Footage of Chris Packham sniffing a goshawk chick is at the centre of a police probe amid claims the presenter’s actions were a ‘disturbance’ to the protected species.
The naturalist appeared on TV screens in June with three of the fledgling animals to showcase how the bird of prey was making a comeback after nearly being hunted to extinction in the 19th century.
In the clip the 62-year-old was seen weighing the chicks, as well as determining their sex and ringing them after being given a licence by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).
However, he sparked a complaint from one viewer after he leaned in and sniffed one of the animals – which are reputed to have a ‘characteristic scent’ – saying this could be a classed as a breach of a law which makes it a crime to ‘intentionally or recklessly disturb’ goshawk chicks, the Telegraph reports.
However, Mr Packham denied having done anything wrong or illegal, adding that the people concerned should ‘worry less about a naturalist having an occasional sniff’ and instead focus on illegal poaching of the protected species.
Chris Packham, pictured here with three goshawk chicks in June this year, has been criticised for sniffing one of them
A TV segment featuring the naturalist was reported to the police amid claims his actions could be a classed as a ‘disturbance’ to the protected birds
Goshawks are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which enshrines the safety of all birds, their nest and eggs in law.
As well as making the deliberate killing, injuring or capturing of any wild bird a crime, it also makes it illegal to ‘intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1 while it is nest building, or at a nest containing eggs or young, or disturb the dependent young of such a bird’.
The footage was filmed in the New Forest over the course of a morning for the BBC’s The One Show, but one expert on birds of prey has said there’s ‘absolutely no excuse’ for it to take so long.
Jemima Parry-Jones told the Telegraph the filming should be done as quickly as possible and in a way to minimise harm, adding: ‘When the face of a human, effectively their only natural predator, appears over the edge of a nest it will cause them huge distress.’
The segment sparked one viewer to enquire with Natural England whether there was a filming licence.
The shooting enthusiast, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals, told the publication: ‘I watched the programme and was struck by the way Mr Packham was handling and sniffing the birds.’
He added that Natural England told him they had ‘not been able to locate any relevant licences’ and since then the police have been contacted, leading to an investigation.
A Hampshire Police spokesman said: ‘We received a report on July 2 relating to an alleged offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is currently being reviewed by our Countrywatch team.’
Mr Packham told The Telegraph: ‘Raptor persecution is illegal yet every year a huge number of goshawks are killed by gamekeepers … not by scientists or people in the media. All three of these birds fledged the nest – lets hope they survive.’
A BBC spokesman said: ‘The One Show had permission to film and followed all protocols around filming wildlife.’