A row has broken over the granting of a licence to cull up to 300 ravens in the Strathbraan area of Highland Perthshire.
Scottish Natural Heritage granted the licence to the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders (SCCW) giving permission to shoot up to 69 of the predatory corvids by the end of this year with a possible extension lasting five years, taking the total to 300.
The SSCW has the support of farmers and estate managers and gamekeepers and this seems to have convinced objectors that the real reason for asking for a cull is to protect sheep and game birds.
Raven predation has been serious problem in certain parts of the country with many lambs pecked to death soon after birth.
Nearly 50,000 people have now signed a petition calling for the licence to be cancelled.
BBC presenter Chris Packman emailed SNH chief executive Mike Cantley to say the conservation organisation body’s reputation ’lies in bloodied tatters’ following the granting of the licence.
"What has annoyed me most about @nature-scotland licencing the cull of ravens on grouse moors with histories of raptor persecution is the absolute betrayal,“ said Mr Packham.
SNH said in light of the protests it would refer the matter back to its Scientific Advisory Committee which is made up of external experts.
SNH has defended its position.
"Across Scotland, our curlews, lapwings, and oyster catchers bring delight to many of us with their distinctive flight and calls," a spokesman said.
"While they bring our hills and islands alive in spring, their numbers are in serious decline.
"Research tells us that the important factors in these declines are loss of habitat to provide food and cover for nesting, and predation.
While further research and studies are always welcome and will continue to inform this work, we consider that we have sufficient evidence to take practical action now and to initiate trials on the ground.
“The limited trial at Strathbraan will explore whether the reduction in ravens will help curlew and other ground nesting birds to recover. The habitat here is good for breeding waders but raven numbers are increasing.
“Commentators have linked this study to raptor crime. We deplore the illegal killing of birds of prey. Where we find evidence of crime, we support the police to secure convictions.
"We are clear that this trial to save waders is not connected to any local crime and regret the conflation of the two issues by others.”
George Milne, National Sheep Association Scotland, said: "SNH should be congratulated on issuing this licence. We get reports from all over the country, particularly Caithness about raven attacks on lambs and on ewes as well. There is no need to protect huge number of ravens and in our view the cull should be supported."
Ravens tend to target new born or very young lambs in pairs with one distracting the ewe while the other swoops on the lamb. Eyes and tongues are often pecked out while the lamb is still alive.