Dead kestrels & hedgehogs dumped in layby on Isle of Sheppey, Kent

Gruesome photographs have emerged this morning of dead wildlife found dumped in a pile in a layby near Harty on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.

The person who found the corpses (@neish397) identified them as three kestrels and ten hedgehogs. He posted the photos on Twitter and asked for advice about what to do. He tried to report this incident as a suspected wildlife crime to Kent Police using the 101 reporting system but was apparently told by a call handler that he needed to report it online.

Fortunately, the RSPB Investigations team were also alerted and are currently dealing with this incident.

19 thoughts on “Dead kestrels & hedgehogs dumped in layby on Isle of Sheppey, Kent”

  1. I’m repeating myself, but with the various lockdowns it seems that casual wildlife killers became somewhat emboldened, swans in local parks were obvious first targets. Clearly there are more of these nutcases and thugs and they’re doing more harm than was thought. If spending thousands of pounds to stand in a butt and have birds driven towards you so you can test your shooting skills on them is seen as acceptable, even classy, what sort of message does that send out? They might have been dumped in a layby for convenience or as a place where they’d certainly be found. Was this a two finger salute to animal lovers and conservationists? Three kestrels is the total number I’ve seen in the past year, and it must be more than a decade since I’ve seen a total of ten hedgehogs, way less than one a year. There’s a reservoir of animal cruelty within the general public that needs tackling too, the first step will be acknowledging how much there is which will be very unpleasant.

  2. I appreciate that it takes some kind of sick mind to carry out such a deed, but I think there is also a psychological point which should be asked. Why would the perpetrators dump the carcasses in a spot where they are sure to be found?? Unfortunately the person/s carrying out such acts also knows that the chances of being caught and prosecuted are almost zero. Do they do so just to annoy animal lovers??

    1. I strongly suspect your last point is spot on. Over the past few years we’ve had a couple of otters killed by snares dumped on a public footpath in Bedfordshire. Another illegally killed otter was left in a layby in Cornwall and then there have been cases where rare birds that had been delighting birdwatchers were shot and left in prominent locations. One was a red footed falcon (they hover like kestrels so easy to spot and shoot I would imagine) killed in Cambridgeshire and a little bustard in Norfolk What are the chances these birds were NOT specifically targeted, an idiot with a gun just happened to stroll past?

      A couple of years ago a friend told me that a pair of avocets were breeding at my local RSPB reserve, but to keep it to myself. My first thought was not keeping them safe from egg collectors, but malicious gits who would get pleasure out of sabotaging their breeding attempt (which wouldn’t have taken much) to piss us off and/or try and blacken the RSPB’s reputation, it was quite a feather in their cap to have Scotland’s only pair of avocets on their small reserve. Given the way they’ve tried to smear the RSPB over the years and harassed conservationists is this too far fetched a concern? I really, really hope so, but there’s a wee knot in my stomach none the less.

      1. Slightly annoyed that I didn’t get to see the avocets despite driving past every day, especially as a senior RSPB official posted about them on Birdtrack (made secret quite quickly!) Ne er had time to follow it up.

        1. The news was made public a few days after my pal had informed me. I never got to see them either, but at least they seem to have raised a brood successfully. I wonder what eight year old me in 1975 would have thought if he’d known one day avocets would be nesting a few miles away. Hopefully red kite and marsh harrier too in the near future.

  3. What is concerning is police indifference.

    We had a Buzzard found dead in suspicious circumstances and the police did not want to know. They told me to contact the RSPCA. That was a waste of time (not knocking them: after years of sustained hostility aimed at crippling them from animal abusers, Covid seems to have done to their funding what their haters failed to do, but they do need a better reporting methodology) but the RSPB were superb: offering to pick up the cost of having my local vet x-ray the bird and putting me in touch with the Bird of Prey Monitoring Service so they could do the toxicology. My local vet was also superb – not charging for their time and x-rays – and the BPMS were also excellent.

    The problem for me is that I think this should have all gone through the police Wildlife Crimes Unit. Investigations like this should be paid for out of central taxation by a dedicated wildlife crimes unit, not left to charities / membership organisations who depend on voluntary public contributions to do the investigative work.

    1. I once reported to the Police a ‘tree surgeon’ who I had witnessed removing a crow’s nest, together with its fledglings, from a tree he wanted to pollard, and – despite quoting the Wildlife and Countryside Act – the call handler insisted that it was not a crime (and, therefore, not a Police matter) to remove any bird’s nest….

      The ‘tree surgeon’ was persuaded to place the nest and its contents in a nearby small tree (to which the adults returned to serve) and I was later informed that the call handler was to be ‘sent for re-training’…

      1. Yes this is really worrying. Our local wood sits in an underprivileged area and sees an awful lot of vandalism – trees being set at fire at their base so they become unstable, recycling bins brought in then set alight and general mayhem such as motor bikes tearing down foot paths. When we were working there we were informed by quite a few locals they’d called the local police station about these incidents only to be told it was ‘ok it’s only the glen’ or ‘if they’re there they’re not causing problems anywhere else’. At a wildlife event we held there a community police officer reiterated the point to my mother ‘we like the glen, if they’re in there they’re not somewhere else’.

        Yes trashing a mere wood was ok because it kept the kids occupied. The fact that older kids were effectively using the place as a sort of vandalism academy to show younger ones on setting fires in the middle of footbridges etc was beside the point – I once put out a fire a twenty something arsehole had started at the base of a mature tree setting a not too fine example to the eight or so primary school age children he was looking after (the mind boggles).

