by Hannah Chillman
PC Caroline Newsome’s love of animals goes back to the days she would go trout tickling as a child with her father, and regularly return home with injured and various other animals.
Caroline has been in the Police force for 20 years but has spent three years as a voluntary Wildlife Crime Officer for Holmfirth and Huddersfield. PC Newsome has not looked back since, as she loves the job she does. No two days are the same, as we find out about some of the things she gets up to whilst looking out for our local wildlife!
Raptor Persecution I deal with Raptor persecution. This is what it’s called when things are done that put birds of prey in danger, such as poisoning, trapping, and snaring. Tackling this activity is one of six National Wildlife Crime Priorities, along with poaching and bat persecution, amongst others. I released a social media appeal not so long ago because we had some peregrine falcon eggs that had been stolen in the Holmfirth area. I also very recently had to collect the body of a buzzard, which will be x-rayed to ascertain the cause of death.
Injured Deer There was a golfing party who were on the fairway when a deer came running onto the fairway with Lurcher-type dogs in pursuit of it. The golfers tried to intervene which caused the dogs to run away. The golfers calmed this poor deer down, and set it on its way back into the woods once they thought it was safe to do so. Unfortunately, the dogs were still around, and got hold of its neck and back, one of them bringing it down. Sadly the deer was mauled to death by these dogs. There is an ongoing investigation into this incident.
Badger setts I do a lot of work alongside Kirklees Badger Protection Group. Badger protection is a busy one in the Kirklees area, as badgers are safeguarded under the Protection of Badgers Act.
I attend land where someone wants to build a housing estate, but badger setts are found. In this scenario, a developer commissions an ecological report, and local badger groups are consulted for information about setts in the area. If necessary the case then comes to me. I work alongside Kirklees’ Biodiversity Officer, and options are discussed. Sometimes, a development can accommodate the sett, such as an ongoing site in Almondbury whereby the developer is leaving a ‘wildlife corridor’ to allow the badgers to remain in their habitat whilst also still being able to access wooded land for foraging. If the sett has to be moved, the developer must apply for a license from Natural England to do so. Sometimes, artificial setts are created to rehome badgers. I also receive calls about badger setts that have been damaged or tampered with.
Hare Coursing We get calls reporting hare coursing, which is illegal in the UK under the Hunting Act 2004, which makes it an offence to hunt wild mammals with dogs. This involves a group of people who will find a field, and let the dogs off on it to catch a hare by sight, or to have a competition between the dogs on who can catch the hare first and kill it.
Traps and Snares We get calls about traps and snares from the public. I always say with those things not to tamper with them yourselves. If you’re unsure of something, or if you think someone is setting up an illegal trap or a snare, ring us as we can then go out to check it. We find when people do ring and we go out we find a lot of these traps and snares have actually been set up legally. Free-running snares, which allow some ‘give’ and movement therefore not choking the animal, are legal to use, despite the controversy that surrounds them.
Working together Sometimes I join forces with the RSPCA, such as an operation about 18 months ago. There had been reports of a dog owner involved with potential badger-baiting. When I attended with the RSPCA, we discovered five Patterdale terriers with historic wounds consistent with badger-baiting. Deep wounds, bites and scratches, one dog even had half of its jaw missing. I see these cases through from start to finish. In this case, the dogs were removed from the owner, and he received a substantial fine and a community sentence.
To bring their offenders to justice, Caroline wants to be the voice for the animals that don’t have one. A role that is difficult at times because, for PC Newsome, it’s hard not to be emotional when such horrendous cruelty goes on to some of the wildlife. The eyes and ears of the public are invaluable in terms of reporting problems and highlighting concerns. If you need to report a crime in progress ring 999, or 101 for other enquiries or reports.