Rise in 'dangerous and cruel' catapult attacks against wildlife, warn police

ANGLIA 150324 catapult Essex peregrine
Essex Police
A peregrine falcon found injured in Chelmsford. Credit: Essex Police

Police are warning wild animals and birds are being targeted "for fun" in a disturbing crime trend which sees them shot with catapults.

Rural engagement officers from Essex say there has been a steep rise in the number of catapult attacks on wildlife, leaving them injured by metal ball bearings or bits of shot.

Police have released disturbing pictures of animals wounded by the attacks.

PC Jed Raven, the force’s Wildlife Crime and Heritage officer, said foxes, otters, pigeons, swans and other waterfowl had been targeted in urban areas and country parks.

He said the problem was rising nationally but identified particular areas of concern in Essex as Chafford Gorges Nature Discovery Park near Grays and Northlands Park in Basildon.

A swan with a pellet in its head. Credit: Essex Police

PC Raven said: “Some people think it’s just a bit of harmless fun but the animal or bird they hit could suffer a long and painful death as a result.

“Causing any creature pain and suffering is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

“The vast majority of people simply want to get out and enjoy nature but a small minority just want to hurt things."

PC Raven said air guns and crossbows were also being used, adding: “Any way you look at it, it’s dangerous and it is cruel. And animal cruelty can be a precursor to more serious crimes.”

A swan being treated by a vet after a suspected catapult attack. Credit: Essex Police

He is the national police lead for Operation Lakeshot, which focuses on education and preventing re-offending as well as detection and bringing offenders to justice.

PC Raven and his fellow rural engagement officers work with community policing teams across Essex, along with council park and street wardens, the Essex Wildlife Trust and wildlife hospitals to identify offenders.

Nationally, the RSPCA, the RSPB, the Environment Agency, the Metropolitan Police and the Angling Trust are involved with Operation Lakeshot.

They are appealing to the public to help them.

PC Raven said: “Anyone who walks in or patrols our parks and towns are our eyes and ears. We need you to tell us what you know.

“We identified this trend because people were reporting incidents to us and the RSPCA. If you don’t tell us, we can’t act. You can report information and incidents to us online via www.essex.police.uk/ro but, if it’s a crime in progress or there’s a danger to public safety, ring 999.”

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