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CABS bird protection camp in Northern Italy

Online Blog Autumn 2012

A lucky bird - this Robin could be freed alive from the net by a CABS volunteerA lucky bird - this Robin could be freed alive from the net by a CABS volunteerOur large scale bird protection camp in the north Italian province of Brescia wasconducted in cooperation with our Italian partners from the end of September to mid-November 2012. In the period 29 September to 11 November some 81 volunteers from Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland and the USA searched for traps and nets and assisted the Italian Forest Police in bringing poachers to justice. Altogether 963 bow traps, 690 snap traps and 110 mist nest were found and dismantled. Acting on information from CABS teams the police caught 43 poachers red-handed.

A final report will be published as soon as possible. Until them you can read about the progress of the camp in our blog below.

All the camps and operations are financed by CABS and we also receive a generous donation from the Karl Kaus Foundation for Wildlife and Nature.

Final table of results for the autumn 2012 Brescia camp:

  • Bow traps collected: 963
  • Snap traps collected: 699
  • Mist nets collected: 110
  • Other traps collected: 22
  • Poachers caught red-handed: 43
  • Figures last updated: 11.11.2012

Traps and nets left standing for police ambushes are not initially included in the running total as their exact number is not known until investigations are complete.

Sunday, 11.11.2012

Police officers and CABS volunteers with live decoy birds seized from poachersPolice officers and CABS volunteers with live decoy birds seized from poachersOur 6 week bird protection camp in Brescia came to an end today. The last camp participants searched a final time for nets and traps in the Southern Alps but without success. Yesterday a final trapping site with two mist nets was found. The installation, in lower Val Sabbia, was reported to the local forest police who in the next few days will lay an ambush to catch the poacher.

The camp was all in all very successful. The 81 participants found and dismantled a total of 963 bow traps, 6980 snap traps and 110 mist nets. 43 poachers were caught red-handed by the police acting on our information. This is the first time in the organisation’s history that less than 1,000 bow traps were found during operations in Brescia. Trapping with this particularly gruesome form of trap is declining more and more. The number of mist nest found is also less than usual - only the snap traps, first used in the 1990s, are sadly as widespread as before. We are deservedly proud that, despite the smaller number of traps found, the 43 poachers caught red-handed was a marked improvement on the previous year (2011 - 37)

Friday, 09.11.2012

Luck in adversity. This Dunnock was freed unscathed from the net.Luck in adversity. This Dunnock was freed unscathed from the net.Today, Friday, we had another big fish in our net. In the mountains east of Lake Idro a CABS team observed an old acquaintance tending his mist net. The man is a local politician of some weight, well known in Brescia, and has been caught several times in the past at his illegal trapping site. As the team was not able to persuade the police to act swiftly today, a volunteer crept up as closely as possible without breaking cover and filmed the man at work. After five hours - the poacher had long left his trapping site - the provincial police arrived. They confiscated the net and released four decoys - a Hawfinch and three Siskins. The police were unwilling to seize a dozen other live decoys, including Robins, Dunnocks and a Reed Bunting, as they were ringed - although the rings were clearly fakes. The police appeared to fear reprisals on the part of the prominent offender. The filmed evidence will however be sufficient to enable a prosecution. He is therefore the 43rd poacher caught during this bird protection camp.

Four more mist nets were found in the close vicinity that probably belong to the same poacher. They were dismantled as well as a further net, 52 bow traps and a single snap trap.

Yesterday 8 October a net was found and dismantled by CABS volunteers in the industrial town of Lumezzane.

Wednesday, 07.11.2012

Robin in mist netRobin in mist netDuring the past three days the weather was not on our side - only on Monday was there little rain. The teams were however out the whole time on operations and, despite the poor conditions, located a number of trapping sites. In central Val Sabbia 12 bow traps were dismantled, in upper Val Trompia a further 20 bow traps and near Lake Iseo 2 mist nets were seized.

Most trapping sites are still abandoned and it is fairly certain that no more traps or nets will be set out this year.

