The discovery of a buzzard left with horrific injuries after being caught in an illegal leg hold trap near Malton in North Yorkshire has prompted a police investigation.
The male bird had to be humanely destroyed by a vet after it was found grounded in a stubble field at Norton near Malton.
Jean Thorpe, who runs Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation based in Norton, explained: “A local racehorse trainer called me out after spotting the buzzard downed in a stubble field off Welham Road, and between us we caught the bird.”
Jean, who is an accredited raptor rescue rehabilitator, took the stricken bird to vet Mark Naguib at the Battleflats Veterinary Clinic in Stamford Bridge. Jean and Mark have worked together closely on many occasions in the past.
An examination, followed by an x-ray, confirmed that the buzzard had suffered a badly broken leg, and the nature of its injuries suggested that it had been illegally caught in a device known as a fenn trap.
Jean said: “The bird’s thigh was badly broken with a messy dislocation of the joint where it had struggled to free itself. The injuries were at least a week old.
“Infection and a lack of food had weakened the bird, and he’d become visible in the stubble field. The injured leg was cold with no blood supply.
“Sadly, the decision had to be taken to put the bird to sleep.”
Although the buzzard’s wings were intact and the x-ray didn’t show any shotgun pellets in its body, Jean and Mark noticed that its flight feathers were chipped, suggesting that someone may have also fired at the bird with a shotgun.
Fenn traps are metal devices with jaws that snap closed when activated and they are sometimes used to catch rats and other vermin. Some sort of bait is used as a lure.
However, the traps must be covered by a tunnel or cage of some sort to ensure that birds cannot land on them. It is against the law to set fenn traps out in the open. It is also against the law to kill or injure a buzzard - or take, damage or destroy the nest of a buzzard - as they are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Jean is now trying to raise awareness among members of the public of what fenn traps look like so that people can report any that are being used illegally.
She said: “If you see a fenn trap left on a fence post or pole, the chances are it has been deliberately set to catch birds of prey, which is illegal. Setting them in the open, without a cover over, is also illegal.
“This incident shows, yet again, why North Yorkshire has such a terrible reputation for the persecution of birds of prey.
“I would urge anyone who sees an illegally set fenn trap or is aware of the persecution of bird of prey to contact North Yorkshire Police, the RSPB or me.”
Anyone with information about this or other cases of wildlife crime in the area is asked to contact PC Jez Walmsley of North Yorkshire Police, who is a wildlife crime officer based at Malton, by telephoning 101.
Alternatively, contact the RSPB’s Investigations section on 01767 680551 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with details.
Jean founded Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation in 2005 and she runs the service on the back of donations and her own efforts.
Her passion for animal rescue was sparked as a girl, when, aged around 10, a lapwing with a broken wing was brought to her home.
Over the years people got to know about her love of animals and have been bringing casualties to her home in Norton.
Jean was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours in recognition of the many years she has spent caring for sick and injured wildlife.