The importance of abiding by the terms of the General Licences that govern live cage trapping was highlighted last week when gamekeeper Shaun Allanson pleaded guilty at Scarborough Magistrates Court to intentionally taking a buzzard using a live pigeon in a cage trap last August.

Allanson, 37, had set letterbox traps in a pheasant release pen on the Blansby Park Estate, near Pickering, North Yorkshire.

The traps and a buzzard eating a freshly killed pigeon were discovered after Natural England officer Justine Clark, who was carrying out a survey on the estate at the time, found them and alerted the police.

Allanson was sentenced last week to 120 hours’ community service with £85 costs.

Tim Ryan, defending solicitor, said that the offences had cost Allanson his job and possibly also his firearms certificate.

Mr Ryan told the court: “He very much regrets having committed these offences. He realises how stupid he’s been and the consequences for him, his partner and two children.”

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) immediately suspended Allanson’s membership.

A spokesman said: “Incidents like this do incalculable damage to the good name of gamekeeping. If people have serious problems with protected birds, and no non-lethal alternative, they should apply to Natural England for a licence to control them. Breaking the law is not an option. The NGO stands for gamekeeping within the law and will not tolerate illegality.”

In related news, wildlife managers in Scotland should be aware that Scottish Natural Heritage has revised Licence 2 of the 2013 General Licences so that jays can no longer be used as decoys in traps for the purpose of preventing serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables and fruit.

They can still be used as decoys in traps such as Larsen traps to conserve wild bird populations.

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Game keeper convicted for taking a buzzard in cage trap case