Posts Tagged ‘sparrowhawk

16
Dec
21

Another gamekeeper convicted as another bird of prey starves to death in illegally-operated trap

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the conviction of a 53-year-old gamekeeper in the Scottish Borders, Peter Givens, who was responsible for an illegally-operated trap in which a barn owl and a goshawk had starved to death (see here). I’ll be blogging more about that case shortly as some interesting things have come to light.

Fast forward two weeks and today another gamekeeper, 58-year-old Hilton Prest, has been convicted for an almost identical offence, this time causing a sparrowhawk to starve to death inside an illegally-operated trap in Bosley, Cheshire, in February this year.

[The dead sparrowhawk inside the crow cage trap. Photo by RSPB]

The RSPB has published a press release about this latest conviction, which I’ll reproduce below, and then I’ll add some commentary at the end.

RSPB press release, 16th December 2021:

Man fined after sparrowhawk starves to death in trap

An amateur gamekeeper has received an £800 fine after a sparrowhawk starved to death in a trap in Cheshire.

At Manchester Magistrates’ court today (16 December 2021), Hilton Prest pleaded guilty to unlawfully using a trap on or before 10/2/21 contrary to Sec 5(1)(b) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. He was fined £800 (plus £85 costs and £80 victim surcharge). A charge against a second man was discontinued. 

On 10 February 2021, a member of the public found a sparrowhawk alive in a cage trap on land managed for gamebird shooting near Bosley. Cage traps are large mesh traps designed so a bird can get in but not out. They can be used legally, under license, to control crows, and must be checked every 25 hours. Any non-target birds caught accidentally must be released unharmed during daily inspections. When not in use the doors on such traps must be removed or secured open so birds cannot be caught.

There was snow on the ground and no shelter or water for the bird. The door to the trap was closed, so the member of the public opened it slightly, hoping the sparrowhawk would escape. Concerned for the bird’s welfare, they later provided the trap’s location to the RSPB.

[The juvenile sparrowhawk caught inside the trap during freezing weather in Feb 2021. Photo by RSPB]

RSPB Investigators attended the following day, 17 February, however they found the sparrowhawk (later confirmed as the same bird) dead inside the trap. There were also the remains of a blackbird, which had presumably attracted the sparrowhawk inside, and some grain, which had presumably attracted the blackbird. Despite the door being ajar, it appeared the sparrowhawk had been unable to escape and starved to death.

Cheshire Police were notified and the body of the bird sent for post-mortem examination. A veterinary pathologist confirmed the bird had died of starvation and would have experienced considerable unnecessary suffering inside the trap. (The veterinary work was funded by money from Wild Justice’s Raptor Forensic Fund, provided to support such cases, and administered by the PAW Forensic Working Group.) Two men were later interviewed by the police and reported for offences in relation to the unlawful use of the trap. 

District Judge Mr Jack McGarver said that he accepted that the act was careless rather than reckless or intentional, but that the degree of carelessness was high, and that it was well below the standard that was expected.

He added: “The sparrowhawk is a beautiful native creature which is entitled to be protected.”

Tom Grose, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “An unattended set trap in sub-zero temperatures was a death sentence for both birds.

If a trap is no longer in operation, it must be disabled in such a way that no bird can become caught. The operator has a duty of care to ensure that this happens, and that no birds can become caught inside. This duty of care was not met.

This is yet another example of why Natural England must improve the general license conditions for disabling these traps, in line with conditions in Scotland. We are aware of a number of other birds, including buzzards and a goshawk, that have starved to death inside cage traps which appear not to have been properly disabled. In this case, a simple padlock securing the door wide open would have saved the life of this blackbird and this sparrowhawk. This needs to be addressed to ensure no more birds perish in this sad and wasteful way.”

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, or a trap with a bird of prey caught inside, phone the police on 101, email RSPB Investigations at crime@rspb.org.uk or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx

ENDS

First of all, well done to the RSPB’s investigations team, working with Cheshire Police, to bring this case to court and secure a conviction.

The penalty given to gamekeeper Prest (£800 fine plus £85 costs and £80 victim surcharge) is higher than that given to gamekeeper Givens (£300 fine plus £20 victim surcharge) even though two Schedule 1 species had died as a result of Givens’ offence so once again sentencing consistency is lacking.

