Last modified: 18 December 2013
Image: The RSPB
A part-time gamekeeper has been convicted of using an illegal trap, designed to harm birds of prey, by his pheasant release pen near Ludlow.
Last week the RSPB released its annual Birdcrime report. Much of the report focused on the continuing problems of the illegal persecution of birds of prey. A recent prosecution has again graphically highlighted the threats these magnificent birds still face.
On 9 December at Herefordshire Magistrates Court, Wayne Edward Priday, 39, from Leintwardine, Herefordshire, pleaded guilty to a charge relating to the use of a pole trap in August 2013. He was fined £375 and ordered to pay £170 costs.
Pole traps are devices that have been banned from use since 1904 and consist of a powerful spring-trap typically placed on top of a post or pole. Birds of prey will the use these elevated positions as a vantage point and the traps are strategically placed where they will hunt.
On 7 August, RSPB Investigation officers visited a pheasant release pen near Elton, west of Ludlow. They discovered a pole trap that had been placed on top of a post and camouflaged with moss. The pole trap was disabled and covert surveillance was set up to monitor who was responsible.
The following morning Priday was filmed visiting the site. Clearly puzzled that the trap had been sprung, Priday unfastened the spring-trap and took it away in his vehicle. West Mercia Police visited the site and Priday was later interviewed. He eventually accepted setting the trap, though claimed it was for squirrels.
Guy Shorrock, Investigations Officer, said: 'There are a number of fantastic birds of prey in the forests around Ludlow including red kites and buzzards. However, we believe this trap was probably set for a goshawk, a very rare bird of prey with perhaps only 500 pairs in the UK.
'It is incredible that people still choose to use such a barbaric and outdated device. Fortunately, we believe we found the trap before it was able to cause any injury.'
PC Jonathan Whateley, a Wildlife Crime Officer from West Mercia Police, said: 'Bird of prey persecution is one of the government's top wildlife crime priorities and West Mercia Police are happy to support important operations such as this. We would like to thank the RSPB for their assistance in this matter.'
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