In the first case of its type in England, a Market Harborough farmer was fined £2,500 (plus costs) after being found guilty of trapping birds on his land without an appropriate licence.
A Leicestershire Police investigation, which began in August 2011,found that 53-year-old Ivan Peter Crane from East Langton was not eligible to act under the terms of a General Licence from Natural England, nor had he applied for a separate individual licence. All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Crane was found to be using a Larsen cage-trap. Commonly used on farms to control birds such as Carrion Crows and Magpies, they rely on the use of a decoy bird which must be provided with food, water, shelter and a perch. The territorial nature of this family of birds cause them to challenge the decoy bird and become caught in the trap. Cage-traps must be checked daily and any target birds that have been caught should be removed and humanely dispatched. Non-target birds must be released unharmed.
Landowners can act under the authority of a General Licence to control some species of birds on their land for specific purposes. However, Crane’s conviction for offences under wildlife legislation in early 2011 meant that he could not rely on the terms of a General Licence and was therefore contravening the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The verdict was given on Monday 27 February at Leicester Magistrates Court, and he was fined in part taking a wild bird (£750), using a trap to kill or take a wild bird (£1,000) and possessing an article capable of being used to commit an offence under sections 1-17 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (£750).
Paul Cantwell, Natural England’s Species Enforcement Officer said: “It is the responsibility of an individual acting under any form of licence to ensure that they comply with its conditions. Having been convicted of wildlife crimes just a few months earlier, Mr Crane should have known that he was not eligible to act under the authority of a General Licence and should have applied for an individual licence if he wanted to control birds in this way.”
Guy Shorrock, RSPB Senior Investigations Officer, said: “We have long been concerned about the improper use of cage traps, whether intended for catching Magpies or being illegally adapted to take birds of prey. These traps need to be used responsibly and we welcome the efforts by Natural England to improve the conditions relating to use of these traps.”
In April, Crane was fined £1,000 at Market Harborough Magistrates Court, for using a spring trap in an attempt to stop birds of prey from feeding on his young pheasants. He pleaded guilty to the offence, after undercover investigators from the RSPB caught him on covert cameras, set up as part of a wider investigation into the killing of birds of prey across the county.