Posts Tagged ‘Corvids’

You definitely won’t find a teddy bears picnic. Bears, like most of our large predators were hunted to extinction in the UK many years ago (1000 AD) and obviously not satisfied we seem to be hell bent on removing everything else predatory whether it flies, runs or slithers.

The argument that man has to take the place of the predators is also a non-starter. Ecosystems are built on evolutionary change over millions of years and these fragile food webs require natural apex predators to prevent a top down trophic cascade. One has to wonder then why, in these enlightened times are we as a species failing to understand our role and how to best minimise the negative affect our existence has on the planet.

This brings me to the point of predator persecution. The main cause is conflict with man and his interests. Some species are afforded protection but this seems to have little effect on actually saving them. It was great to see the petition to ban driven grouse shooting go past the 100,000 mark and will now be debated in Parliament, so well done to all that signed it and Mark Avery for starting it in the first place but the fact still remains that shooting estates and their keepers are the primary reason for loss of predators. Some can be legally killed including Foxes, Stoats, Weasels and  Corvids and all will meet their end in large numbers in all sorts of barbaric and grisly ways. It may be OK in the eyes of the law but from a moral and ethical standpoint its an abomination. Why should these species have to suffer just because some moron with a personality defect likes to kill a certain species of bird, that’s been artificially reared to provide an unnaturally high population, just for fun?

I’m always happy when someone redresses that balance in just a little way. I was sent these pictures (Police please note – it’s not illegal to report or publish this, I don’t want you banging on my door again) a couple of weeks ago which show both  (assumed) legal and illegal traps.

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This is a Larsen trap, complete with live Crow. The live bird will tempt other birds into the trap whereupon the gamekeeper will return and bash their skulls in with a large stick. The strict requirements for operating these traps are listed below.

The welfare of decoy birds is well-covered by law. If any of the following conditions are not being met then the trap is being operated illegally:

– Suitable food must be readily accessible
– Clean drinkable water must be available all of the time
– There must be shelter which protects the bird from prevailing weather conditions
– There must be a perch placed under the shelter
– No decoy bird can be left in a trap when the trap is not in use
– Operators can not use any live bird or animal which is tethered, or secured by means of         braces or other similar appliances, or is blind, maimed or injured.

Operation of the trap

The law is clear on how a live-catch trap must be operated.

Every trap must be physically inspected at least once every day at intervals of no more than 24 hours – and the inspection must be sufficient to determine whether there are any live or dead birds or other animals in the trap (so eg not a quick glance from a vehicle parked at a distance from the trap).

ALL Non-target species caught in a Larsen or Cage trap must be released UNHARMED immediately upon discovery.

At each inspection any dead animal, including any dead bird, caught in the trap should be removed from it.

Any birds killed in accordance with the general licences must be killed in a quick and humane manner (in Wales the general licences require that any bird held captive before being killed must be killed out of sight of other captive birds). In England a separate licence issued by Natural England is required to a trapped bird.

In Scotland each trap must carry a sign that gives the operator’s ID number and the number of the local police station or the Wildlife Crime Officer for the area.

Now just by looking I can see that several of these license requirements are being breached and therefore the trap could be deemed as illegal. Obviously there is no official monitoring of these requirements so it is no wonder that they are open to so much abuse. Fortunately for this Crow it was removed and sent for rehabilitation and release.

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The sign on top of the trap shows it’s been in use for a lengthy period but what it actually proclaims is a complete lie.

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The license restriction are clearly being ignored so the first statement is wrong for a start. The live bird isn’t being well cared for either and it’s not in accordance with the game conservancy requirements but the most galling statement is the claim that it is being used as some kind of conservation effort to encourage more wildlife.

The simple fact is you won’t find these devices anywhere else apart from shooting estates. They aren’t interested in other wildlife, the only thing are interested in is their profits from shooting and providing the highest number of game birds to shoot for their clients. Needless to say this cage was probably visited by the woodland pixies and won’t be trapping any more Corvids.

