A contentious cull of Scotland’s raven population is not threatening numbers of the bird, countryside watchdogs ruled on Friday.
A report published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) reveals that raven populations in Scotland are in a “healthy condition”.
The report was commissioned to ensure the number of licences issued to control ravens will not affect the birds’ population in the long term.
SNH said it issued licences to control ravens when they are causing serious damage to livestock, particularly lambs.
There has been an increase in the Scottish raven population of more than 50 per cent over the past 20 years, with Scotland home to the majority of the UK birds.
Robbie Kernahan, SNH’s head of wildlife management, said: “It’s our job to encourage healthy populations of native species as well as support rural businesses.
“Ravens can cause serious damage to livestock, particularly lambs. Where this is a serious problem, and there is no other solution, we issue licences for farmers to shoot and scare the birds.
“This research shows that the number of ravens killed under licence won’t put the Scottish population at risk. However, we will continue to monitor so we can adjust licence numbers when we need to.”
Andrew Midgley, environment and land use policy manager at NFU Scotland said: “NFU Scotland welcomes the publication of this report. The licensing system provides a mechanism through which farmers can seek to prevent wildlife, which is legally protected, from causing serious agricultural damage.
“Farmers apply to SNH for a licence to deal with a problem and it is for SNH to make decisions about granting licences on the basis of its knowledge of the population and species ecology. It is therefore vital that SNH has up-to-date population information.”
Last year a controversial raven-culling licence in Perthshire was voluntarily suspended after a review found it was not scientifically robust.
The Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders had been granted the licence to control the protected birds to study the impact it would have on curlew and lapwing.
A public outcry led to a petition with more than than 175,000 signatures being raised and a crowdfunded legal challenge lodged at the Court of Session, and police revealed they were investigation a death threat to the chairman of SNH, Mike Cantlay.