Wildlife cops learn how to catch a swan

Preston police Wildlife & Rural Crime Officers at the annual Martin Mere swan catch
Preston police Wildlife & Rural Crime Officers at the annual Martin Mere swan catch
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Wild goose chases are a thing of the past for Lancashire police after a host of officers became experts in wild swan taming.

Unlike the scenes in 2007 film Hot Fuzz – were Simon Pegg and Nick Frost unsuccessfully try to capture a wild swan – a couple of wildlife and rural crime officers successfully snared a bevy of big birds.

Six officers gave up their own time to take part in wildlife wetland trust Martin Mere’s annual swan catch in Burscough on Tuesday.

PC Rob Massam, a WRCO based in Preston, believes the experience will help the police control wild birds.

He said: “This was a unique opportunity for them to get ‘hands on’ experience with large wildfowl and ducks.

“This is something that they may be required to do as part of their role investigating wildlife crime, for instance if a swan was deliberately injured, or if one were to be obstructing a road.”

WRCOs are police officers who are specially trained to deal with wildlife crime like badger baiting, poaching and rural crime.

Pete Bullin, building maintenance manager at Martin Mere, revealed some of the tips to snare a swan.

The 54-year-old said: “A lot of people are wary of the beak.

“But the wings are far worse. If you get hit by a wing it is worse than a peck.

“So you have to catch them and bundle them up so they don’t flap.

“The swans are then funnelled through into a pen, weighed, measured and a plastic and metal ring is attached to their leg so we can monitor them.”

And PC Massam revealed the experience has given the team more insight into wildfowl.

He said: “Furthermore it gave the officers chance to learn from the WWT staff and experienced volunteers bird ringers of the British Trust for Ornithology.

“Not only about the vital work they do but about wildfowl in general and the legally protected habitats important to such species in the southern and western parts of Ribble Estuary.

“Needless to say there were several references made to the famous swan catching scenes in Hot Fuzz but our WRCO’s were slightly more successful.”