Trapping equipment seizures - correction In the course of the evaluation of the data, in particular the comparison of our data with those of the authorities, it has become clear that in the time frame 29.09 to 03.11.2012 more trapping equipment was found and dismantled than has been recorded to date in our statistics. The additional figures are 4 bow traps, 15 snap traps and 9 mist nets.

Sunday, 02.11.2012

Yesterday, Saturday, was a very successful day for us. All three teams were deployed in the south-east of the trapping area, the only part of the Brescia Mountains where almost no snow lay. In the mountains between Val Sabbia and Val Trompia 5 bow traps and 31 snap traps were found and dismantled; in upper Val Sabbia 70 bow traps and in lower Val Sabbiaa mist net. It rained solidly all day today in North Italy. Two teams were deployed but they found nothing.

The forest police ambush on two mist nets located the day before yesterday was sadly not successful - we will continue to keep an eye on the site over the next few days.

Friday, 02.11.2012

A hawfinch seized from a hunter - used to decoy other birds to the gunsA hawfinch seized from a hunter - used to decoy other birds to the guns The three teams at present in Brescia checked the area between Lakes Garda and Iseo in changeable weather with light drizzle. They were mostly unsuccessful in their search for traps as almost all trapping sites are abandoned. Many poachers have collected in their traps and nets because of the early start to winter . From Wednesday until today five active sites were located. In upper Val Sabbia 4 snap traps were dismantled, as were 3 mist nets and 11 bow traps in lower Val Sabbia as well as a further 4 snap traps not far from Lake Iseo. One site with mist nets was left for the forest police to deal with and a team will guide in the officers tomorrow.

Acting on information from a CABS patrol game rangers of our partner organisation LAC yesterday caught two hunters in a shooting hide with illegal live decoy birds on the island of Monte Isola on Lake Iseo. The men had 11 live decoys (Chaffinches, Bramblings and Hawfinches) and 20 shot Chaffinches and Bramblings. All were confiscated. The decoy birds had false rings. A CABS team had found the shooting hide 10 days earlier.

Follow-up to 20.10.2012

Mist netMist netIn the course of comparison and evaluation of our data with the authorities’ database for the last four weeks data it has been revealed that a further poacher was caught as a result of our information on 20 October. The man had set out a mist net in the mountains between Val Trompia and Val Sabbia. It was discovered by an Italian CABS member on 19 October, who led the police to the location the next day. The poacher was caught red-handed shortly afterwards. We had understood theta the operation had been unsuccessful and had removed the net from our statistics.

Tuesday, 30.10.2012 The weather has now improved but the snow at higher elevations makes the search for traps very difficult. Yesterday a mist net was found north of Lake Iseo and two further nets were located not far from the provincial capital Brescia. All three were dismantled. Today a mist net and 22 bow traps were found and dismantled in the industrial town of Lumezzane.

Sunday, 28.10.2012 Sparrohawk in mist net 26.10.2012 (Val Trompia)Sparrohawk in mist net 26.10.2012 (Val Trompia)The fine late summer that we have had here since late September vanished practically overnight and winter has arrived. On Friday and Saturday it rained cats and dogs and this morning a storm brought snow as well. At heights above 500 m it snowed the whole day in the complete trapping area between Lakes Garda and Iseo .

Despite the difficult conditions our teams were out on operations. As many slopes were completely sodden and therefore impassable only small scale searches could be made. On Friday a mist net was found (with a trapped Sparrowhawk - see photo) and today, 28 October two snap traps were found and dismantled in driving snow on Lake Iseo.

Thursday, 25.10.2012

Two CABS volunteers with bow traps collected today at Lake IseoTwo CABS volunteers with bow traps collected today at Lake IseoYesterday, after 4 weeks of operations, the special anti-poaching unit of the state forest police came to an end. The officers arrested a total of 110 poachers, 41 of them due to prior reconnaissance work by CABS teams. The last poacher we reported to the special unit was caught yesterday tending his net near Lumezzane.

