BTO report being used by SNH to justify Raven culls

A BTO research report, which looks quite good to me, is being used, wrongly, by SNH to justify further Raven culls.

The report, essentially, says that killing a few Ravens won’t make any difference to the Scottish Raven population level. That is certainly true (and I give you that finding freely – no charge!).

However, as SNH must know, they can only issue licences to kill Ravens if there is evidence of serious damage to livestock etc etc – this report does not address that point at all.

The SNH press release:

A report published today reveals that raven populations in Scotland are in a healthy condition.

The report, published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), was commissioned to ensure the number of licences issued to control ravens won’t affect the population in the long term.

SNH issues 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 over 50% over the past 20 years, with Scotland holding the majority of the UK raven population.  

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 licencing system provides a very important 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.

To download the full report, see https://www.nature.scot/snh-research-report-1012-population-modelling-scottish-northern-raven-population

Let us hope that SNH is never put in charge of the Scottish legal system – killing a few people won’t make any very noticeable difference to the Scottish human population but we have laws against it. We don’t say – ‘yehh, go on, a few murders don’t matter, there’ll be lots of people left’ – the laws are there because society has decided what it values.

It’s a pity to see BTO data – most of it collected by volunteers like myself – used in this way. When we are told that the BTO collects the data for the bullets for conservationists to fire we shouldn’t expect those bullets to be fired at the very wildlife which the volunteer data collectors thought they were protecting.

I’d be interested to hear from the BTO what they think of Raven culls. Was the BTO given the opportunity to comment in this press release and, if so , why did they not take it? But no, SNH chose the recipients of Raven-culling licences to comment on this piece of science in an entirely predictable way.


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