Bird crime crackdown in Devon after record number of poisonings last year
A police operation involving the use of CCTV has been relaunched in Devon to combat the theft of bird eggs and the poisoning of birds of prey.
Operation Wilderness, which was introduced in the region last year, is designed to fight the persecution of birds, say police.
Wild birds' breeding season begins soon and police are appealing to the public to be the ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground and inform them of any suspicious people they may see at nesting sites.
In the past the region's birds have been targeted by egg collectors and others intent on breaking the law when near to the nests of some species.
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In 2011 Devon made national headlines when a record number of birds of prey were found poisoned in the area, among these were very rare and specially protected species.
Operation Wilderness uses covert camera technology installed at locations within the region near to the nests.
Their purpose is to capture images of any people going to near to the nest sites. This enables the police to gain vital evidence needed for prosecutions.
Cameras will again be deployed around Devon at sensitive nest sites in an attempt to deter and detect these offences, for which sentences can attract a 6 month prison sentence or a fine of up to £5,000.
The breeding season for some of Devon’s rarest breeding birds begins during late March and continues into the summer, for some species this finishes in August.
PC Josh Marshall, Wildlife Crime Officer within Devon, said: “2012 was a great year for these rare species in the region and Devon and Cornwall Police would like to repeat the success this year.
“Sadly, in some cased illegal activity has led to the disappearance of some species from the region but with the public’s help we want to minimise the risk of that happening again.”
Within the region birds listed under schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 include the goshawk, peregrine falcon, hobby and barn owl breed.
Smaller species such as the nationally rare cirl bunting which are only found in the South West also breed in numbers here.
Other species that breed within the region are amongst others are Dartford warbler, woodlark, kingfisher, crossbill, and cettis warbler.