        I’ve spoken to other people and they’ve had similar experiences in their areas, it seems to be an attitude problem at too many police stations. This doesn’t bode well if we’re going to knuckle down on the casual killing of wildlife by air gun etc that must be occurring in the same places – our own wood is effectively do what you like you won’t be bothered. A couple of years ago I was told a buzzard had been killed there with an airgun, I couldn’t verify it, but it was all too plausible there had certainly been a lot of pot shots taken with air rifles there when I was a kid and I doubt it’s totally stopped.

        Call handlers can be appallingly ill informed/trained. A relative once called the same local police station to complain about a load of tyres being set alight. The officer she dealt with informed her with some authority that people were permitted to burn a certain number of tyres in open situations! Total, total crap of course. I once called myself about a problem neighbour and was told to just grin and bear it. How well versed are these call handlers likely to be with the ins and outs of wildlife crime?

  4. There are enough seriously deranged wildlife criminals hidden in plain sight within the shooting community to commit crimes like these for effect. However I do not believe this was the case here. If it had occurred in the area where i live I would immediately think “gamekeeper” as I have lived in game shooting locations long enough to know that the only people to actively kill hedgehogs are those working in that employment. Kestrels would join the list as they come under the heading of “hooked bill.” The justification being that even if they do not predate pheasanta and red legs they would take their eggs. Yup, it’s that small a mind involved in crimes like these.
    In my opinion the only way to stop these folk is by eye watering terms of imprisonment, as it is increasingly obvious nothing else works. Those that employ them, or frequent their shoots, simply do not care.

  5. I know this area well. Sandwiched between 2 NNRs and rspb chapel fleet raptor viewing point. Also an area that suffers from a lot of fly tipping. I suspect these animals died because of an indiscriminate use of poisons either in the garden or in agriculture – after all nobody goes out of their way to kill hedgehogs do they? Do they?

    1. Yes, Gazza, they do. It is, and always has been, standard procedure for gamekeepers and their assistants to kill them, hedgehogs, on sight. This is especially prevalent during the hours of darkness when they are often lit up on country roads and tracks. The rational? They eat eggs.

  6. This looks to me like a throw back to when I was a teenager in the sixties, as this is the sort of stuff we found then either on or near to a pheasant keepers gibbet. One of the birds is a Kestrel and another a Sparrowhawk. Be interesting to see how they died my guess would be shot, not sure about the hedgehogs. Hogs used to be disliked by keepers because of folk tales and bullshit about them predating nests. We and our wildlife need saving from such guardians of the countryside.

  7. The vile individual responsible for this needs to be found without delay.Clearly this is a criminal act and Kent Police are wrong just to brush it off onto an online form just as a tick box exercise.I hope the RSPB investigators will work with Police wildlife officers (if Kent Police have one) and apprehend the offenders.

  8. By my reckoning, it’s only half a mile from the RSPB Chapel Fleet Raptor Viewing Point so if they were dumped to make some sort of point I’m surprised that they weren’t dumped there (unless birders were present, less likely in summer). Huge parts of the area are given over to pheasant shoots yet it continues to be one of the best in SE England for raptors (hosting the county’s dwindling wintering population of Hen Harriers, numerous Marsh Harriers, Buzzards (inc. the occasional Rough-leg) & falcons plus SE & Barn Owls suggesting it’s far from a persecution hotspot (quite the opposite). Let’s hope this isn’t a sign of things to come but my guess is that the local shooters won’t be best pleased about this discovery either.

  9. This incident on the face of it has all the hallmarks of wildlife crime.

    In the Parliamentary Select Committee on Home Affairs Seventh Report it states:

    “The Statement of Common Purpose and Values for the Police Service sets out that:
    The purpose of the police service is to uphold the law fairly and firmly; to prevent crime; to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law; and to keep the Queen’s Peace; to protect, help and reassure the community; and to be seen to do all this with integrity, common sense and sound judgement.”

    According to the National Wildlife Crime Unit- raptor persecution is a national priority wildlife crime.

    So it is very disappointing that it appears as though the investigation into the death of these raptors and hedgehogs is being undertaken by a charity rather than the police.

    Hopefully once the preliminary enquiries are complete, and if it is established a crime has been committed then some partnership working between the police and the RSPB will occur??

    From reading what is reported, it does raise the question, as to why the police didn’t take the initial crime report via the telephone 101 system, and expected the person reporting to do this on line? Not everyone has internet access, and by failing to take the crime report on initial police contact, what message does this send?

    I understood Operation Owl, an initiative, supported and governed by the National Police Chiefs Council Wildlife Crime & Rural Affairs portfolio was supposed to increase public awareness and support in tackling raptor crimes.
    So, I also fail to understand how this response from the police will encourage the public to report suspected raptor crimes?

    Maybe this is a matter the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group need to address, as there appears to be a gulf between stated intentions and what is actually happening in some police force areas.

    (This reported incident in Kent comes only 2 days after the reported matter in Scotland involving 5 eagles found dead, where public awareness has apparently been generated by the media’s own enquiries rather than a police press release.)

    Whilst there might be good practice in some police force areas, the national picture regarding the police response to raptor persecution doesn’t appear very positive or encouraging to me.

    1. I think a lot of it has to do with the individual Police Officer you find yourself having to deal with. If they are a shooter – or a hunt supporter – no chance! The action to take is always to raise a complaint if you believe you have been short-changed. If everybody was to do this it might eventually have some effect.

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