The Rickmansworth and District Safer Neighbourhood Team and partners are increasing their patrols at a nature reserve following reports of animal cruelty, illegal swimming and boating.
Over the bank holiday weekend, police and Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust received calls about several incidents at Stocker’s Lake nature reserve.
A person was seen to swim across to an island within the lake and remove a gull chick from its nest.
Others were also seen swimming in the lake as well as using a canoe or similar vessel on the water, however these activities can disturb the nesting birds and could be an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Damage to one of the floating tern rafts was also recorded.
This week, during half term, police and partners have been visiting the lake regularly and reiterating to the public the importance of preserving the nature reserve, as well as the safety risks of entering the water.
PCSO Steve Jacob, from the Rickmansworth and District Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “The nature reserve is home to a gull colony, and we are sorry to report that a witness saw someone intentionally swim out to an island before removing a gull chick from its nest.
“Sadly, we have been unable to confirm whether the animal was returned to its nest. We would like to remind the public that it is an offence to remove any wild bird from its nest, or interfere with its nesting site, and anyone caught doing so will be prosecuted.
“We know many residents enjoy the nature reserve respectfully, without disturbing wildlife or flouting byelaws, but my colleagues and I have increased our patrols in the wake of these recent incidents.
“There will be an increased police presence at the lake over the upcoming weekend and if anyone witnesses the disturbance of bird nesting sites, they should contact police straight away.”