AN East Renfrewshire politician has backed calls for a change in the law to allow eagles to hunt mountain hares and stop birds of prey from falling into “melancholy madness.”

As part of a public petition, a golden eagle named Stanley was brought to the garden of the Scottish Parliament last week, where he perched on the wrist of Eastwood MSP Jackson Carlaw.

The eagle’s owner, Barry Blyther, has gathered thousands of signatures in support of an amendment to the Animals and Wildlife Act 2020 to allow mountain hares to be hunted for the purposes of falconry.

Mr Blyther, who runs Elite Falconry, said the law prevents eagles such as 15-year-old Stanley from flying in large parts of Scotland, as owners could be prosecuted if a hare is caught.

He added that being unable to fly in mountain regions limited the opportunity for birds of prey to show their natural behaviour.

“Worse than that, it creates behavioural problems,” said Mr Blyther. “They get psychologically damaged and that manifests itself as self-mutilation. They start plucking their feathers out their legs and backs.

“They become unbalanced. It’s kind of a melancholy madness.”

Mr Blyther said the impact of falconry hunting on mountain hares would be “infinitesimal.”

The legislation was designed to stop mass culls of hares, rather than falconry, he added.

Mr Carlaw, who convenes the Public Petitions Committee at Holyrood, said falconers had suffered from “unintended consequences” of the law.

He added that 97.5% of Scotland would now not be a legitimate place for a bird like Stanley to fly and hunt.

“If he did, then Barry here would be prosecuted – and that’s just ridiculous,” said Mr Carlaw.

“As a consequence, Stanley hasn’t been able to fly for over two years, in case he – not realising where the invisible tram lines are – crossed them and managed to seize a hare.”