Dead crows hung at home of TV presenter Chris Packham following rule change over killing wildlife

Two dead birds strung-up on the gates of his Hampshire home, a dark message delivered to the man in the firing line for questioning incorrect administration of wildlife law.

When it comes to speaking up for wildlife TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham is no stranger to controversy - but this act of vandalism has led him to call in the police and the lawyers.

Since Natural England suddenly changed the rules around the licensing for killing wildlife on Tuesday, Packham and Wild Justice, the campaigning organisation he helps lead, have been blamed.

His enemies see him as responsible for a change they believe will make it more difficult to protect crops and livestock.

The truth though is that the wildlife law as it stands was not being followed and hadn't been adhered to for decades.

TV presenter Packham has been blamed for the rule change. Credit: PA

The moment Natural England realised this, following a legal challenge from Wild Justice, they had no choice but to act fast.

From 23:59 Thursday, two days after the announcement there would be a change to licensing, those who want to kill birds such as pigeons and crows will no longer be able to do so under a general licence.

Instead they will have to apply online for individual licences - a process which could take up to 28 days.

They are furious.

The British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC) described the decision to change the rules with 36 hours notice as "appalling".

Other organisations said the situation is "utter chaos" and an "absolute shambles".

BASC chief executive Ian Bell said: "BASC has been fighting around the clock to ensure that the work can continue to protect young lambs, red-listed birds and valuable crops.

"I have demanded meetings with Natural England at which I have made plain the outrage in the countryside at the manner at which this has been handled."

Tim Breitmeyer, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said: "The abrupt halt to the licensing system leaves our members in complete limbo, unsure of what they can do to protect their crops, young livestock or farmland birds."

National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) Chairman, Liam Bell, said: "Natural England has made an absolute shamble of this and has put gamekeepers and others to huge inconvenience and concern, to say nothing of imperiling vulnerable nesting game birds and wildlife."

Responding, the CEO of Natural England, Marian Spain, told ITV News her organisation is "absolutely clear that farmers need to be able to continue to control birds that cause problems on their land".

She added: "It's really important people understand this is not a ban on farmers and others carrying out those necessary controls."

She said because of the legal challenge which "pointed out a gap in the process" Natural England are "having to issue the new licences" which will "give farmers more reassurance that they are acting within the law".

This is an undeniable mess with what was previously seen as a lawful activity being effectively outlawed albeit temporarily overnight.

There is a an argument put forward by those who shoot wild birds that Chris Packham has succeeded in changing the rules and in doing so some of the wildlife he aims to save will now go unprotected

That might explain the unwanted gift hung from his gates.