TWO protected birds of prey, likely to have been caught in illegal spring traps, suffered 'horrific and traumatic injuries.'

A joint investigation has been launch by Isle of Wight Police and the RSPB after the birds, a buzzard and a hobby, were found with severed legs in woodland at Littletown, near Briddlesford.

The buzzard was found dead, with a missing foot, on March 14. The hobby — a small falcon similar to a kestrel – was found alive, also with its foot missing, on September 23. It was taken to the RSPCA and put down.

The RSPB said today (Tuesday) the birds were likely to have been illegally trapped

"The birds, a hobby and a buzzard, were found with horrific injuries. Both had lost a foot as a result of becoming caught in a spring trap," said a spokesperson.

"Police were alerted and the birds were sent for post-mortem examinations. The report concluded: 'Both birds suffered traumatic amputations of one lower limb consistent with the affected leg being caught and held in a spring trap.'

"All wild birds are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which makes it an offence to intentionally harm them.

"Anyone found to have done so faces an unlimited fine with up to six months in jail."

Jenny Shelton, from the RSPB’s investigations unit, said: "Spring traps are sometimes used to catch and kill vermin, and are legal if placed in a tunnel, with a restricted entrance, for this purpose.

"However spring traps set out in the open are illegal, and pose a huge danger to wildlife.

"We have had numerous reports over the years of birds of prey being deliberately caught in these brutal devices.

"Birds of prey are incredible creatures and it’s devastating that the lives of these two birds have ended in this way.

"We are grateful to the people who reported these birds. If you find an injured bird of prey, or come across a metal trap set out in the open or on a pole, call the police on 101 immediately."

PC Tim Campany, from the Country Watch team, said: "We are working closely with our colleagues from the RSPB to establish what happened. One line of enquiry is that the birds may have been caught and held in a spring-type trap.

"This is illegal and is a barbaric method of trapping. It leaves the bird, once freed from the trap, unable to land and feed and it will eventually die of starvation.

"Raptor persecution is a priority of the National Wildlife Crime Unit and will not be tolerated.

"I would urge anyone with information on suspicious vehicles, persons, or traps located in the Bridlesford area to call us now."

Anyone with information should call Isle of Wight Police on 101, quoting the reference 44180374840.