For World Wildlife Day (3 March), we spoke to Avon and Somerset Police’s new Wildlife Officer Pete Wills to find out more about his role.
“For those of you that don’t know me, I have been with Avon and Somerset Police for 22 years and have recently taken on the role of Wildlife Officer. I was previously the community beat manager in Burnham-on-Sea.
“I was brought up on the Somerset Levels by two very keen walkers and conservationists, so I naturally fell into it and carried on with this lifestyle into adulthood. I was a voluntary Wildlife Crime Officer for 14 years, helping to investigate or advise other officers, so this is a natural progression for me. I’m really pleased to be given this opportunity and I am excited about to being in a role where I am guaranteed to get my boots dirty.
“Wildlife crime is generally underreported, so a big part of my role is about raising the profile. Wildlife crime can be difficult to solve, as much of it occurs in remote locations where there are limited witnesses. We get all sorts of crimes reported to us, from badger act offences, to water vowels and bats, as well as illegal hunting and poaching. I have looked at ivory importation into our area and we have previously investigated bird egg and butterfly collectors. It’s not just about animals though; it’s important to remember that flora and fauna are protected too.
“From getting training on animal handling from Bristol Zoo to investigating wildlife offences against badgers, slow worms and newts, my first month in the role has certainly not been quiet. I have met with hunt monitor groups and hunt masters to open channels of discussion, as well as working with various partner organisations such as Exmoor Rangers, National Trust and Environment Agency. I have also started to bring together a network of local volunteers to help with his work.
“Back in December, I attended the National Wildlife Crime Enforcers Conference in Milton Keynes to learn about best practice in different parts of the country and see what could be adopted within Avon and Somerset.
“I obviously can’t do this all by myself, but I know there is a sea of people and agencies in the region that will be able to help me along the way. I hope to build a good working relationship with many of the key partners to help enhance the force’s wildlife portfolio. I hope to be able feed it all into the National Wildlife crime picture.
“There are five of us in the Force that are trained to advise on wildlife crime, so please contact me if you need any help or require more information.”