After the withdrawal of the anti-poaching unit, we have begun to dismantle the traps and nets we find. Yesterday we took down two mist nets in upper Val Sabbia and in lower Val Trompia a further two nets and two snap traps were dismantled. Today we searched intensively in areas where the police arrested several poachers over the past few weeks. Close to Lake Iseo we located five trapping sites with a total of 102 bow traps, 15 snap traps and 3 nets. All were dismantled. In lower Val Sabbia volunteers found a further net.

The CABS volunteer involved in a scuffle with a poacher five days ago has broken ribs. The team member, from the Rhineland-Palatinate, tried to stop the poacher assaulting a female police officer and was himself attacked. The poacher kicked him deliberately in the chest and at first escaped from the police but was later a short time later (see blog entry for 20 October).

Tuesday, 23.10.2012

Chaffinch in mist netChaffinch in mist netThe fourth week of the bird protection camp has got off to a very successful start - acting on our intelligence the police arrested 6 poachers. On 21 October a man in Val Sabbia was caught with 45 bow traps, on the same day a trapper in the mountains between Val Camonica and Val Trompia. Yesterday a poacher was apprehended while checking his 24 snap traps in upper Val Trompia. Today the police caught 3 more men, two of them big time offenders. The brother of an owner of a notorious restaurant not far from Iseo was caught red-handed attending his 26 bow traps. The Robins he had caught were presumably destined to end up on the plates of well paying guests in the restaurant. An 80 year old trapper was caught in his garden north of Brescia. Where he has no less than 25 mist nets set up, with a total length of 255 m! A total of 18 electronic lures were playing Chaffinch calls around the installation - this species is particularly sought after by local gourmets. A further poacher was caught at his net near Lake Iseo.

The police have withdrawn from their ambushes on several other trapping installations reported to them by our teams as the trappers have not turned up. A total of 3 mist nets, 18 snap traps and 79 bow traps were dismantled.

Saturday, 20.10.2012

Today in Lumezzane - Forest Police officers inspect seized decoy birds and trapsToday in Lumezzane - Forest Police officers inspect seized decoy birds and trapsYesterday, although our teams had supplied information on a number of trapping sites, there were no police operations. Today however four poachers were apprehended. In lower Val Tro,pia near Lumezzane a man was caught with a net and 25 snap traps. Another had 25 snap traps, 3 cage traps and another trap for catching birds alive (padelle) set out and 10 live decoys were seized from him including Robins, Coal Tits and Dunnocks. In the early morning near Sarezzo a Hollywood-style incident occurred. In the course of a police raid a poacher at first escaped the clutches of the officers but was grabbed by a female police officer. As he resisted and punched and kicked the officer a CABS volunteer intervened. The latter threw himself at the man, both fell to the ground, and rolled in a tight embrace down a slope into a stream full of excrement. The volunteer held the man tight by his T-shirt but the poacher slipped out of the shirt and sprinted away bare-chested. He was luckily spotted running into a house nearby and was caught a few minutes later. He had set out 45 snap traps.

According to police information another poacher was arrested on 12 October in lower Val Sabbia tending a net that had been spotted by a CABS team.

Yesterday and today CABS volunteers also dismantled a total of 106 bow traps, 12 snap traps and two traps for catching birds alive at eight separate sites.

Thursday, 18.10.2012 Bird traps seized from a hunter not far from BresciaBird traps seized from a hunter not far from BresciaToday was the most successful day of our North Italian bird protection camp so far. Four poachers were arrested. All of the men had their traps and nets set out in a village north of the provincial capital Brescia, where a CABS team specialising in ‘Garden Poaching’ was deployed. A police patrol had nothing else to do the whole day but to lie in wait at one after the other of the trapping sites we had located. A total of 4 mist nets, 21 snap traps, 24 bow traps, a cage trap, as well as six padelle - a rarely used live trap for catching decoy birds - were seized from the four poachers. Almost incidentally the police patrol accompanying our team also caught two hunters in the illegal possession of 19 Chaffinches, 2 Bramblings and a Great Tit. The mens’ weapons were confiscated.

In addition the police informed us that, acting on our information, they had caught another poacher. The man was arrested in lower Val Sabbia with a mist net and 35 snap traps. Another poacher was caught the day before north of Brescia - a big catch as it turned out. The officers found in his possession and seized 50 bow traps, 40 snap traps and 7 mist nets. He also had more than 50 dead birds in his freezer.