What’s really interesting though is the difference in the trapping rules between Scotland and England. In the Scottish case, it could be shown quite easily that Givens was operating an unlawful trap because (a) in Scotland the General Licence requires that the trap user be identified by a code attached to each trap (this is not a requirement in England because statutory agency Natural England hasn’t bothered to introduce it), and (b) in Scotland, when the trap is not in use the trap operator MUST do the following, as a condition of the General Licence:

Any trap not in use must be immobilised and rendered incapable of use. For multi-catch cage traps, the access doors must be removed from the site or securely padlocked open so that no bird can be confined‘.

This is a clear instruction – you either padlock the door open or you remove it completely if the trap is not in use. It’s unambiguous.

However, the equivalent General Licence condition in England is nowhere near as clear cut and can lead to all sorts of ‘accidents’ and excuses.

In England, the General Licence condition says this:

When you are not using a trap, it must not be capable of holding or catching animals.

You must secure trap doors in a fully open position, or remove the doors completely from the site‘.

Then there’s an add-on bit of ‘advice’ underneath, that says:

Padlocks are the most secure way to secure trap doors open, but cable ties or wire may also be suitable‘.

Crucially, this ‘advice’ is not legally binding, so a trap operator in England could legally use a rock or a piece of baler twine to ‘secure trap doors in a fully open position’ but both these techniques, and others, are not bomb proof and a door could ‘accidentally’ close, preventing a trapped bird from a means of escape. Padlocking the door or removing the door completely provides a trapped bird with a route to escape.

Quite why Natural England hasn’t incorporated this very simple but effective condition into its General Licence is a matter of bemusement for many of us. It’s really not that difficult, is it?

And if game-shooting organisations were as interested in protecting birds of prey as they claim to be, they’d be pushing for this very simple measure, too.

22
Sep
21

Man charged in connection with death of raptor in Inverness-shire

Some very good news!

Police Scotland has issued the following statement this afternoon:

A 22-year-old man has been arrested and charged in connection with the death of a sparrowhawk in Inverness-shire.

Officers were called to land south of Inverness following a report of a bird of prey which had been killed on Thursday, 16 September.

The man has been charged with wildlife crime offences following a police investigation and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

Detective Chief Superintendent Laura McLuckie, Police Scotland’s lead for wildlife crime, said: “We are committed to tackling wildlife crime in the Highlands and work closely with a range of partners to ensure all incidents are thoroughly investigated.

We know this is an issue which concerns many people in communities across the region and I would encourage anyone who has concerns about wildlife crime in their area to call Police Scotland on 101.”

ENDS

As the individual has now been charged no more can be said about this prosecution until court proceedings commence. Suffice to say this case will be of significant interest to readers of this blog and, I dare say, Government officials. I’ll be following it closely.

Well done to the police wildlife crime officers in the Highland division of Police Scotland – the charging of this man is as a result of some top-level police work, with officers responding at significant speed. That they’ve also produced a press statement is excellent.

Compare and contrast with the frankly pathetic response of wildlife crime officers in the Tayside division in relation to the shot peregrine and illegally trapped long-eared owl that I’ve been blogging about this week (see here and here).

This inconsistency of approach is hugely frustrating and I hope will be addressed by senior officers responsible for dealing with wildlife crime at a national level.

14
Nov
20

RSPCA appeals for information after sparrowhawk shot in Scunthorpe

Article from the Lincolnite, written by Ellis Karran, dated 13 November 2020.

Bird of prey had to be put down after it was shot with an air rifle

RSPCA investigating the case

The RSPCA is appealing for tighter controls on air weapons after a sparrowhawk was put to sleep due to being shot by an air rifle in Scunthorpe.

The bird was found lying on its back with its wings out after flying out of woods near Darnholme Crescent on Wednesday, before crashing into a car because of its injuries from the gunshot.

A passer-by spotted the bird of prey and contacted the RSPCA who brought it in for treatment.

The decision was made to put the sparrowhawk down as a result of its injuries, with the bird’s chest and wing damaged beyond repair and rehabilitation being impossible.

[Photos by RSPCA]

RSPCA inspector Claire Mitchell, investigating the case, said: “This poor sparrowhawk was in a very bad way after being shot and after further assessment, very sadly the decision was made to put the bird to sleep to end its suffering.

