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Gamekeeper fined after tawny owl caught in illegal trap

Last modified: 31 July 2014

Injured twany owl

Badly injured: the tawny owl after it was set free from the trap

Image: The RSPB

A gamekeeper has been fined £700 after he set an illegal trap and the tawny owl caught in it was so badly injured that it had to be euthanised.

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

A member of the public out for a walk came across the severely injured tawny owl, caught in a metal spring trap attached by a piece of wire to the corner post of a pheasant release pen.

These types of trap 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 member of the public was eventually able to release the bird, and 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. The bird was immediately taken to a vet who euthanised it 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 has to do more to prevent these sorts of incidents happening.'

Footage

Our team recorded some footage of the injured tawny owl. PLEASE BE AWARE, the injuries are quite graphic and may be distressing.

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