“I honestly think that one day we are going to have a human fatality” – Lincolnshire Police warn of danger of bird of prey poisonings

A wildlife crime officer from Lincolnshire Police is warning of the risk to humans, dogs and cats from the dangerous substances used to illegally kill birds of prey.

Detective Constable Aaron Flint, from the Lincolnshire Police Rural Crime Action Team, is quoted in an article published two days ago on the BBC News website (here), where he says he is currently investigating four cases of bird poisonings (some examples here and here).

Detective Constable Aaron Flint from Lincolnshire Police’s Rural Crime Action Team

“It’s too many and it’s only a small proportion of the number of birds killed,” he said.

The wildlife officer said the substances used posed a real danger to dogs and cats, as well as people.

“I honestly think that one day we are going to have a human fatality.”

“Often the offenders will get a pigeon or a pheasant – cut it open and rip out the flesh so the meat is exposed and sprinkle on some poison.

“The poisons are often blue or green – or some other bright colour a child may be attracted to, and I really fear that one day a child is going to come across this, [touch it] and put their fingers in their mouth.”

He said those involved often used poison in an attempt to protect game birds, pigeons and chickens and wild fowl, with offending often fuelled by money.

The BBC article also quotes Howard Jones, an investigator from the RSPB, after the RSPB identified Lincolnshire as a ‘national hotspot’ for bird of prey persecution and reiterated that incidents are often linked to the raptors being targeted to protect pheasants and partridges raised for organised shoots.

“The danger with poisons is that they are completely indiscriminate,” said Howard.

The investigations officer said they had seen a record number of incidents across the UK in recent years, including in Norfolk, Dorset and Yorkshire, with a significant number of reports currently being investigated in Lincolnshire.

According to Mr Jones, the “vast majority” of cases being dealt with by the courts involved gamekeepers.

He said the motivation to kill birds of prey was driven by the fact they were viewed as a predator of game birds, but the sentences handed out were often too lenient to act as a deterrent.

Cases involving poisons or illegal shooting should result in a jail sentence, he said.

“If there is someone out there placing poison baits in the open countryside anything that can come into contact with the poison is at risk,” he said.

“It is highly dangerous – some of the substances being used would be fatal to humans,” he added.

Well done to DC Aaron Flint and his colleagues at Lincolnshire Police. This is exactly the sort of proactive police messaging, and strong partnership-working, that should be routine rather than the exception.

25 thoughts on ““I honestly think that one day we are going to have a human fatality” – Lincolnshire Police warn of danger of bird of prey poisonings”

  1. Sadly I doubt very much if those who poison bait to kill raptors will take heed of Detective Constable Aaron Flint’s very sound advice. Nor will they care very much either as profit is the be all and end all for them it would seem.
    Indeed, very well done to DC Aaron Flint and his colleagues at Lincolnshire Police for making this very sound statement. I just hope that it doesn’t take a human fatality for government to finally sit up and take notice of what is being said and actually do something about it; they don’t seem bothered about raptor deaths nor any other wildlife for that matter.
    They need to act before it is too late; they have been warned

    1. I consider myself lucky and naïve. A few years ago I came across slabs of pheasant breast placed on open ground outside a rearing pen. I stupidly picked them up and threw them out of site under a bush. Later on I fully comprehended what was going on. No adverse reactions to me but I missed the opportunity to notify the police. At the time I wasn`t aware of just how lethal these modern poisons are.

  2. I believe that if these poisoning crimes were being committed by any other than those involved in game shooting , the full force of the law would be brought down on them and there would be a concerted effort to stamp this out due to public safety fears. This is just another example of how those at the top in law enforcement bend over backwards to appease the establishment.

    1. Well said! And not just those at the top in law enforcement, either, but those at the top in certain mass media and Government Departments, too. Because the law-breaking emanates from landed aristocratic and establishment shooters, there is a widespread UK conspiracy to try and cover it all up…

  3. This is the way it should be…all the time.

    These poisons are regulated in there use…because they are dangerous.
    Some of these poisons are so dangerous they have been banned.

    If the police know these poisons have been used in the open, introducing a huge risk to people, pets, wildlife and domestic livestock and they do not issue loud and clear public warnings, then they are negligent to the point where they may as well commit the offences themselves. They have a duty of care regardless of how they may think it might undermine an investigation.

    1. “Custodial sentences always please. I know I keep pleading this, but what else works?”

      How about getting the law on appeals changed, then? Have you written to the Attorney General and your MP about such a change, because they are the only people who can change things.

      1. Indeed I have raised the issue with my MP, the right execrable James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire, apparently the application of the law and sentencing is not under the purview of politicians and he is not interested in agitating for a change in the law.

