Gamekeeper accused of killing peregrine falcons at Lancashire breeding site

Peregrine falconPeregrine falcon
Peregrine falcon
A gamekeeper allegedly killed two wild birds at a breeding ground in the Forest of Bowland.

James Hartley, 33, of Bleasdale Lane, Bleasdale, near Preston is accused of shooting a peregrine falcon and trapping and killing another on April 13, as well as disturbing a nesting site.

He is also alleged to have set a trap to cause injury to a wild bird, intentionally taken a wild bird, possessed a dead wild bird, and caused unnecessary suffering between April 12 and 15 by trapping the falcon and leaving it for several hours.

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Hartley faces two further counts he possessed a firearm capable of being used to commit an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

He is being prosecuted by the RSPB and Lancashire Police.

During an appearance before Preston Magistrates' Court Hartley, wearing a navy suit, denied eight offences said to be committed at a peregrine falcon breeding site on the Bleasdale Estate, Bowland.

Prosecuting, Phillipa White said: " The crown's case is the defendant is responsible for the destruction of two birds and their nest site. It would appear matters came to light after the RSPB sited a camera within the Bleasdale Estate for the purposes of monitoring a pair of peregrine falcons.

"It is alleged whilst this footage was being captured an individual is seen in a camouflage suit attending the nest site. They are seen to remain there for a number of minutes setting what is believed to be a trap/

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"The female is seen to leave the nest. Four shotgun discharges are heard and she does not return.

"The male remains at the site all day and, its believed, trapped in the device placed at the location. Later in the evening a person is seen to remove something.

"The following morning the RSPB cameras found the bird had gone."

Hartley's defence lawyer said his client denies he is the person shown in the covert video footage.

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He will appear at the same court for his trial on February 12.

The RSPB says peregrines were at a low point in the 1960s due to human persecution and the impact of pesticides in the food chain.

Improved legislation and protection has helped the birds to recover and they have expanded into many urban areas, but they are still persecuted illegally killed to prevent them preying on game birds and racing pigeons.

Their eggs and chicks are sometimes taken for collections and falconry.