Raven impact on waders ??? Shooting lobby disagrees with the RSPB

Written by Wildlife Extra

Impact of juvenile raven ???gangs’ is there for all to see says SRPBA Moorland Group

Click here to see the RSPB report on Ravens

The Moorland Group of the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association (SRPBA) is disputing recent claims made by the RSPB that ravens do not impact on upland wader species.

A recent study was co-funded by Scottish Natural Heritage to provide evidence or otherwise for raven licence applications. SRPBA argues however that it did not address the nub of the problem, the impact of growing flocks of sub-mature ravens, instead confining its findings to resident breeding pairs of ravens based on data 7 – 9 years old.

The development of raven ???gangs’ has not been scientifically monitored. For example, in NE Scotland, raven numbers increased by over 400 per cent up to 2002, and that growth rate has continued (Wildlife Extra Editor’s note – Raven numbers decreased drastically according to government data between 1970 – 1990, so a subsequent increase isn’t that surprising).

In early spring, juvenile ravens congregate in highly mobile flocks of 200 – 300 birds and predate for food across wide moorland areas. Prime targets are the eggs of ground nesting birds such as curlew and lapwing (Wildlife Extra Editor’s note – Having looked at the SRPBA website, we note that the only 2 mentions of Lapwing and curlew are in relation to raven predation, and thus the control of ravens. Curiously grouse do not get a mention here.). The ravens panic the birds off their nests, take their eggs and then move on. By early summer the raven ???gangs’ have dispersed – the only evidence of their activity being a marked decline in numbers of the birds on which they predate.

‘Vandals of the moorland’
John Forbes-Leith, Chairman, the SRPBA Moorland Group, says: “We think that recent RSPB media comments on this show that unfortunately they are in denial of a very real problem, because they do not wish to unlock the door to licensed control of ravens or any other species. But ravens are intelligent, devious and hungry birds – vandals of the moorland, plundering birds’ nests in one area before moving on to wreak havoc elsewhere.

Science is inconclusive – But there is plenty of anecdotal evidence
“In our view the science that has so far been presented is inconclusive, but there is very real eye-witness evidence that could have been gathered to support our claims of the damage that juvenile ravens can do.

“We think that public funding should have been directed at measuring these impacts, and not on desk based historical analysis.”

Ron Macdonald, Head of Policy & Advice, Scottish Natural Heritage, says: “We recognise that there is a developing issue with large flocks of sub-mature, non breeding ravens and the potential negative impacts they may have on wild birds, and we are working with land managers to try and find practical solutions to these problems. Licences can be issued under section 16(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to control some wild predators for the purpose of conserving wild birds, subject to the guidelines which SNH have developed together with land and wildlife management organisations.”

Dr Adam Smith, Director Scotland, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, says: “Although it doesn’t make headlines, this study indicated that at a biologically interesting level, increasing raven numbers were associated with decreasing lapwing and curlew numbers. Overall however this study had to use data from 2002 and before to try and inform policies in 2010 and beyond. It cannot provide a reliable basis for SNH to form policies on the need for licences to take ravens to protect wild birds. However, we can all agree that there is now evidence of increasingly large numbers of ravens in the same areas as poorly performing upland wader populations. Our research experience suggests that the licensed control of ravens and an assessment of the response of wader populations would be a constructive approach to this issue.”

SRPBA, with other industry organisations are working together to seek to have licences made available to allow limited numbers of ravens to be controlled in areas where specific problems are identified in order to scare the juvenile flocks away. The legal mechanism already exists for farmers to protect their livestock in this way.

SNH has existing mechanisms to enable such licence applications to be granted, but there is concern that this study will be used against applicants as evidence that a problem does not exist.

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?? Peter Csonka

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‘ONE-EYED VISION

Wildlife Extra believes that releases like this from the SRPBA does them a great disservice. It is so transparently not about their touching concern for lapwings and curlews. Wildlife Extra isn’t against hunting in all its forms (Though posing beside a dead rhino or even zebra to show how big and tough you are is just so disgusting) as it provides essential income so some communities, and may be the only way to preserve some species.

Shooting bleaters
However we believe that shooting organisations shouldn’t bleat about saving wildlife when their purpose is to improve their shooting. Tell it as it is, otherwise no one will believe you.’

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Source: Wildlife Extra

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