CRAVEN’S wildlife officer is appealing to the field sports fraternity for help after a tawny owl was found dead in a spring trap.
The bird was found in Green Field Woods between Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Oughtershaw Moss.
Now PC Richard Gape, wildlife officer for Craven, who is based at Grassington, needs help to discover who was responsible for setting the trap (also commonly known as pole traps).
He believes walkers and people involved in field sports in the area may be able to help him trace who set the trap and keep an eye out for further ones.
PC Gape added: “I would ask anyone out walking in the area to keep an eye out for other traps.
“If they see a trap with a bird in it, they should, if possible, photograph the bird in the trap, try to establish if it is still alive and then contact either the police or the RSPB as soon as possible.
“If they see a trap which hasn’t been sprung, then they can use a long stick to set it off without risking harm to themselves.
“We would also ask that they photograph the trap, note where it is and contact us or the RSPB.” He said this kind of incident gave a bad name to people who were acting responsibly with regard to wildlife management.
The dead owl was actually discovered by Duncan Thomas, who is a wildlife crime officer with the neighbouring Lancashire Constabulary. He is a member of the Green Fields Deer Management Group and was up in the woods carrying out some deer stalking when he found the owl.
“The forest is privately owned and the deer management group is actively involved in promoting wildlife in the woods. “Owl boxes have been put up in the wood to help encourage breeding and so I was very disappointed when I found the bird.” It was discovered in a spring trap, which had been stapled to a pole and attached to a fence post.
PC Gape said: “The sole purpose of a pole trap is to trap birds of prey or other birds which are considered a pest or that are believed to be feeding on local game birds. “We are able to DNA the trap and find out if other species have been caught by it,” he added. PC Gape said Lancashire Constabulary and other agencies, including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ investigation team, had provided support in respect of this incident.
“Tawny owls are a protected species, as are all wild birds, and wildlife crime is treated in exactly the same way as any other. “The penalty for being caught doing this is severe,” he added. Traps on poles were outlawed in 1904, although the use of spring traps – if hidden and checked daily – is still allowed for the management of wild mammals including weasels. PC Thomas said: “One thing we want to make clear is that if people do see a spring trap which is on the ground, correctly hidden or in a tunnel then it is perfectly legal.”
Guy Shorrock, from the RSPB’s investigating team, said there had been previous incidents of birds of prey being killed in neighbouring Nidderdale and Swaledale.
“In September last year we had a report of a young peregrine falcon flying around Nidderdale with a pole trap attached to its leg. “That bird will have almost certainly died. We also had a sparrowhawk shot and hidden in a drystone wall, again in Nidderdale in 2000. And in 1998 we had a buzzard shot in Swaledale,” he added.