Farmers would be wise to be particularly vigilant about raven attacks when looking after their newborn lambs, as reports of incidents of this kind appear to be on the rise.

Ravens are in fact a protected species here in the UK, living wild in places like the Lake District, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Wales and the Scottish highlands – and farmers must apply to Natural England for a licence in order to kill them, the Daily Mail reports.

And now farmers are becoming so concerned about the birds – which have been killing lambs by pecking out their tongues and eyes – that some are demanding that they be given the right to shoot ravens without this licence in place.

Martyn Fletcher, a shepherd in Wiltshire, was quoted by the news source as saying: “Five years ago we saw ravens but attacks on sheep were rare. Last year, there were eight pairs of birds and we lost 100 lambs and 20 ewes. This year, we’ve had 30 pairs. I’ve got a licence and have shot four ravens but have still lost 70 lambs and 12 ewes.”

This discussion was also raised last year, with farmers launching an online petition calling for greater control of these birds for the sheep farming community in rural Scotland. It was noted that there is a lack of natural predators for the raven and this, coupled with the protected status that the birds enjoy, resulted in an “untold amount of sheep deaths, emotional upset and huge financial losses”.

The petition called for the common raven to lose its protected status and be added to the list of birds that can be shot by those with a general licence, which includes jays, magpies and carrion crows.

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