Calling for Raven Control is petitioning Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to have the common raven added to the general licence that is in place for “prevention of serious damage to livestock”. Ravens are viciously attacking and killing in-lamb ewes and new-born lambs.

Danny Bisset, Calling for Raven Control, writes:

I appreciated from the start of this campaign that gaining support for the control of a protected bird species would not be easy. Calls for this motion are being met with scepticism over the raven attacks from those who profess to have knowledge in ecology and ornithology. This campaign welcomes challenges from those with an interest and will continue to make every effort to educate those who are unread and geographically removed from the problem.

Ferocity of attack

Being a pest control shooter for some years now, I have seen the explosion in raven populations and the brutal way in which the bird stalks a field of in-lamb ewes, waiting for the moment that one goes down to lamb. At this point, ravens will descend upon her, attacking the soft tissue areas around the anus, mouth and eyes. This sends the ewe into shock with the subsequent loss of her unborn lambs. The ferocity of these birds is such that they will attack lambs that are being passed through the birthing canal.

There is another predatory method that has been witnessed in the field: the divide and conquer strategy. Flocks of up to 30 ravens have been seen to swoop on mothering ewes with twins, normally splitting a twin from its mother and holding it by the tail until it eventually goes down. This has a tendency to draw the ewe to the dead lamb so that she is also overcome by the birds. At best she is killed quickly, but more often than not she suffers horrific injuries until she is found and despatched by the farmer. This is a daily story told by scores of sheep farmers throughout Caithness, the Highlands, Scotland and, I’m sure, beyond. It has become apparent through this campaign that, with losses of up to 50 lambs on a farm that works 350 ewes, the damage is significant.

An increasing population of ravens

Supporters of this campaign have highlighted to SNH the increasing population of juvenile ravens due to highly successful breeding rates in problematic hot spots. It would question the accuracy of British Trust for Ornithology figures in relation to breeding pairs of ravens, because the published figure referencing 7,000 breeding pairs was conducted in 2009. We also point out that the breeding pair figure does not account for the larger juvenile population that is of a greater concern. We stress that our requirement is for raven population control, proportionate to the scale of the problem. This has been echoed by farmers throughout affected areas, as the targeting of individual birds in the field is felt to be ineffective in keeping raven population at a manageable level.

Reducing raven attacks

Calling for Raven Control in the meantime fully backs the SNH call for anyone who is affected by raven attacks on livestock to apply for a specific licence as a demonstration into the extent of the problem. The group welcomes the positive changes to the specific licence that have already been implemented by the SNH Licensing Team. It is our firm belief that the most efficient way to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the current system is by using it and proving that targeting single birds in the field will not lead to a control in numbers and a reduction in raven attacks.

Sign the petition

Calling for Raven Control welcomes the invitation to contribute as an interested party and is ready to enter into the 2017 SNH General Licence Species Review with new scientific findings, hard evidence in hand and a strong case that will be difficult to ignore.

The petition has garnered more than 3,000 signatures but needs more. To add your name to the Calling for Raven Control petition, click here.