Pictured: The tools used by York man to trap and cage wild birds

Trapped: a wild goldfinch in one of Smith's cages. Photographs: North Yorkshire Police
22 Jul 2015 @ 11.21 am
| Crime

He trapped and kept wild birds – but now a York man has been brought to justice for his crimes against nature.

Alan Smith, 59, of Clifton Caravan Site, Water Lane, York, was caught trapping the birds at two rural locations.

His offences came to light when wildlife crime officer PC Graham Bilton noticed a small twin-chambered wire cage trap at an encampment at Gate Helmsley near York.

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

PC 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. No one was around at the time of the discover but a note was made of the registration numbers of the vehicles present.

Another trap discovered

Smith's other trap with the goldfinch 'lure'
Smith’s other trap with the goldfinch ‘lure’

A few days later on July 6, PC Bilton visited another encampment in Scagglethorpe and saw the same vehicles again.

While there he discovered a cage trap of a similar design. Again it was set on top of a hedge and contained a recently-caught wild male goldfinch.

Smith was arrested at the site and was interviewed by the police and an officer from the RSPCA.

As a result he pleaded guilty to eight wildlife offences at Scarborough Magistrates Court on Monday (July 20).

The offences

Possessing a wild bird x 2
Taking a wild bird x 2
Using a decoy to take a wild bird x 2
Using a trap to take a wild bird x 2

The sentence

Six-month community order with 10-day rehabilitation activity requirement
£100 fine and £85 costs
£60 victim surcharge
£150 criminal court charge.

Stressful and miserable for birds

One of the trapped finches

Rescued: two wild goldfinches

Both goldfinches were successfully released back into the wild.

Trapping, possessing and selling wild finches are all offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, “but still remain a widespread problem in the UK,” said PC Bilton.

He added:

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.

Inspector Geoffrey Edmond, RSPCA national wildlife coordinator, said the charity were actively on the lookout for people taking birds from the wild.

Finches such as the goldfinch remain sought-after for their colour and song.

They are fully protected and suffer much stress when captured in this way and rendered into a miserable life in captivity.

This case highlights the success of the RSPCA working in close partnership with North Yorkshire Police.