Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 16:34 UK

Ravens blamed for killing lambs

A raven
The raven is Britain's largest species of crow

Farmers and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association have called for a ban on shooting ravens to be lifted.

They blame the crows for attacking and killing newborn lambs and adult sheep on farms in the Highlands.

Their call follows incidents involving flocks at Nethy Bridge and Stratherrick, south of Inverness.

A condition in the Wildlife and Countryside Act allows for ravens to be killed on licence - if the government considers it to be appropriate.

Applications must be made to the Scottish Government or its agency Scottish Natural Heritage.

A total of 143 licences to cull geese and ravens were issued in 2002.

They are tremendously powerful
Dave Thomson
Scottish Gamekeepers Association

Environment Minister Mike Russell said he could not comment on specific cases, but said any application was judged carefully.

He said: "There are very strict conditions upon those licences and all I can say is that people who apply for a licence must expect that they will have to meet those conditions."

But gamekeepers want protection of Britain's largest species of crow to be removed completely.

Several lambs were reported to have been killed by ravens at Startherrick.

Farmer Jimmy Mills said he lost seven lambs within three days. He added: "The lambs are born at one o'clock in the afternoon and by four o'clock they are taken to bits by ravens."

Population soared

Last week, it was claimed that as many as 40 sheep had died as a result of attacks.

Raven numbers were thought to have gone into decline between 1970 and 1990, according to government data.

However, gamekeeper David Thomson said the numbers had grown by 1,000% in the last 10 years - the length of time his association have been calling for greater control of the crow.

He said there was video evidence of ravens feeding on live adult sheep.

Mr Thomson said: "They are tremendously powerful."

Ravens were protected in the 16th Century because of an ability to scavenge and dispose of carrion.

Royal decree

However, by the 19th Century it was classed as vermin because of fears that ravens could attack livestock.

By the early 20th Century, the species had been exterminated in many areas.

Six are kept at the Tower of London by a royal decree issued by Charles II.

Legend has it that if the birds leave the site, its White Tower will crumble and the Kingdom of England will fall.


SEE ALSO
Black ravens return to the roost
24 Jan 06 |  North East Wales

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