        1. “apparently the application of the law and sentencing is not under the purview of politicians”

          Then he is lying to you.

          https://www.gov.uk/ask-crown-court-sentence-review

          Click to access SN00512.pdf

          https://www.parallelparliament.co.uk/debate/2021-05-25/commons/westminster-hall/unduly-lenient-sentence-scheme

          The last comment in the Parliamentary debate Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme, WestMinster Hall, 25th May 2021 was:

          “Let’s face it, if we were creating a criminal justice system today, we would not create one like this. There is no way that we would say that the defence can appeal against anything but the prosecution cannot. That is simply not how anyone would create a system that rightly prides itself on balance and fairness. As far as the unduly lenient sentence scheme is concerned, we do not yet have that, so I would ask that this process, which has rightly been pursued by the Ministry, continues to look at what other offences can be brought into the scope of the scheme, so that we can have equality of arms and ensure that justice prevails, which is, after all, what we all seek to achieve.”

          The ‘other offences’ – as far as this blog is concerned – which should be brought into the scheme are animal abuse and wildlife crime (both of which are currently exempt by law). Perhaps James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire does not accept that it is Parliament which sets the law?

  4. Excellent news! That will make the #£@!%£s think again, hopefully. Well done. I did say here before to take heart, the Truth will always win in the end.

  5. I whole heartedly agree with all the above comments. I would like to applaud DC Aaron Flint for all his dedicated work in the field and for his sound and enlightening statement, how many countryside lovers and users (outside this forum) are aware of what the shooting fraternity get upto and the very real dangers it poses to them and their pets. Well done DC Flint

  6. At the end of the day these gamekeepers are only doing what their boss (The Landowner) tells them to do. So as well as custodial sentence for the GK. The damn landowner needs to be dealt with Too! As if that’s going to happen. Same with everything ie drug crimes etc. Rarely do they get the head of the snake… It’s sickening. Too many rich influential people love this ‘sport’ ☹️

  7. Makes an interesting contrast to the Police Scotland poisoned Raven “which Lothian?” case featured on this site on 2nd Jan.

  8. Many years ago, I remember reading in the Sunday Post an article on people finding hens’ eggs on moorland areas, with the subsequent finding of them containing toxic substances. They were obviously meant to be eaten by Corvids, or whatever species could have a partiality towards game birds. Over the intervening years similar articles have appeared in the press and other forms of the media. This, and other forms of persecution of wild animals that may threaten the shooting of game birds industry, have widely informed a once unaware general public of the threat to Birds of Prey, and other vital parts of the biodiversity of our countryside.

    With blood sports such as fox hunting, badger baiting and hare coursing gaining a vociferous opposition, laws were passed to appease this compassionate concern. However, those caught were lightly dealt with by the judiciary, some of whom were found to be part of the centuries-old “dictatorship” of the hunting establishment, whose cruel reign was coming under threat from the determined courage of an angry student body, and members of the public, long-awaiting a force to coalesce all the individuals and small groups grossly offended about what they encountered in the countryside regarding blood sports. What we have is a political class who seem to acquiesce to the Nimrods of our society in their claims to be vital to the rural economy, with their “country sports”. Such an arrogant class, and seemingly immune to the laws governing toxic poisons and cruel methods of treating wildlife, with a grip on our politicians and law enforcement establishment, has to be vociferously challenged. Our politicians use the excuse that they have more important items on their respective agendas to deal with, however, on examining that claim, they do not seem to be very effective in dealing with crime in general, and other matters of public concern. Conservation of species and animal welfare have become such important parts of the plan to save the Earth from climate change, that it should come pass, that a very heavy international hand will have to come to exist enforce compliance all over the planet. Laying out toxins and other lethal devices to destroy wildlife and collaterally kill domestic pets along with children.

  9. DC Flint is bang on about the bright colour of some poisons potentially attracting children to inspect and handle them. This is a key reason why in the past and right up today so many children are killed and maimed in war zones, they see unusual sometimes shiny unexploded ammunition, discarded firearms and mines that pique their curiosity – an out of place weird colour on a dead animal would do that too. There will be certain situations where their lower perspective will let them spot things before adults do, and then rush over to them before adults can, or even know to intervene.

  10. The problem is the gamekeepers are carrying out the orders of their task masters. If they don’t they not only lose the job but their house as well. It’s the estate owners who are never called to account.
    Let’s hope that DC Flint doesn’t end up on long term sick leave for speaking out.