The second device is something not often seen and is indeed illegal although freely available to purchase.

raptor trap

Baited with a dead Pheasant a scavenging raptor, most likely a Buzzard or Red Kite will land on the device whereupon it will set off the spring and the net will capture the bird, alive. What happens to the captured bird next is unlikely to be pleasant. The use of this trap is currently being investigated so there is little more I can say however once again it shows what Gamekeepers and shooting estates are up to. These devices were happened upon by members of the public out walking, one wonders how many other horrors would be found on much closer inspection of these private estates (things like this maybe)? Estates which, incidentally we help pay for through farm subsidies. I for one don’t accept this kind of barbarity so dear reader if you do go down to the woods today, just keep your eyes open, you never know what you might find.

If you do find something which you believe to be illegal please report it your local wildlife crime officer or the RSPB here.

Our wildlife is under constant pressure. Pressure from development and the demand for new land due to human expansion, the pressure of modern farming where if it doesn’t make money it’s considered a nuisance and the pressure of those who treat the environment as a plaything, to do with as they wish regardless of the long term consequences. This malevolent force is the same which releases millions of non-native birds into our ecosystems every year, with little chance of survival, purely for the benefit of a very small demographic with the sufficient funds and a love for killing, so they can be blasted from the sky purely for the enjoyment of killing a living thing. These people of course would never do their own dirty work, that is of course down to that most strange and disturbed individual better known as the Gamekeeper. Their sole purpose in life is to protect their valuable crop of Pheasants (or Grouse depending on where you are in the country) from anything which they perceive may do them harm or just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Raptors suffer hugely at the hands of Gamekeepers, illegally persecuted with little chance of retribution although the RSPB and similar organisations are doing their best to bring these people to justice and with some success although seem to fail to take on the shooting industry directly. However what isn’t seen is the tragically legal persecution of our other species which goes on out of sight of the public. A grotesque yet common practice of trapping and snaring anything which just happens to inhabit the same piece of woodland where the pheasant pens are located.

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A detailed report with video and photos came into my possession which has to be put into the public domain. A small section of woodland was discovered which contained no less than 7 Larsen traps and various other cages (some containing live Magpies, designed to catch Corvids), over 10 Fen traps all set and some baited with eggs (these are designed to kill Weasels, Stoats and Rats) and most disgustingly 8 free running snares secured with breeze blocks or other heavy items. Snares are massively cruel and indiscriminate. Anything can become trapped in them and will then go on to suffer a slow and agonizing death or if they’re lucky something slightly less offensive in the form of the Gamekeepers shotgun or blunt instrument to the head. Deer, Foxes and Badgers can all fall prey to snares and family pets are just as likely should they wander in these areas. All of the devices described surrounded a Pheasant pen which in turn was surrounded by lots of shooting towers. Even though the pens were empty of Pheasants, the traps were still in operation.

The images are somewhat disturbing. The stench of death I’m told, will stay with those who were there for a long time to come. If you think this is an acceptable way to treat our wildlife then stop reading now, go back to reading your Daily Mail and prepare to vote UKIP or Tory in May. For everyone else with a decent level of compassion to our fellow beings I suggest you get involved and start to make a difference. Soon our wonderful and diverse countryside and the wildlife that lives in it will be diminished beyond a sustainable level, to be replaced with a sterile environment, overrun with a hapless non-native species and only good for those who like to kill things for fun. This is happening all over the country, what we’ve witnessed here is just a microcosm of the organised and systematic destruction of our native species. This is the true impact of the shooting industry and it’s time to make a change.

Sign the petition to ban snares here.

Oh dear. Not what you’d call good PR in light of recent news stories regarding the Royals and their wildlife saving credentials (also reported here) however I doubt any of those involved actually give any kind of a toss. Over 7000 wild birds and animals were killed on the Windsor Estate last year, figures from FIO request by Animal Aid show.  It really is staggering the level of killing that goes on, not just in the Royal parks and gardens but throughout the countryside. It’s endemic of the attitudes of those employed to manage these estates, it’s a killing culture and until that changes then the slaughter will sadly continue.

The Killing Fields?

The Killing Fields?

