In December I blogged about the level of licenced Raven killing in Scotland. The number of licences issued by Scottish Natural Heritage to kill Ravens is in the region of 150 each year and accounts for the legalised killing of in excess of 1000 birds each year. The figures are summarised in the following Table.
These numbers were much higher than I expected. When I initially asked SNH about the possible conservation impact of the killing of Ravens they referred me to a report that they had commissioned from the BTO. They couldn’t provide me with the report at the time as it was going through some internal approval process, but it would be made publicly available by the end of January – it was. The report makes interesting reading and I might come back to this again in the future. SNH also clarified that they use long-term trends as determined by Birds of Conservation Concern to help assess the conservation impacts of the licenced killing of Ravens. The Raven is currently classified as Green as its long-term trend is favourable. Although, the recent decline of 12% between 2016 and 2017 (Table 1 on pages 7 and 8) isn’t particularly favourable for your average Raven!
What about the Cairngorms National Park? You would have thought that Ravens living in a National Park, alongside all the other species that millions of tourists visit to see each year would be safe from licenced killing. It seems not. From 2015 to 2018, SNH issued 52 licences to kill Ravens that included land within the Cairngorms National Park. The total number of Ravens that could be legally killed under licence was 283 individuals and at least 199 have been reported killed (the licence return data are incomplete for 2018). All of these licences were issued to ‘prevent serious damage to livestock, food stuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters.’ One might ask how much damage does the issuing of licences to kill protected wildlife do to the tourism industry? How much is a Raven worth alive? I’ve been to the Cairngorms for the last 2 years and I had a quick look at my BirdTrack records. In each of the last two years I have 10 complete lists that were compiled at sites within the National Park, and I recorded Ravens once each year. That’s a shame – I like Ravens. I’m not really sure what my BirdTrack records mean in this context other than I’d like to see them more often when I visit the Cairngorms.
The Cairngorms NP is probably the only UK National Park I visit to see wildlife, most others such as the Peak and Lake Districts being less than ideal for the species I want to experience. It really does beg the question what are our National Parks for, if majestic species such as Ravens aren’t allowed to fly unhindered?