During the autumn migration period, from mid-September to December every year, in the Bresciana valleys above Lakes Garda and Iseo and as far as the Trentino boundary, millions of robins, as well as wrens, nightingales, blackcaps, dunnocks, goldcrests, firecrests and hawfinches are held for agonising hours in spring traps, hanging by their broken legs, waiting to be strangled, and then taken off to be spit-roasted and served with polenta in a “traditional”dish.
The LIPU team responsible for supervising this area, with only 4 or 5 members, works from October to December each year and recently managed to recover some 1500 trapped small birds (80% of them robins, and the rest blackcaps, tits, etc.). They also confiscated and destroyed 11,000 traps and 140 mist nets, and confiscated live decoys and served many notices of offences. Between 3 and 5 million birds are killed every year by more than a million traps placed by the poachers.
There are about 3 – 4000 poachers involved in bird trapping, nearly all of whom being local inhabitants of the valleys, where there are large numbers of hunters. Nowadays, after some twenty years of opposition, most of those who are still active are of the older generation, operating from isolated cottages and Alpine huts. It is the “supporters” of the trade who are coming under closer scrutiny, people who are not themselves directly involved in poaching but nevertheless sustain it. In the Bresciana valleys and surrounding areas there are hundreds of restaurants prepared to pay a Euro for a slaughtered robin. Poaching is a scourge whose effects are are widely underestimated; damage is being done to wildlife, especially birds, during most of the year and especially when they are most vulnerable, such as during the migration and breeding seasons.
But it’s not just in the northern valleys that trapping is a problem … Click Here for Sardinia