York man fined for trapping wild goldfinches

Police in North Yorkshire have warned that the trapping of wild finches is a “a widespread problem in the UK” after catching a man using cage traps to capture protected birds.

One of the goldfinch traps found by police

Alan Smith, 59, of Clifton Caravan Site, Water Lane, York, has been fined after admitting eight wildlife offences at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court.

He was handed a six-month community order with a 10-day rehabilitation activity requirement, £100 fine, £85 costs, £60 victim surcharge and £150 criminal court charge.

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According to North Yorkshire Police, Smith was caught out after Pc Graham Bilton, a wildlife crime officer, spotted a small twin-chambered wire cage trap at Gate Hemsley, near York.

Police found a goldfinch caught in a wire trap

The trap had been placed on top of a hedge and was actively set, and in one of the chambers was a male goldfinch.

Mr Bilton, who is also a Scarborough Police rural beat manager, said: “The purpose of the trap and bird is to attract other wild birds of the same species drawn by the visual presence and singing of the ‘call bird’ inside.

“Any other wild bird approaching then activates the trap door which springs shut.”

Officers seized the trap and bird, which was later identified as a recently-caught wild goldfinch. No-one was present at the site at the time but a note was made of the registration numbers of the vehicles present.

A few days later, on July 6, Mr Bilton visited another encampment in Scagglethorpe and recognised the same vehicles. He saw a cage trap of a similar design, was set on top of a hedge and containing another recently-caught wild male goldfinch. Both goldfinches were released back into the wild.

Smith, who was at the site, was arrested on suspicion of committing wildlife offences and charged with a total of eight offences, including possessing a wild bird, taking a wild bird, using a decoy to take a wild bird and using a trap to take a wild bird.

Mr Bilton said: “It is important that those responsible for committing wildlife crimes are brought to justice. This type of crime can have a dramatic effect on local fauna and flora, yet often go unreported and are difficult to investigate.

“The trapping, possession and sale of wild finches are all offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, but still remain a widespread problem in the UK.”