It is likely that the bird was shot with an air gun while in flight, and it is very concerning that somebody in the area was taking shots at wildlife in this way.

Whilst there are some shooting practices which are legal, it is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act to intentionally injure, kill or take a wild bird, except under licence.

Anyone found guilty could face an unlimited fine and/or six months imprisonment.

The animal welfare charity are now appealing for information about the incident, asking anyone who can help resolve this incident to call 0300 1238018.

ENDS

27
Aug
20

Lamb euthanised after stepping on illegally-set spring trap in North York Moors National Park

A lamb has been euthanised after being found in the North York Moors National Park with an illegally-set spring-trap attached to its leg.

The lamb was discovered on 8th August 2020 and was seen by a vet, who reported a nasty bone infection tracking up the lamb’s leg from the trap injury. A decision was taken to euthanise the stricken animal.

The use of this type of spring trap (a Fenn trap) became subject to new regulations in April this year as it is no longer considered humane for killing stoats. Gamekeepers have been urged to stop using them altogether in most situations and switch to a trap with a different design (e.g. see here and here).

Nevertheless, even if the operator of this particular trap had a defence for its lawful use, it would appear that it had still been set illegally if this lamb had managed to get its leg caught in it. Spring traps have to be placed inside a tunnel (artificial or natural) with excluders at each end to prevent non-target species entering the tunnel and getting caught.

Of course, even though the police are investigating this incident the chance of anyone being prosecuted is absolutely zero because it would be virtually impossible to determine who had set the trap. Even if there was a lawful requirement for the trap operator to have an identifying tag on the trap (which there isn’t), the police would still have enormous difficulty finding sufficient evidence to demonstrate it had been set by the operator and not by a third party.

What the police can do, though, is to visit the landowners in this area and ‘give them advice’ about the lawful use of traps.

Interestingly, this lamb was found on land close to Hutton-le-Hole, which is remarkably close to where the suspected poisoned sparrowhawk was reported a few days ago (here) and where a satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappeared’ in 2018 (see here).

Anyone with information about any of these cases, please contact PC Jez Walmsley at Malton Police Station on 101.

 

24
Aug
20

Sparrowhawk dies in suspected poisoning incident in North York Moors National Park

North Yorkshire Police press statement (24 August 2020)

Police urge vigilance after sparrowhawk shows symptoms of poisoning

Police are warning residents near Kirkbymoorside after a bird of prey died in circumstances that could suggest poisoning

A very unwell sparrowhawk was found by members of the public in woodland, just off Gillamoor Bank, close to Gillamoor village near Kirkbymoorside in Ryedale.

The bird appeared to be experiencing seizures and clenching its talons, and was taken locally for care, but died shortly after.

The symptoms shown by the bird suggest that poisons could have been involved in its death.

[Sparrowhawk, photo by Markus Varesvuo]

Officers from North Yorkshire Police are investigating the incident, and the dead bird has been accepted onto the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) for testing to establish the cause of death.

The WIIS investigates the deaths of wildlife and pet animals and beneficial invertebrates in the UK if there is evidence to suggest that they may have been poisoned or put at risk by pesticides.

The sparrowhawk was found earlier this month in a location very close to the village of Gillamoor, in woodland which includes a public footpath.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “At this time, we are keeping an open mind as to the cause of death. However, toxicology results may not be known for a number of weeks, so we want to make the community aware so they can take precautions to keep pets, children and themselves safe.

Once the results of the tests are known we will update the community, but for the time being dog owners should take care to keep their dogs on leads when in this area, and remain vigilant.”

If you have any information about this incident, contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting reference 12200142198.

If you find a dead animal you believe may be contaminated, do not touch it – poisons can transfer through contact with skin – and keep children and pets well away. Instead, take photographs, obtain an exact location (for example, a grid reference or a What3words location) and contact the police.

ENDS

Here’s the location of Gillamoor village and the surrounding woodland, right next door to an area that appears to be managed for driven grouse shooting on the edge of the North York Moors National Park:

Obviously, the results of the toxicology tests are awaited before this incident can be confirmed as an illegal poisoning but let’s be honest, given North Yorkshire’s appalling reputation for the illegal killing of birds of prey, including inside its two National Parks, either by shooting, trapping or poisoning (e.g. see here, here, here and here), yet another victim would come as no surprise whatsoever.

