A GAME keeper set out to protect his pheasants by trapping some of Britain’s rarest birds of prey using illegal cages baited with live pigeons, a court heard yesterday (Thursday, February 21).

Shaun Allanson, 37, subsidised his income from working on the Blansby Park near Pickering, North Yorkshire, by breeding and selling game birds to shooting parties.

Goshawks, so rare they were once declared extinct, were a known predator on the estate but protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Natural England officer Justine Clark was carrying out a survey at Blansby Park when she stumbled across one of Allanson’s illegal cages, Scarborough Magistrates' Court heard.

It was inside a pheasant pen on the estate which was surrounded by a six foot high electric fence.

She found a wire cage “letter box trap” - with a slot just big enough for a bird to get in but not out again.

“Inside was a buzzard eating what appeared to be a freshly killed pigeon,” said Sarah Tyrer, prosecuting for the RSPB.

“Her immediate thought was that this was an illegal trap. Looking inside she could see food, water, and a perch.

“She released the buzzard and reported the matter to police.”

In follow up visits by police, a pigeon skull was found in the bottom of the cage, and a second small trap was discovered hidden in the pen 100ft from the bigger one.

The court heard such cages were not illegal but were only supposed to be used for catching crows at certain times and not baited with live pigeons.

Tim Ryan, defending, said the offences had already cost his client his job and could cost him his firearms certificates.

He added: “He very much regrets having committed these offences. He realises how stupid he has been and the consequences for him, his partner and the two children.”

The Northern Echo: A rare goshawk
Targeted: A rare goshawk

Allanson, whose family home is in Westgate, Pickering, but lives with his partner and their two children in Priest Close, Hunmanby, was given a community order, requiring him to do 120 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £85 court costs.

He admitted two offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, one of capturing a buzzard and another of using a cage for the purpose of injuring, killing or taking wild birds in August last year.

Guy Shorrock, Senior Investigating Officer for the RSPB, said: “Persecution is an extremely serious problem. I have been picking up injured, poisoned or shot wild birds for 20 years and am fed up with it.

“North Yorkshire has the worst problem with wild birds shot, caught or poisoned."

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