered this hearing, and was supported by the Department that the law needed to be changed, so that the legislation would be updated after the intention.

However, the correction never made it to the proposal in the Parliament, where Norwegian laws are decided. The Department has therefore decided not to fix this mistake despite for their own recommendations. They write about this on page 7 in the propositions, where they write that the purpose is to see how the self-defense practice will evolve, and that there should not be done any changes at this time. BirdLife Norway means this is unacceptable.

Prosecutors in the grazing industry urges shooting referral to verdict
Prosecutors are well aware for the weakness in the legislation. In a letter to a newspaper in summer 2016 there was an urge by the sheep- and goat farmers of Fitjar to self-act against golden eagles, and . They are referring to the verdict by the Supreme Court, and claim that has given sheep owners an expanded approval to use the self-defense for when predators attack sheep or lambs. These sheep farmers in Hordaland (region on the Mid-West coast of Norway), have made a ‘flying restriction-zone for golden eagles’ that fly lower than 35 meter over ground level, and encourage shooting golden eagles without warning it, and if the eagle chases any lambs. It is unclear what the farmers at Fitjar mean about eagles chasing sheep, and if an eagle is below the 35 meter, if this automatic goes into action and definition. This example shows it is problematic to uphold today’s legislation. If one is in disagreement of national management regime, it is possible to use § 17 as an attempt to hide this behind a smokescreen for culling protected birds of prey. No cases where self-defense is claimed, and used, is the same. If the Fitjar sheep- and goat farmers interpretation of the legislation will be legit in a judiciary is more or less doubtful, despite the cited goshawk-verdict.

BirdLife Norway asks the Bern Convention to examine the issue of the Norwegian authority, as they mean today’s legislation is against the Conventions article no 9, that put claims that killing/culling can only happen if there is no other solution. It is very important to have a clear legislation on this area. The Ministry of Climate and Nature, Vidar Helgesen, said no to licensed hunting of two-thirds of the Norwegian wolf population this winter, because the Norwegian Law and the Bern Convention did not allow it, proves the importance of this. Norwegian birds of prey and predators have a right to good legal protection.

Sheep farmers tired of golden eagles

Early this summer the Norwegian Parlament approved a culling of golden eagles in Norway. Why? In favor of livestock economy.

However, this does not stop here. Ever since the rise of the eagle population, farmers have been the largest threat for them, claming them to be too many and out of control. There are laws for taking out eagles doing damage, but just now farmers want to take matters in their own hands by using necessity, meaning a way of justification for breaking the law. How will they do that? They have somehow managed to claim a no flight zone under 35 meter above ground level for eagles in their municipality. Giving them, or so they think, justification to kill an eagle before a real attack. In the end of the article it becomes clear that Fitjar sheep and goats society actually promoto others to use necessity as a false claim as a way to kill an eagle, because you can technically get away with illegal killing..

I want to spread this information to make people aware of the bad predator politics and relationships in Norway, and am afraid this is just the top of the ice berg we will be hearing in near future regarding ways of culling golden eagles across the entire country. It is already documentet in a bird ringing atlas that only 5% of golden eagles die of natural causes in Norway, and that 47% are shoot, meaning illegal killing is a concerning problem. Future golden eagle population will start to decline within the next 30 years if the eagles do not get a stable production of eggs and chicks. The only concern made by political representatives in Norway, is that the regulated population will stick to the estimated goal, and not break any international conventions. They say that, but what will actually happen within the future might in fact result in serious conservation issuses. And there is still too little focus on eagle predation and understanding golden eagle behavior in Norway.

Please read the translated version below:

Information from Sunnhordaland newspaper below. Photo by Jan Rabben.

”The golden eagle takes lambs in Fitjar” is the headline of the article, and continues: Fitjar sheep and goats have decided on a complete flight restriction zone in the  entire municipality.

With immediate effect from today Fitjar sheep and goats have introduced a ‘no flight zone’ for golden eagles that fly below 35 meters above ground level. Golden eagles that attack lambs will be killed without any advance notice.

In Fitjar there is at least one eagle pair that has specialized in taking lambs. The photo in the article (above) is from the eagle’s nest this summer, and shows that the eagles have brought lambs to the nest many times. (?)

Fitja sheep and goats wish to live alongside nature, where also the golden eagle can obtain its important role. However, we cannot accept that certain individuals manage to destory the foundation of managing livestock. With the focus on animal welfare we cannot accept that the pain and agony inflicted on the lambs by the eagle. We have a joined responsibility to uphold this. Eagle problems has been a massive media case for several years.

Showing (…) to posts in the local newspaper ‘from one sheep farmer in Bømlo . The authority has received so much information on the case,  that there is no longer doubt that it is the eagle that is behind this. Getting approved lisences has been sought after, but without result . Sheep farmers sit with binders full of papers without getting any solutions for solving the case problem. Fitjar sheep and goats urge now that sheep farmers resolve those problem locally and on a low level without involving any kind of bureaucracy. The Supreme Court gave in 2014 a sheep farmer support and approval of using necessity if predators attacked sheep or lambs . It is this law we now want to make full use off.

Sheep farmers must know that to use necessity, it is restricted to these situations:

* Killing can only happen if predators chase, is about to attack or is attacking livestock, reindeer , pigs , dogs and poultry.

* There is a demand for a clear and objective understanding for why the predator is attacking . Objectively speaking the attack is over when the animal ( ex. sheep)is dead . The necessity may therefore only be executed as long as the attacked animal ( ex. sheep) is alive.

With these criteria at base, you have a good starting point to be absolved in a subsequent criminal proceeding. After killing an eagle with necessity you must immediately notify the police. Here you will get first hand priority.  

This can still work as a deterrent, but rememeber that you acted out of necessity for your animals and your responsibilities for animal welfare . Fitjar sheep and goats want to help each sheep farmer who needs help in a demanding investigation . It is hard to stand alone against state power with all the resources accessible .

End of article