A gamekeeper has been fined after a sparrowhawk starved to death in freezing weather in a trap.
An investigation was launched after a member of the public found the raptor alive in a cage on February 10 on land near the village of Bosley, six miles south of Macclesfield, in Cheshire.
Cage traps are designed so the bird can get in but not out. They can be used legally, under license, to control crows, and must be checked every 24 hours. Any non-target birds caught accidentally must be released unharmed during daily inspections.
There was snow on the ground and no shelter or water for the sparrowhawk when it was discovered by a member of the public in Cheshire. The door to the trap was closed, so the member of the public opened it slightly, hoping the sparrowhawk would escape.
Concerned for the bird’s welfare, they later provided the trap’s location to the RSPB. RSPB Investigators attended the following day, February 17, to find the bird dead inside the trap. There were also the remains of a blackbird, which had presumably attracted the sparrowhawk inside, and some grain, which had presumably attracted the blackbird. Despite the door being ajar, it appeared the sparrowhawk had been unable to escape and starved to death.
Cheshire Police were notified and the body of the bird sent for post-mortem examination. A veterinary pathologist confirmed the bird had died of starvation and would have experienced considerable unnecessary suffering inside the trap. Two men were later interviewed by the police and reported for offences in relation to the unlawful use of the trap.
At Manchester Magistrates’ court Hilton Prest pleaded guilty to unlawfully using a trap contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act. He was fined £800, plus £85 costs and £80 victim surcharge. A charge against a second man was discontinued.
District Judge Mr Jack McGarver said that he accepted that the act was careless rather than reckless or intentional, but that the degree of carelessness was high, and that it was well below the standard that was expected. He added: “The sparrowhawk is a beautiful native creature which is entitled to be protected.”
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