Let’s have a look at the numbers.

Pigeons 3,901, Rabbits 1,161, Jackdaws 772, Squirrels 325, Crows 191, Foxes 159, Rats 145, Muntjac 127, Parakeets 118, Magpies 70, Roe 56, Rooks 55, Hares 28, Jays 9, Moles 9, Mink 3.

Now let’s analyse the so called justification used for all that killing.

Foxes – Killed to save game birds. Well here we go again. I’m getting a bit fed up with this argument. Millions of pheasants are intensively reared each year and released into the countryside with little hope of survival if they’re not blasted out of the air by a toff wearing tweed or Barbour. Losing a few to Basil the Brush isn’t going to make any kind of a dent in the profits and removing a self-regulating (population wise) native predator is counterproductive as well as morally repugnant.

Corvids (Crows, Magpies, Rooks and Jays) – Removed (pfft . . . slaughtered more like) at the request of tenant farmers. I’ll tackle these all in one go as they’re very similar. Corvids are highly intelligent and capable of advanced problem solving and using tools. Because of this they’re highly adaptable and successful. They tend to get demonised (even by some bird watchers) for their egg & young bird predation (particularly the Magpie) however they’re not the cause in the decline of our songbird species. That’s largely due to habitat loss and modern industrial farming methods. They also eat lots of what farmers would deem as invertebrate pests so getting rid of them is a huge case of shooting yourself in your welly boot clad foot from the farmers point of view. Again, no justification there.

Moles – Killed to preserve the formal parks and sports ground. You can remove Moles humanely without the need to kill them and if you’re do damn precious about your lawn put an underground Mole fence round it to stop them getting in in the first place. A humane Mole trap only costs a fiver or so and I’m pretty sure the Royal estates aren’t short for a bob or two.

Hares – Just shot for sport I guess. I’ve covered this already (see link in first para) so won’t do it all again but despite a biodiversity action plan in place to reverse the trend in their decline they have little protection and while the estates are managed by a pro shooting manager then little will change.

KILL IT & KILL IT SOME MORE!

KILL IT & KILL IT SOME MORE!

Pigeons & Rabbits – At the request of tenant farmers. While common as species I doubt they do any real significant damage in the grand scheme of things and can’t help but think most were shot for the enjoyment of shooting a living wild target. It’s easy to put bird scarers up that’ll keep hungry beaks away from your crops.

Deer & Squirrels – At the request of the foresters. Well the Grey Squirrel is an invasive species but it’s here to stay now and while they can cause some damage I doubt killing them will be particularly effective. I think if they were encroaching on the native Red Squirrel habitat then there could be a justification but sadly the Red was pushed out of that part of England a long time ago. The killing of Deer will be justified by claiming a lack of apex predators to control numbers. Apex predators’ humans decimated a long time ago. We’re now just moving down the food chain as species bite the dust one by one. It’s a totally unsustainable process and has to stop.

Just to note, the Crown Estate’s net revenue surplus (profit) for the year that ended 31 March 2013 was £252.6 million. The Windsor portfolio is valued at £204million. I think they can afford to change.

While I’m having a whinge I noted that during the NFU conference this week (minus Paterson who still in hiding and wimping out) that farmers were still keen to get on with the slaughter of a protected species. Not only that but expected the tax payer to foot the bill. Well they can fuck off quite frankly. I’m not going to pay for you to free up land so you can make more money. George Useless sitting in for Paterson claims any decision on the roll out of the cull will be based on science, that’s it ladies and gents, you heard it first here – THERE WILL BE NO CULL.

But their science seems to be different from everyone else’s.

A final note about Gavin Grant who will step down as Chief Executive of the RSPCA due to a health issue. Gavin was often claimed by those who sought to discredit the organisation (The Countryside Alliance & its support) as controversial and leading the RSPCA into animal rights. Well cruelty is a right every animal should not to have to suffer regardless of whether it’s Tiddles the tabby, Flossy the sheep or indeed a Fox. Hopefully his replacement will be equally proactive and I hope Gavin returns to full health soon