A furious storm has erupted over traps that are designed to cull magpies.
The row centres on whether the traps are cruel, after an online post by Warwickshire police’s rural crime team.
Members of the public contacted police after seeing cages in fields around the area with magpies trapped inside. Responding to the reports, PC Andy King posted an image of the cage and explained its use.
He said: “These are called Larsen traps. Magpies are often responsible for stealing eggs and eating chicks from bird nests, which then has a significant impact on the populations of songbirds and other smaller species of bird.
“Larsen traps are therefore sometimes placed near to where populations of wild birds are suffering as they can help prevent corvid species from nesting and thus help to conserve the population of other wild birds.
“If you are out walking in the countryside and you come across something like this, please do not interfere with it or release the bird. Take pictures and email them over to us and we will happily pop out to have a look and check that it is being maintained and meets the specification required.
“The traps should have water and food inside, a perch and a roof over a section of it. The trap should also be checked at least once every 24 hours.”
Under the 1981 Wildlife Act, certain corvids – members of the crow family including magpies, rooks, jackdaws and jays – are classified as pests and it is legal to kill them, but only if they pose a threat to wildlife. This must be done in a controlled way, by catching them in a Larsen trap – a multiple-box, spring-doored device which lures them into a cage with the call of an already trapped bird – before killing them humanely.
Since Friday, the rural crime team’s post has attracted more than 1,600 comments. While many back the culling, a significant majority are strongly against it.
Some argue the traps are cruel and nature should be left to look after itself, while others point out they are largely used to protect pheasant populations – bred on estates for shooting sports – and not songbirds.
Anti-cruelty conservation group WildAct said: “There’s no scientific evidence linking garden bird population drop to magpies or corvid population. Places where corvids thrive, songbirds thrive too, and the biggest killers of songbirds are still pesticides and other invasive farming practices.”
However, Facebook user Rob Turner claimed the RSPB used traps to control corvids, adding: “Things need to be culled to create a balanced environment as there are no natural predator species for corvids.
“The most diverse nature is found on land where it is keepered properly. The esteemed naturalist David Bellamy stated this on many occasions. Sadly, these folk replace facts with emotional beliefs, which is unfortunate and unhelpful.”