TAKE ACTION

If you’re concerned about the level of illegal raptor persecution in the UK, especially the high incidence of killing that takes place on or close to driven grouse moors, you can sign this e-action which urges your politician to take note and actually do something about it.

Launched two weeks ago by three organisations: Wild Justice, the RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, so far over 84,000 people have signed up. All you need to do is enter your postcode and a polite, pre-written email will automatically be sent to your parliamentary representative asking them to stop ignoring this issue.

If you want to add your voice and give your elected politician a polite nudge, please sign up HERE and pass this link on to others.

Thank you

10
Mar
20

Sparrowhawk shot in Devon

The RSPB and Devon & Cornwall Police are appealing for information after a sparrowhawk was shot in Devon.

[An x-ray of the shot sparrowhawk, by Westmoor Veterinary Hospital]

Map showing Tamar Foliot, near Plymouth, Devon:

From an RSPB press release issued 9 March 2020:

Devon and Cornwall Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after a protected sparrowhawk was found illegally shot near Plymouth.

The female bird was discovered alive but injured in a paddock in Tamerton Foliot, Plymouth. Seeing it was unable to fly, the finder recovered the bird and contacted the police on 2 February 2020.

The bird was x-rayed by Westmoor Veterinary Hospital in Tavistock and found to contain a shotgun pellet in its wing.

Emily Roisetter, a veterinary nurse, said: “On examination one of our vets could feel an unusual lump in its wing, which lead us to be suspicious that a pellet was present, and this was confirmed with the x-rays.”

The bird is currently being cared for at a wildlife centre.

Investigating Officer Sergeant Northmore, of the Crownhill Neighbourhood Team, said: “We would like to hear from anyone who was in the area at the time and saw or heard anything which could have been related to this incident, or has any information they think could be useful, to contact us.

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Devon and Cornwall Police on 101 or fill in the RSPB’s confidential online reporting form here

ENDS

 

25
Feb
20

Another pigeon fancier convicted for killing a sparrowhawk

Last week we blogged about pigeon fancier Duncan Cowan who was convicted for shooting a sparrowhawk in Stirlingshire and was fined a pathetic £450 (see here). Incidentally, there’s more to that story, coming soon.

Today, another pigeon fancier at the other end of the country has also been convicted of killing a sparrowhawk, this time with a catapult in his neighbour’s garden. Yovanis Cruz pleaded guilty at Portsmouth Magistrates Court and was fined £653 plus £85 costs plus £63 victim surcharge (£801 in total).

[The sparrowhawk victim. Photo via RSPB]

We await further details on this case. [See blog update below]

Unlike Scotland, where increased penalties for wildlife crime are about to be enacted via the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections & Powers) (Scotland) Bill which is currently at Stage 1 of parliamentary scrutiny, there are no plans by the Westminster Government to consider an increase in penalties for wildlife crime.

After gamekeepers, pigeon fanciers accounted for a significant proportion of all those convicted for raptor persecution crimes between 1990 – 2018, according to RSPB data (BirdCrime Report 2018).

UPDATE 19.15hrs: The RSPB has now published a press statement about this case (here)

 

19
Feb
20

Pigeon fancier fined £450 for shooting sparrowhawk

A pigeon fancier has been fined a measly £450 after pleading guilty to shooting and killing a sparrowhawk.

60 year old Duncan Cowan from Cowie in Stirlingshire was observed coming out of his shed with an air rifle and firing at a sparrowhawk in the field behind his garden on 18 April 2019. He fired three or four times as the sparrowhawk attacked a pigeon.

The police were called and the Scottish SPCA took the shot sparrowhawk for veterinary attention but it didn’t survive its injuries.

[Cowan outside his shed. Media handout]

Yesterday at Stirling Sheriff Court Cowan pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 1(1)(a) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 resulting in the fine.

Sara Shaw, Procurator Fiscal, Wildlife and Environment, said: “I welcome today’s conviction and the message it sends to those who choose to commit acts of violence against wild birds. Wild birds are given strict protection under our wildlife laws and COPFS will continue to prosecute such cases where appropriate to ensure that offenders are brought to justice.”

