Farmers say ravens target young animals during lambing and calving
Farmers are to be allowed to shoot more ravens than previously permitted in an effort to protect newborn lambs and calves, NFU Scotland has said.
Britain's largest species of crow has been blamed for preying on livestock in the Highlands, islands and Argyll.
Where it becomes a serious problem this spring, the numbers permitted to be shot will be increased in consultation with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
The move is seen as a quicker course of action than applying for licences.
Details of where the rules on controlling ravens have been relaxed are contained in a letter to NFU Scotland from Environment Minister Mike Russell and Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Jamie McGrigor.
The union said it understood the Scottish Government was opposed to a cull, preferring methods of scaring the birds away from vulnerable livestock.
NFU Scotland surveyed its members in Argyll and on islands about the issue to reinforce its campaign for greater controls over raven numbers.
Head of rural policy, Jonnie Hall, said: "We were relieved to receive this news, which should make a big difference to farmers who have struggled with raven predation on young livestock.
"The suffering experienced by animals attacked by groups of ravens was particularly striking, as was the distress it caused to the farmers involved."
Last April, farmers and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association called for limits on shooting ravens to be lifted.
Their call followed 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 SNH.
Raven numbers were thought to have gone into decline between 1970 and 1990, according to government data.
The birds were protected in the 16th Century because of an ability to scavenge and dispose of carrion.
However, by the 19th Century they were 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.