Upland keepers hoping to apply to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) for a licence to control ravens to protect their wild bird stocks suffered a blow last week as a new study found “little” evidence that ravens are responsible for declines in wader numbers.

The study, entitled Spatial and temporal associations between recovering populations of common raven Corvus corax and British upland wader populations, was conducted by the RSPB and the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Environmental Sustainability. The findings will be used by SNH to help it consider licence applications from land managers wanting to cull ravens to protect wild upland birds. In both 2007 and 2008, SNH received applications from 15 different shooting estates requesting a licence to control ravens to protect wild gamebird stocks, but as yet not a single licence has been granted.

However, a spokesman for SNH reassured keepers that every licence application is judged individually and on its own merits. “Therefore, applications will be considered in the same manner as before the study was published.” He added that currently there are no applications being assessed. SNH said that the study has provided further guidance on circumstances for granting licences. “The findings provide compelling evidence that predation by ravens on nests and eggs is not responsible for driving declines of upland waders, so it is likely that any licence application to control ravens for conservation purposes will need to provide robust and substantiated evidence to support a cull.”

The rest of this article appears in 24th February issue of Shooting Times.

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