The future of the golden eagle in Scotland is being threatened by plans to plant millions of trees, a conservation body has warned.
The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association (SGA) believes the bird is at threat from government plans to plant thousands of acres of forestry every year.
Alex Hogg, the chairman of the SGA, also said the bird of prey was at risk from an increase in wind turbines.
He said: “Probably the biggest new threat to golden eagle survival comes from the government’s own forestry and energy strategy. By 2050, the Scottish Government plans to cover much of Scotland’s open hills in trees, despite knowing that eagles require open habitat for feeding.
“Scotland will not look like the country it is now. It will look more like Norway.”
There are around 431 pairs of golden eagles in Scotland.
The RSPB has argued that the eagle is now entirely confined to remote areas of the country, such as the mountains and glens of the west coast and on the Western Isles.
In 2010, ministers set a goal of planting 100 million trees by 2015.
About 40 million have been planted to date.
A statement from the Scottish Government said: “Our woodland planting targets could actually benefit golden eagles as one of the major difficulties facing this species is a lack of suitable prey and evidence shows that the careful location and design of new woodland areas can help increase the availability of prey animals.
“Scottish ministers fully consider all environmental impacts in consultation with Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB and others before deciding whether or not to grant consent for wind farm developments.”
A 2008 report by Scottish Natural Heritage acknowledged that the planting of new trees was a potential constraint to the breeding of golden eagles.
Mr Hogg added: “Within the next few decades, the golden eagle in Scotland will have nowhere to expand its range.”
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