Scotland continues to lead the way with the issuing of licences to kill Ravens. In 2018 a total of 173 licences were issued allowing for up to 1199 Ravens to be legally killed. This year the number of licences issued has increased to 183 licences but for fewer Ravens – up to 1097 can be killed (see Table 1). All of the licences were issued for the purpose of ‘preventing serious damage to livestock, foodstuff for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland water.’ Due to the sheer number of licences that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) issue it isn’t practical to request the actual licence applications. Therefore it is not possible to be more specific about the details for issuing licences, although the protection of lambs is almost certainly the key reason.
SNH recently commissioned some research on Raven demography and how this can inform policy makers with regards to the management of populations. The work was undertaken by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and is available here. One of the key findings highlighted in the report was that “it is likely that the maximum level of sustainable removal of non-breeding ravens is around 200 birds per 100 x 100 km area in much of Scotland.” It isn’t possible to tell from the licence data that SNH provide whether such a threshold is reached in some parts of Scotland.
Ravens have been increasing in Scotland (and the UK) in recent decades, but it is also worth noting that they did show a small decline (-12%) between 2016-17 (compared to an increase of 59% between 1994-2017). It will be interesting to see if this small annual decline continues when the next Scottish population indices are made available, which must be soon.