What’s in a day’s work for Thames Valley Police’s dedicated wildlife cop?

Dean Kingham - Thames Valley Police wildlife crime officer for Bucks and Oxon  - pictured with a Sparrowhawk egg
Dean Kingham - Thames Valley Police wildlife crime officer for Bucks and Oxon - pictured with a Sparrowhawk egg
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Big cat sightings around the UK are usually presumed by most of us to be a hoax or a case of mistaken identity.

But not everyone is able to play fast and loose with such claims.

Dean Kingham - Thames Valley Police wildlife crime officer for Bucks and Oxon checks a Fenn trap on the Waddesdon Estate

Dean Kingham - Thames Valley Police wildlife crime officer for Bucks and Oxon checks a Fenn trap on the Waddesdon Estate

Wildlife crime officer Dean Kingham has had several calls from people believing they have seen dangerous predators roaming the plains of Bucks and Oxfordshire.

Although none of these have ever turned out to be the real deal, they all have to be checked out.

Mr Kingham, who is based in Waddesdon, said: “It’s easy to make a mistake if you get the wrong kind of light.

“We will go out and see if there’s a footprint. If there is we take an imprint and take it to the local zoo who can help us out.

“When sheep get killed people always presume it’s a big cat but it always turns out to be a dog.”

Though it might be a bit far-fetched to describe Mr Kingham as Bucks’ own Ace Ventura, his job does involve tracking down people putting our wildlife at risk.

Top priorities include badger and bat persecution, poaching and poisoning.

The types of poaching Mr Kingham has to deal with depends on the season.

For example, at harvest time he has to be wary of hare coursing, where people use dogs to catch them.

Mr Kingham said: “That’s a massive issue for people in the countryside because of the amount of damage they cause driving through crops and damaging gateways.”

Towards Christmas deer poachers make their move, often driving into fields at night using a technique known as ‘lamping’. This involves bright lights being shone on the deer before dogs are set on them.

“It’s not only illegal but an animal welfare thing too,” said Mr Kingham.

Another practice which may not be so apparent is the theft of bird eggs for people’s private collections.

There are two types of people who do this: those who want a few eggs from every species and those who want as many eggs as they can get from one species.

Mr Kingham said: “They can have a devastating impact. They just want to collect them and are very secretive about it and may just show them to a few people.

“When they’re caught so many times you have to restrict where they can go and when because you know they’re only going there for the eggs.

“We have got people that are not allowed in Scotland in certain months because they go for certain eggs.”

Not every incident Mr Kingham is called to is the result of someone acting with malicious intent.

Although the poisoning of animals such as birds of prey is known to happen, sometimes it can occur because people use pesticides wrongly.

Mr Kingham said: “If they use them outside barns then mice and rats die outside and the raptors come and pick them up and eat them and then die.”

A lot of the wildlife officer’s work includes ensuring people have the correct license for what they are doing such as housing extensions and hedge trimming which can impact on certain animals. He has also done several checks on the work to build a waste incinerator at Calvert, which has involved removing some wildlife habitat.

But, there is also an educational side to the job. Mr Kingham often visits fetes and country shows to exhibit some of the more exotic items that have been seized and to explain to people what wildlife crime is all about.