CABS volunteers also dismantled two mist nets in upper Val Sabbia. The WWF game rangers carrying out checks on hunters near Lumezzane, with whom we operate very closely, had their brake tube cut by unknown persons and only just managed to stop their vehicle on a steep decline with the handbrake. Shortly before they had caught a hunters with illegally shot Chaffinches.

Wednesday, 17.10.2012

On Tuesday and Wednesday the police, acting on our information, arrested at least three poachers - probably more but the data is not yet available. One man was apprehended at the northerly end of Lake Iseo with 36 snap traps, another with three mist nets on the island of Monte Isola in the middle of Lake Iseo, and the third not far from Brescia with an as yet unknown number of traps. The authorities have now confirmed the number of snap traps seized from two poachers at the weekend - on Monte Isola three and in the mountains between Lake Iseo and Val Trompia 30 traps.

Over the past few days CABS volunteers dismantled a total of 37 bow traps, 27 snap traps and a cage trap at three separate locations. Police operations were not possible as the poachers had seen our volunteers.

Yesterday 16 October, in upper Val Sabbia not far from Vestone, two CABS volunteers were peppered with shot when a man in a shooting hide fired two shots at them while they were searching for traps. Luckily no one was hurt.

Monday, 15.10.2012

Great Spotted Woodpecker in an illegal mist netGreat Spotted Woodpecker in an illegal mist netIt rained incessantly yesterday and today in Northern Italy and this evening all the small streams and rivers have burst their banks. The work of the volunteers and the police was correspondingly difficult. Nonetheless four poachers were caught over the past few days as a result of our information. One poacher was caught with snap traps on the island of Monte, located in Lake Iseo and another, also with snap traps was apprehended in the high mountains between Lake Iseo and Val Trompia. The number of traps seized in these two incidents has not yet received from the police and will be added to our totals later. To the north-east of Brescia a poached was caught tending to his net and 36 snap traps were also seized. Today, Monday, a police patrol stayed in their ambush position for hours in pouring rain near 3 nets located by one of our teams north of Brescia. Their persistence paid off - the poacher was arrested in the afternoon

In addition CABS volunteers found and dismantled two bow traps and a mist net on the shore of Lake Iseo as the location was too open for a successful police operation.

Over the past few days the police have confiscated more than 120 birds from hunters and poachers, kept illegally as live decoys. Today 50 Song Thrushes, 35 Chaffinches, 26 Bramblings, 7 Hawfinches, 6 Crossbills, 4 Siskins, 3 Blackbirds and a Starling were taken by our volunteers to the Modena wildlife rehabilitation centre.

Thursday, 11.10.2012

The weather today was typically misty for the time of year and no finds of note were made. Two trapping sites with snap and bow traps were left untouched for police ambushes and 11 snap traps were dismantled by CABS volunteers. Due to a changeover in personnel the police were inactive in the field today. Nonetheless we have a further two arrests of poachers to report. The police informed us that they< had caught a poacher at a mist net site in central Val Trompia that we reported to them on 8 October, and another poacher was Caught attending his nets just to the north of the provincial capital Brescia yesterday 10 October.

We regrettably have to make a downward correction to our statistics. Due to a communications failure the 294 bow traps that we reported as being confiscated from a single poacher on Wednesday were in fact the total number of traps seized by the authorities over the past fortnight. The poacher caught yesterday had only 76 traps. This is still a high number when compared with the finds made so far. A further 10 snap traps were dismantled by the police near Lake Iseo as the ambush set could not be sprung.

Wednesday, 10.10.2012

Ortolan Buntings found in possession of a poacher - kept for use as live decoyOrtolan Buntings found in possession of a poacher - kept for use as live decoyReconnaissance by CABS teams led to the arrest of four further poachers, caught red-handed by the police. Yesterday, 9 October, a man was caught near Lake Iseo with 105 set bow traps. Ten years ago this number of traps would hardly have been worth a mention, today it is the exception rather than the rule. Nonetheless this number of traps discovered was exceeded today; only five kilometres away from yesterday’s arrest a trapper was caught with 294 bow traps! The installation was discovered yesterday by a CABS volunteer and the police were led to the site this morning. In addition two more poachers were arrested in the lower Val Trompia today, one with a mist net and the other with 11 snap traps.

