THE LAUGHING BADGER
JUST when you thought the illegal persecution of protected birds could not get any worse, the RSPB has learned that large numbers of protected birds are being killed on a grouse moor in Lancashire.
And this time I’m not talking hen harriers, although the so-called ‘sky dancers’ continue to suffer at the hands of misguided morons, but no, an RSPB staff member working in the Bowland area discovered nesting lesser black-backed gulls being shot, leaving their chicks to be either killed by dogs or left to starve.
Lesser black-backed gulls have been nesting on the moors of Lancashire for more than 80 years.
The recovering colony in Bowland is one of the most important in the UK and is protected under British and European law, having once been in excess of 20,000 pairs.
Lesser black-backed gulls are declining across the UK and the RSPB is becoming increasingly worried about their future in the UK.
This species can only be legally culled if they pose a threat to human health, risk spreading disease or are having a negative effect on other species of conservation concern.
The RSPB understands Natural England – the government agency responsible for protecting the countryside – granted consent for the cull.
But while the nature conservation body has repeatedly asked Natural England for scientific evidence which would justify such an act, none ● has as yet been forthcoming.
Graham Jones, RSPB Conservation Area Manager for North West England, said: “We are devastated that this cull of a protected species has been taking place, apparently without any justification.”
Although it may occasionally be necessary to cull a small number of large gulls for conservation and health reasons, there may be no evidence to support it in this case.
Slightly smaller than a herring gull, the lesser black-backed gull has a dark grey to black back and wings, yellow bill and yellow legs.
Their world population is found entirely in Europe.
After declines in the 19th century due to persecution they increased their range and numbers.
This expansion has now halted and there is serious concern about declines in many parts of its range.
The species is on the Amber List because the UK is home to 40 per cent of the European population and more than half of these are found at fewer than 10 sites.
The lesser black-backed gull in flight