The sooner the proposed increased penalties for wildlife crime are enacted, the better. Having said that, the current maximum penalty available is £5,000 and/or a six month custodial sentence so a fine of £450 is still incredibly lenient for the deliberate injuring (and subsequent killing) of a protected species.

After gamekeepers, pigeon fanciers accounted for a significant proportion of all those convicted for raptor persecution crimes between 1990 – 2018, according to RSPB data (BirdCrime Report 2018)

 

 

 

20
Aug
19

Sparrowhawk shot on Isle of Man: Local bird charity & police appeal for info

Joint press release from Manx Wild Bird Aid, police & local Government (20 Aug 2019)

Manx Wild Bird Aid, Police Wildlife Crime Officers and the Isle of Man Government are seeking information in relation to a juvenile female sparrowhawk that was found injured at Ballure, Ramsey on the 13th August 2019.
The sparrowhawk was discovered with a single gunshot wound and was recovered alive by a member of the public who passed it over to the charity Manx Wild Bird Aid, who care for sick and injured wild birds.
Unfortunately the bird died of its injuries soon after.
Manx Wild Bird Aid informed the Police Wildlife Crime Officers and Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) Biodiversity Officers. Analysis of the bird’s injuries by a vet showed that the bird had an entry and exit wound consistent with being shot. The bird also sustained broken bones when it fell to the ground and would not have been able to move far from the location where it was found.
Geoffrey Boot MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, said: “I would urge anyone with any information about this incident to get in touch with the Biodiversity Officers at DEFA. It is illegal to kill or injure sparrowhawks on the Isle of Man. Protecting our wildlife is immensely important and our department and local charities work hard to ensure these animals are protected“.
A spokesperson for Manx Wild Bird Aid, said: “Not only has this wild bird been shot illegally, it is particularly upsetting that it has been injured in such a way to cause a lengthy period of unnecessary suffering prior to dying“.
Wild birds are legally protected under the Wildlife Act 1990 and it is an offence to kill or injure wild birds with the exception of game species. Penalties of up to £10,000 can be imposed.
Anyone with information relating to this case is being asked to contact Louise Samson, Biodiversity Officer DEFA 685835 or Crime Stoppers 0800 555 111.
ENDS
10
Jul
19

Attempted theft of sparrowhawk chicks in Edinburgh

Two men tried to steal five protected sparrowhawk chicks from a nest at the River Almond near Newbridge.

Police in Edinburgh and the Scottish SPCA are investigating the attempted theft , which was thwarted by members of the public walking in the area.

Officers say that the men were seen in woodland close to the Almond Aqueduct, close to Cliftonhall Road, at around 2pm on Saturday. They then told a member of the public that there was a nest nearby that contained five chicks, and intimated that they planned to steal them with a view to selling them on. They indicated that they had tried to remove a number of chicks from the nest.

Police were then contacted and officers attended the scene before also contacting the Scottish SPCA.

[Sparrowhawks, photo by Dave Culley]

One of the suspects is described as being white, in his 50s, around 5ft 6ins to 5ft 9ins tall and he was wearing a black baseball cap, black down jacket, black jeans and black shoes. The other man was white, in his 30s, of slim build, slightly taller and wearing a Aberdeen FC shirt and shorts, with white trainers. They both spoke with local accents.

Inquiries to identify these men are said to be ongoing, and police want anyone who spotted them in the area to come forward.

PC Charles Davidson , wildlife crime officer said: “We are working with our partners to fully investigate this report and would remind the public that the taking, or harming, of these raptors is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

I’d appeal to any dog walkers or member of the public who may have been near the Union Canal on Saturday afternoon, and who saw these two men, to get in touch with officers should they have information to assist our inquiries.”

Scottish SPCA special investigations unit undercover inspector said: “We are pleased the attempt to steal the sparrowhawk chicks was halted by the vigilant members of the public.

We want to make it clear to the public that all birds, including birds of prey, are protected by law and it is a criminal offence to remove eggs, chicks or birds from the wild.

Under no circumstances should they be removed from the wild.

Any incident of this nature will be fully investigated by the Scottish SPCA together with Police Scotland .”

Anyone with information should contact Police Scotland on 101, quoting incident number 3414 of 6 July. Alternatively you can phone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

ENDS (from Edinburgh Live website)




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