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More than half of the population says birds of prey should be controlled if they are damaging wildlife and livelihoods, according to research by wildlife groups.

A survey carried out by the Countryside Alliance, Moorland Association and National Gamekeepers Organisation found 60% of people think raptors should be controlled, even though 80% were unaware there were more raptors now than at any time since records began.

Of the 1004 people questioned, 80% said people should intervene to help declining bird species, while 81% supported gamekeepers’ work in controlling predators.

Two thirds of respondents also said they backed the work of the RSPB, with 80% saying the organisation should carry out predator control on its nature reserves.

Simon Hart, Countryside Alliance chief executive, said: “For years everyone from the Government to the RSPB has run scared of being open and honest about the need to control some species for the benefit of others.

“This research shows that many of the assumptions about public opinion that have driven policy and spending on wildlife management are, quite simply, wrong.

“We live in a managed landscape. People understand that it is necessary to control predators to protect declining species and maintain a balance.”