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21 September 2007
In the case of suspected poisoned birds or animals, such as those lying next to a possible bait, record and if possible photograph what is present
Image: Mark Thomas
What you should do when you suspect someone is breaking the law depends greatly on the circumstances.
If an offence is ongoing and if you are near a telephone, call the police at once or, alternatively, the RSPB Investigations Section or, in cases of animal cruelty, the RSPCA. If a Police Wildlife Crime Officer (WCO) is not available to deal directly with an incident try to ensure they are made aware at some stage.
Incidents can also be reported on this website, using the link on the right, but this should not be the only method used if an immediate response to an incident is needed.
The RSPB Investigations Section has extensive experience of speaking to people with sensitive information and who may wish to remain anonymous. We will not pass your details to anyone without your consent. Reporting information anonymously makes it significantly more difficult to investigate offences.
If you wish to leave information on the website or on the RSPB out-of-hours answer phone, we would ask if you could at least provide a point of contact in order that the matter can be discussed. If you still wish to remain anonymous or for your details to remain confidential with the RSPB, we will respect these wishes.
Where offences are ongoing, if you are alone and cannot call for immediate help, your actions should depend on the circumstances but it is important to ensure you do not put yourself or others at risk. Incidents involving several possible offenders or the use of firearms will require particular care.
If the person is being cruel or attempting to kill a bird illegally you could consider trying to stop them, often simply making your presence known may be sufficient. If a bird appears seriously injured and no veterinary help is available consider trying to have it humanely killed. If safe, you could ask the offender for their name and address (however, they can refuse to give it to anyone except a Police Officer).
It is important to ensure you do not put yourself or others at risk
If the person has a car it is very important to note the number and, if possible, the make. Note the person’s description, paying attention to any distinctive characteristics about their appearance. Try to record or collect any evidence to support your contention that an offence has been committed.
If the offender has not seen you, it may be appropriate to watch them and record their actions to make certain that you have really seen an offence being committed. If you have a friend with you, you could send them for the Police while you stay and watch what is happening. Try to make a written note of anything you see and ensure you keep these notes in a safe place.
In the case of suspected poisoned birds or animals, such as those lying next to a possible bait, record and, if possible, photograph what is present. Ensure you record the exact location and if possible try to cover the items, perhaps with vegetation, to make them safe. Do not handle anything as many poisons are extremely dangerous and can be absorbed through the skin. Defra has a freephone number for such incidents: 0800 321600.
Certain spring-traps may be used legally to kill rats and weasels etc. These traps have to be set under cover to prevent injury to other animals. If a spring-trap is set out in the open, particularly if mounted on a pole, then make it inoperative by tripping it with a stick, keeping your fingers well away from the jaws of the trap. If you come across a spring-trap of any sort with a dead bird in it, leave it that way. If you have a camera, take a photograph of it in position and call the Police or the RSPB as quickly as possible.
Remember that certain cage-traps may be used legally to trap certain ‘problem species’. These are legal providing any specified conditions are complied with. This normally includes a requirement for any decoy bird to be supplied with adequate food, water, shelter and a perch plus the trap needs to be checked daily. You should not interfere with such traps, but if you are uncertain about their legality then contact the Police or other agency for advice.
Whatever the offence: armed with an accurate and detailed description of what you have seen, contact the Police or the RSPB. If you have contacted the Police in the first instance then please also inform the RSPB Investigations Section at The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire (01767 680551) or one of the RSPB’s country or regional offices. The RSPB will willingly assist if you or the Police require help.
In the case of damage to SSSIs, incidents should be reported to the local Natural England (NE) or Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) area team office (contact details available from www.naturalengland.org.uk or www.ccw.gov.uk) or contact the NE Enquiry Service (01733 455000) or CCW (08451 306 229). You could also call the Police, who should pass the information to a Police Wildlife Crime Officer.
Have you seen a crime against a wild bird? Use this form to report a wildlife crime to us.