  11. In light of the recent court case banning wild camping on Dartmoor, with a few instances of inconsiderate camping cited as one of the reasons for an outright ban. However the many convictions of gamekeepers for wildlife crimes and the many more instances of raptor crime doesn’t appear to pass the same evidence threshold in the eyes of the landowners, an no ban on driven shooting is justified apparently.

  12. There has already been a lot written about this misuse of poisons to illegally target birds of prey and the dangers that use of these poisons, poses to the public, their pets and other wildlife. It wasn’t that long ago that the use of poisons in Nidderdale AONB attracted media attention due to the death of a walkers dog and serious illness to another dog.
    Despite the very apparent danger poisons present, and the public anger about the risk to human and animal health, it appears that nothing has been done to properly tackle this menace.
    It would appear to be another example of politicians looking the other way, rather than deal with issues which seemingly emanate from the use of land by the powerful and privileged for gamebird shooting.
    Like with so many other wildlife crimes and raptor persecution incidents, it is extremely difficult for the police to identify the perpetrators and bring the criminals to justice.

    So here is a suggestion for further discussion-

    We live in a society which is becoming increasingly risk adverse, and where there is an expectation that risk assessments will be carried out on all aspects of our lives, with action taken to minimise any risks found.
    This has been backed up by appropriate Health and Safety legislation.
    There is already existing legislation in the tort of negligence through the Occupiers Liability Acts which imposes a duty of care by land owners on all visitors to land.

    Since the use of these poisons in the countryside presents a real risk to humans, pets and livestock, perhaps when poison is found on land whether secreted in bait, just left out to be ingested by wildlife, or wildlife is found which has died due to poisoning, then all public access to that land should be restricted, and such a restriction would be applicable to rights of way, open access land and common land in a restriction zone around where the poison, or dead animal was found.

    Footpaths would be closed, and rights of access denied, with notices going up advising the public to “keep out” due to the dangers presented by coming into contact with poison. (The countryside was virtually closed to public access during the foot and mouth outbreak some years back.)

    Likewise if the use of poison was found on privately owned land, then the land owner would be required to erect warning notices advising the public of the potential danger, in the same way that utility companies or the MOD warn of the danger of entering any of their land where a potential danger exists. (Failure to erect such notices would render a landowner liable to prosecution should a member of public or their animals be harmed in any way by poison.)

    If we consider the recent media attention, and outcry from groups like the ramblers etc over the recent decision to ban wild camping on Dartmoor, then we can only imagine how much louder would be the outcry if areas of our National Parks, AONB’s, footpaths or open access land were closed because a poison, or wildlife had been found which showed death caused by ingestion of poison.

    I should imagine the media attention and public anger would be such that politicians would find it very difficult to look in the other direction, as the public would demand something was done about the imposition upon their freedoms.
    This might just focus minds enough to actually do something about the criminals who cause so much misery to the nations wildlife.

  13. Aye, I know who would be first to put the “Access Land Closed” signs out. They would be out with their staplers tacking little photocopied notices in poly-pockets to gateposts quicker than the proverbial off a hot shovel!

    1. I can see that. However, John L is right to point out the prima facie case of yet another anomaly in the way the law is applied (or not!) regarding shooting estates. And it also points yet more legal fingers to the negligent way the Dorset Police carried out their duties regarding the Shaftesbury Estate White-Tailed Eagle poisoning incident.

      1. I agree with you both of course. I’m just finding amusement with the idea that NE could even give them some extra “CRoW closure days” for poisoning incidents…”At Land Managers Discretion” etc

    2. Thanks for your responses. If landowners closed access land, then hopefully that would be a self defeating exercise, in that by closing access to land which the public should have a right to access it would draw attention, anger and vociferous condemnation from large parts of our society who until now have been very quiet on the issue of raptor persecution.

      I would hope that should people who normally just visit the countryside for recreational purposes find that they could no longer engage in that recreation because the land was closed due to poisons having been found, then whilst they may have little concerns about wildlife, they would be very angry about the restrictions on their personal freedom.

      Human nature is such that we are usually motivated to do something only when it impacts on us personally. By impacting personal freedom and causing huge public anger, I would hope would be something politicians could not ignore, and might be the catalyst for real reforms into the way the countryside is managed.
      The issue of course is as Keith correctly points out is to get the normal health and safety risk assessments methodology applied to land used for shooting and where something which poses a potential risk is properly risk assessed and appropriate control measures put in place.

    3. Plenty of signs up saying “ Beware of the Bull” . With nothing in field . Or signs up saying “ Men working No Access., no one for miles.

  14. Thank you Lincolnshire Police. Having hid the poisoning of a red kite & a raven from the public Police Scotland have a lot to learn from you. Though its already been said, the buck stops with the Scottish Government.

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