Wildlife Crime in Derbyshire

Wildlife crime can be devastating for our natural world. More needs to be done to raise awareness of what is classed as a wildlife crime and far more needs investing in deterring people from committing the crimes in the first place.

PC Karl Webster, a wildlife crime officer based in Matlock, provides a step by step guide on how to identify and report a wildlife crime.

1 - What is a wildlife crime?

It makes sense to start with explaining what a wildlife crime is.

Wildlife crime comes in many forms, from destroying a small bat roost in your garage to fishing without a licence. Poisoning or killing birds of prey, sadly a particularly common crime in the north of our county, stealing bird eggs, badger baiting and setting traps. In fact there are behaviours which some people may do without knowing they are actually committing a wildlife crime, for example disturbing a bird nest, or keeping parts of a dead bird.

2 - Evidence

One of the missing parts of many cases is evidence of what the scene looked like before the crime took place. For example, if a badger sett has been disturbed, to prove that it has been damaged it is essential to have photographs of what the sett looked like prior to the crime.

3 - Never disturb a crime scene

Like any other crime, gathering up evidence from a crime scene needs to be done carefully and by a police officer. Not only are there many health risks in handling certain things such as poison or snares, but evidence needs to be preserved as well as possible to maximise forensic opportunities. Many crime scenes have been compromised by overenthusiastic, though well-meaning, individuals.

If the weather is likely to destroy a crime scene try and take measures to preserve it but without causing damage. For example place a tarpaulin over the site but make sure you take photographs of what it looks like before you do this.

Wildlife crime

Peregrine found dead, Belper - (C) Terry Walmsley

4 - Catching criminals

Tracing offenders can be a tricky task and in some cases it is impossible but you can help us have a higher success rate.

Witnesses are often the most important part of a case. If you see a wildlife crime take place write everything down as soon as possible. Take note of vehicle descriptions, make, model, colour and particularly the registration number. Also the direction the vehicle went in. Note how many people were involved, their height, build, hair colour and race. If possible, it would be even better to film the crime or take photographs. It all adds up and helps us solve crimes faster. But remember that witness safety must always take priority as most criminals do not like their crimes being caught on film!

5 - Report the crime

Time is of the essence – if you see a wildlife crime taking place, report it immediately by calling 999. If you remember activity that didn’t rouse your suspicions at the time but now think it may be part of a wildlife crime, or you have found out about a wildlife crime after it had happened, give us a call on 101 or call Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111 to report a crime anonymously.

Love wildlife

So, next time you are out, enjoying your favourite nature reserve or walking around your local woodland, moorland or parkland, think a little more suspiciously. What is that person doing here alone late at night? Why is there rubbish strewn around with toxic labels? It is a poor way to look at the world around us, but to protect the wildlife we all love we need to be a little more alert to the warning signs and report them quickly.

So, do not hesitate to give us a call, you never know where it may lead!