Tesco calls in sniper to shoot protected bird in Norfolk store

Tesco calls in sniper to shoot protected bird in Norfolk store

Tesco is granted a licence by Natural England to bring in marksman to kill the bird, prompting outrage from customers, environmentalists and BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham

The pied wagtail inside the Tesco store in Gt Yarmouth, Norfolk, which has now received a stay of execution

The pied wagtail inside the Tesco store in Gt Yarmouth, Norfolk, which has now received a stay of execution Photo: ALBANPIX

 

4:58PM BST 11 Sep 2014

Tesco threatened to shoot a protected pied wagtail which has been fluttering round one of its supermarkets, prompting outrage from customers, environmentalists and a BBC wildlife presenter.

The seven inch long bird has been flying around the aisles of a superstore for several weeks, evading all attempts to capture it.

Losing patience, Tesco applied for a licence from Natural England this week, allowing it to be shot amid fears that it posed a public health risk at the store in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

However the supermarket chain was forced to back down after it was hit with protests from customers after a local newspaper revealed that the bird faced being destroyed by a marksman with an air rifle when the store closes after 4pm this Sunday.

Chris Packham, 53, who has presented nature programme Springwatch since 2009, also got involved and demanded that the wagtail be spared.He tweeted a message to Tesco, saying: “Can I ask you to rethink the shooting of the wagtail in Gt Yarmouth store please. I’m sure the bird could be caught.”

Tesco East Anglia replied in a tweet, saying: “We’ve tried for a number of weeks to catch the bird, definitely our preference to catch and release. Any advice welcome.”

Packham called for Tesco to talk to the British Trust for Ornithology. He tweeted: “Please liaise with BTO who have experts in the field of live capture – and promise us a stay of execution!”

Tesco East Anglia then backed down, tweeting: “Happy to liaise with BTO, we’re going to explore other options over the next few weeks and will keep you updated.”

Chris Packham tweeted to save the bird (Paul Grover/The Telegraph)

Pied wagtails are among birds protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. Anyone who kills one could be fined up to £5,000 or jailed for a maximum of six months if they do not have a licence.

The bird was visible on Thursday as it fluttered around the store’s café where it ate crumbs from the floor before flying to and from the clothing department.

It repeatedly perched on a railing around the first floor café so it could overlook the whole store, as customers watched in delight.

Retired insurance agent Bill Danby, 73, who was visiting Gt Yarmouth from his home in Skelton, Cleveland, said: “You rarely see a wagtail in the wild so it was a lovely to see this one here.

“It has obviously got quite tame and doesn’t seem to mind being around lots of people. I am glad it is not being shot. I can understand why it should not really be in the store – but I would be much happier if they managed to net it.”

A Tesco spokesman confirmed that the death sentence had been suspended, saying attempts would continue to catch the bird “for several weeks”.

He said: “Our goal is always to release any birds which have found their way into our stores, while ensuring we maintain our high standards of hygiene.

“In spite of repeated efforts to free the bird including laying down traps, deploying nets and opening windows, we have been unsuccessful so far. We’re going to continue to try to release the bird over the next few weeks.

“We want to give ourselves more time to catch it and we will be liaising with different groups on how best to do this. Our position has always been that we want to catch it and let it go.”

The spokesman confirmed that the Natural England licence allowing the bird to be shot would remain in place “as a last resort”.

But he refused to say if the change of heart over the fate of the bird was a result of intervention by Chris Packham or customer complaints.

He added: “This bird has been in the store for a few weeks and has been seen around the café area.

“Our priority is providing a great service for customers. I don’t know of any comments from customers.”

The Tesco spokesman was also unable to say if other birds flying loose in stores had ever been shot.

Shoppers had taken to the interney to vent their anger at the earlier decision to shoot the bird.

Paul Gilham wrote: “Pity you can’t bring in marksmen/women to take out a few hundred seagulls instead of a rare beautiful bird like this. Shame on you Tescos!”

Another shopper said: “We live in a rural area, the occasional bird dropping in or amongst our food is not that unusual. Just wash it off for goodness sake. But no, there’s profit at stake here so a knuckle dragging ott response is deemed necessary. It’s Asda for me and my family from now on.”

A spokesman for Natural England said licences, such as the one granted to Tesco, were issued “occasionally” but only when environment bosses were “satisfied” all other methods had been exhausted.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said the loss of the bird would not affect the breed’s population and it was not one of “conservation concern”.

The RSPB believes there are 470,000 breeding pairs of pied wagtails in the UK.

They often live near water, but are also found in most habitats including town centres.

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