Sting of the Day: Gamekeeper in Basingstoke fined for illegally setting traps

A gamekeeper has been fined £700 after admitting to setting an illegal trap that captured a Tawny Owl. The bird was so badly injured it had to be euthanised, the RSPB has said.

Mr Stevens, 42, of Quarry Cottages, Sydmonton, near Basingstoke, is a self-employed gamekeeper who works on land near Kingsclere, Basingstoke. He pleaded guilty yesterday (31 July 2014) to two charges of illegally setting spring traps in August and September last year. He was ordered to pay £650 costs and a victim surcharge of £50.

tawny owl

Spring traps can only legally be used under cover to target small mammals. They cannot be set in circumstances where birds or other animals could get caught.

The severely injured owl was found on 19 August 2013 by a member of the public out for a walk. The bird was caught in a metal spring trap attached by a piece of wire to the corner post of a pheasant release pen.

The bird was released but the finder was unable to carry it away from the scene, and so contacted the RSPB and the Hampshire Constabulary. RSPB officers attended the site to rescue the Tawny Owl which had severe crush injuries to its left leg. It was immediately taken to a vet who had to put it down a short while later.

Hampshire Constabulary returned to the site with Mr Stevens in September and found another spring trap in the same place. This was positioned on a small platform on top of a post and partially covered with mesh. Stevens later claimed both spring traps had been originally set for squirrels and that owls had not deliberately been targeted.

Guy Shorrock, an RSPB Senior Investigations Officer, said: “Spring traps are routinely used to control small mammals and an experienced gamekeeper like Mr Stevens should know exactly how to use them properly.

“Whatever his intention, the fact remains a Tawny Owl was caught in an illegal trap and suffered horrific injuries. There continues to be a serious problem with the illegal persecution of birds of prey and owls on some game shooting estates. The shooting industry must do more to prevent these sorts of incidents happening.”

Article taken from: http://www.birdwatch.co.uk/channel/newsitem.asp?c=11&cate=__15567

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