Become ‘eyes in the field’! Many of us carry cameras, notebooks, smartphones etc – we usually already have all the tools we need to help record and tackle wildlife crime!
If we come across a wildlife crime scene or a dead bird or object that may be related to a wildlife crime every piece of information is – or might be – important, but remember a crime needs to be recorded properly and accurately for the authorities to have a chance of prosecuting an offender.
Even if you’re not sure that what you’re seeing is illegal or important, if something ‘feels’ suspicious – a post sticking up out an otherwise empty piece of moorland that could be used for a pole-trap, for example, or two poles set apart at the sort of distance that mean they could be used for illegal mist-netting – please take photos/videos and/or use your phone to get footage, because it may prove useful to the police of charity investigators in any future investigations. You never know what might be useful!
Before we do anything else it is very important that
- We do NOT disturb the scene by walking around unnecessarily – small pieces of evidence (cigarette ends, footprints, the marks left by a spade etc) may be lost or trampled into the mud or grass.
- We do NOT move any items at the scene – the exception being if they are likely to disappear before the police arrive when we can collect them as evidence.
- We do NOT touch any dead birds or animals. Apart from perhaps damaging evidence (recent technological advances mean that fingerprints can sometimes be recovered from eg feathers and eggs), they may be poisoned baits or victims of poisoning. Many poisons (eg Carbofuran) are extremely dangerous to us as well as wildlife in even very small amounts and can be absorbed through the skin.
- We do NOT approach anyone we suspect of committing a crime – they may be violent and/or aggressive.
- We do NOT do anything illegal ourselves – leave crime to the criminals!
Once sure that it is safe to do so
- Make a note of the date and time and take photographs or video of the scene using a mobile phone or camera etc (or make as accurate a sketch as possible).
- If photographing an object try to use eg a coin or a notebook/field guide for scale – providing it won’t disturb the crime scene.
- Note the location as accurately as possible, preferably using a grid reference (free smartphone apps are widely available). If the crime is in an urban area note the address or any other recognisable description of the location.
- If in the countryside take wide angle photographs of any landmarks (a tree, a distinctive fenceline, a hill) that might help officers relocate the crime scene. Imagine we were trying to find the same site again – what information might we need?
- If possible try to cover any items, perhaps with vegetation, to make them safe – make sure we don’t disturb the crime scene though!
- Don’t mark a site with eg a white plastic bag though. Being able to see a marker from a distance might sound like a good idea, but it will also alert an offender that someone has been at the site: they might go back and remove the evidence.
- Photograph any vehicle registration numbers that are or might be related to the incident. Even if we’re not sure whether the vehicle is involved or not it is legal to record a registration number if we suspect that the vehicle has been or may be used in a crime. The number may well be useful to the authorities in the future and help build up a more complete picture of eg an egg collector’s movements.
- If you do see someone committing a crime – and if it is safe to do so – take as many photographs as you can. Recording the offender’s face is important of course, but their clothing, the bags they’re carrying, the equipment they’re using, the number and breed of any dogs being used are all important too. Do NOT try to get too close – taking some long-distance images is better than having a camera smashed or being attacked and hurt.
What next? It’s important to Report any wildlife crime to the proper authorities as soon as possible.
We’ve been assured that our help is welcomed and that if we’re in any doubt that what we’re seeing is a wildlife crime (see Recognise) we should report it anyway. Remember, if what we see ‘feels’ wrong, it probably is!
Even if in doubt take a photograph and email it (at the time or later) to the police or an investigations officer (see Report) – they are trained to quickly recognise when a snare is illegally placed, whether a trap is being used correctly, or whether a crime is being committed or not.
Page updated April 2015.
Any comments, corrections, additions? Please let us know.