A petition has been launched to take ravens off the protected species’ list and allow livestock owners to shoot them without having to obtain a special licence.
In response to the continued devastation caused by ravens to sheep in the UK, farmer Danny Bisset created the petition which has received almost 3,000 signatures.
The petition urges Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to add the Common Raven to the general licence, which allows the ‘taking or killing of certain birds for the prevention of serious damage to livestock’.
Mr Bisset from Reay, in the Scottish Highlands, claimed ‘increasing attacks this year on in-lamb ewes and new born lambs has led to an untold amount of sheep deaths’ resulting in emotional upset and financial losses throughout the sheep farming community in rural Scotland.
Perin and Sonja Dineley, who spoke at an National Sheep Association (NSA) briefing on predation of livestock last month, reported a number of horrific attacks on sheep where the birds had waited for a pregnant ewe to lie down to give birth to her lamb, before ’swooping in and attacking her eyes and the eyes and tongue of the emerging lambs’.
Phil Stocker, chief executive of the NSA, said ‘raven attacks present significant challenges to those affected, with outdoor lambing flocks particularly susceptible’.
He said: “The issue of ravens and other protected predatory species is one which continues to blight the sheep industry.
"New born lambs and ewes giving birth are highly vulnerable, and the clear intelligence of ravens makes it exceptionally difficult for farmers to protect their flock, even with the greater amount of shepherding that coincides with lambing time."
The NSA said it was aware of a small number of members in England who had applied for licences to control raven populations and said it had been encouraging to see Natural England be generally receptive to the idea of giving permission for control of a limited number of birds each year.
In light of this, the NSA said it would also be closely watching developments in Scotland where calls for ravens to be added to SNH’s general licence continue. If successful, this would give farmers greater freedom to control raven problems as and when they occur.
Robbie Kernahan, head of national operations at SNH said the list of species which may be ’killed under general licence’ is regularly reviewed and a consultation on general licences was due to be held later this year.
Mr Kernahan said: "We already regularly issue specific licences to shoot ravens to prevent damage to livestock where there is no other satisfactory solution.
"So, if anyone is suffering serious damage to livestock, then of course they can apply - but any licence we issue to shoot ravens is done so as part of an overall scaring programme - and is not intended to cull the population, but to remove birds causing problems and help deter others."
A spokesman from RSPB Scotland said a counter-petition, calling to ’maintain the protected status of the raven in Scotland’ had also been launched, which had received about 30,000 signatures.