A farmer in Murtaugh, Idaho, has lost nearly $7,500 in revenue from 54 lambs who were killed by bald eagles living near the property.
Rocky Matthews began finding dead lambs around his farm near Murtaugh Lake in April and thought an individual was killing them with a pellet gun, according to Idaho News.
He later realized the eagles, who have made their home on his property for over 20 years, were attacking the flock.
The birds had never interfered in farming operations and the nest is currently home to two adult eagles and at least two babies, the Times-News reported Wednesday.
“They’ve never crossed paths till this year,” Mattews explained, adding, “The damage under the hide is a hundredfold from what you see on the exterior.”
Matthews told the newspaper he lost seven lambs in one day.
“I truly think he was just honing his skills because you don’t kill seven of them out of need,” he said in regard to the eagle.
Matthews believes the water in Murtaugh Lake was slow to warm up over the spring, meaning fewer carp were available for the eagles to eat.
The situation may have forced the birds to look for other options.
A representative with Idaho Wildlife Services later went to the Matthews’ farm to perform a necropsy, which is the study of a deceased animal’s body, the News-Times article continued:
To protect his animals, Matthews had two options. He could apply for a Federal Migratory Bird Depredation permit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or he could move his animals to another pasture. This hazing permit provides short-term relief until long-term nonlethal measures can be taken. The depredation permit costs $100 and allows the harassment of birds causing depredation or damage to crops, livestock and private property.
Harassment reportedly includes loud noises, pyrotechnics, propane cannons, scarecrows, dogs, and trained raptors, the outlet said.
However, Matthews decided to move his flocks instead of waiting on the hazing permit.
“In 45 days, I’ll be out of sheep,” he noted, adding he is worried about the eaglet’s chances of surviving if he tried to scare their parents away from the area.
His initial plan was to move the livestock closer to his barn and that worked until the eagles killed another time. He moved the lambs to another pasture, but that caused the eagles to go after the older sheep.
So, Matthews and his wife filled out the paperwork and if they are approved, will receive 75 percent of the market value of their livestock.
“In our mind, doing the right thing is just trying to wait it out,” he commented, adding even though the birds have caused him to lose money, they are still interesting animals who do not know any better.