Rocky Matthews began finding dead lambs on his farm near Murtaugh Lake in April. The farmer initially assumed the animals had been killed with a pellet gun. According to the Times-News, he did not know for sure who or what was decimating his farm until he witnessed an eagle attack his flock.
For more nearly 20 years, Matthews has had a big eagle nest on his property. Yet, the birds have never interfered with his farming operations.
“They’ve never crossed paths till this year,” he said.
However, the Idaho farmer has found 54 of his lambs were dead in a series of attacks beginning in April, which will lose him an estimated $7,500 in profit.
“The damage under the hide is a hundredfold from what you see on the exterior,” Matthews said.
Matthews said he thinks the water in Murtaugh Lake took longer to warm up this spring, which meant less carp was available to the eagles. This may have compelled the birds to seek new food sources, reports the NYPost.
Matthews has two alternatives for protecting his animals. He could either apply to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a Federal Migratory Bird Depredation permit or shift his livestock to another pasture. This hazing permit is intended to provide temporary respite until long-term nonlethal measures may be implemented.
The depredation permit, which costs $100, allows the harassment of birds that attack on crops, livestock, and private property.
In 2021, Mandy Lawrence, a migratory bird permit specialist, said her office had not received any depredation permit requests for eagle-related livestock problems in Idaho.
According to Lawrence, the permit procedure takes 30 to 60 days, but it can be sped up in an emergency.
Instead of waiting for a hazing permit, Matthews decided to move his sheep.
Otherwise, “In 45 days, I’ll be out of sheep,” Matthews said.