An ambush set by the police at a trapping site found by a CABS team in the upper reaches of central Val Trompia was regrettably unsuccessful. The 50 snap traps were therefore seized. CABS volunteers also dismantled 16 bow traps and three fox snares. These were in locations unsuitable for a police operation.

The forest police confiscated several illegally kept live decoy birds from a poacher including several Song Thrushes and Dunnocks as well as three Ortolan Buntings. The birds were handed over to CABS and will be taken to the wildlife rehabilitation centre in Modena in the next few days.

Monday, 08.10.2012

Bow trapsBow traps Over the past few days the number of volunteers has increased to 22, with participants from Germany, Great Britain, Italy and the USA on operations in the Brescia Mountains. In fine autumn weather the teams were successful in their search for nets and traps and a total of two dozen trapping sites were located. Three Nets, 23 snap traps and 10 bow traps were collected by the volunteers in locations where police operations were not possible.

All other traps and nets were left standing for police ambushes. The officers were led to sites that had been well reconnoitred. On 6 October a poacher was caught red-handed tending his 30 bow traps in the central Val Trompia mountains. This Monday three poachers were caught in separate operations in a mountain village near Lake Iseo. One man had 7 bow traps set out, another 15 and the third was caught with 51 snap traps. Two police ambushes were unsuccessful as either our teams or the police had been spotted by the poachers. Nevertheless two mist nets were seized.

Thursday, 05.10.2012

Both yesterday and today were successful days for our North Italian bird protection camp - four trappers were charged by police. On 4 October a poacher with 40 bow traps was caught red-handed in central Val Trompia, as was a man with a net in upper Val Sabbia. Today, 5 October, a trapper with a net near Lake Iseo and another poacher with 12 snap traps in Val Sabbia fell into the hands of the police. CABS volunteers also collected 28 bow traps.

Yesterday the police struck a blow against a well-organised poacher. The man had a shooting hide not far from Lake Idro, was not in possession of a hunting licence and in addition had an illegal weapon. The police seized more than 50 illegally-kept decoy birds including Chaffinches, Hawfinches and Crossbills. The birds were taken to our wildlife rehabilitation centre in Modena.

Wednesday, 03.10.2012

Common Redstart in snap trapCommon Redstart in snap trap Bird migration has begun slowly in good autumn weather in the Southern Alps. Sizeable flocks of Chaffinches and Crossbills were seen today and yesterday and Robins are gradually making an appearance.

The four CABS teams deployed over the past two days located four active trapping installations. The police used the good weather conditions to ambush two of the sites we found and caught two poachers. One was a man with two nets in Val Camonica (this was the site with one net located by us on 29 September - the police found a second one); the other a young man today in the vicinity with 16 snap traps.

In addition, three freshly prepared trap lines were found. We will monitor these over the next few days and guide the police to the locations as soon as traps are set out.

Monday, 01.10.2012 Four teams were deployed in Brescia yesterday and today in bad weather conditions with a lot of rain and practically no bird migration. Many of the trapping locations checked in the past few days have been abandoned for some years. Two trapping sites for bow traps and nets were freshly prepared but the traps have not yet been set out. The poachers are clearly waiting for migration to pick up.

In upper Val Sabbia we found however a mist net and a few small snap traps for song bird trapping. Both sites will be reported to the police in the next few days as any form of effective action by the officers at present is impossible because of the weather conditions. In central Val Trompia a team found a snare for foxes and dismantled it.

Saturday, 29.09.2012

Most of the participants for the first week of our large scale camp in Brescia arrived today. On team arrived yesterday and was deployed today in heavy rain. In Val Camonica north of Lake Iseo they located a freshly-installed net and showed it immediately to the police. The heavy rain had forced the officers to postpone their ambush of the site.