The common raven is being held responsible for an upsurge in attacks on ewes and lambs, sparking calls for a relaxation on the rules on shooting them
Gerry Braiden, Local Government Correspondent
HERITAGE and wildlife bodies are facing calls to give more powers to kill ravens amid claims the bird is the biggest predatory threat to young lambs.
Farmers have claimed the common raven stalks 'in lamb' ewes in flocks of more than 30, attacking the eyes, mouth and other soft tissue of the mother and forcing it to lose its unborn young whilst in a state of shock.
The bird has also been accused of swooping in flocks onto ewes with twins to split one of the lambs, leading to the killing of both the mother and one of her offspring.
Calls for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the RSPB to relax the rules on the killing of the bird, which has around 7500 breeding pairs in the UK, have been backed by several hundred people, mostly understood to be involved in agriculture and several of whom have claimed small farm holding cannot sustain the financial hit from the raven attacks.
But the RSPB said such a move would leave the move ravens open to local extinction, while SNH said any permission to shoot at the bird would simply be to deter them rather than any cull.
The petition calling for 'general licences' to be issued for the killing of ravens was instigated by 'pest control shooter' Danny Bissett who said there had been an upsurge in attacks on ewes and lambs, in part because the bird has natural predators and that it holds a protected status.
His petition states: "The manner in which colonies of the Common Raven have been allowed to grow, uncontrolled would call into question whether the RSPB and SNH have any idea as to what is being witnessed on the ground on a daily basis throughout the farming community, which is massed flocks of this species targeting both in lamb ewes and new born lambs.
"Currently demonstrated instances where SNH have issued landowners with a licence to take two Ravens when the issue is a flock of thirty is laughable and in no way meet the requirements of those who face multiple deaths of their livestock on a daily basis."