SIR - I feel obliged to utilise your columns to express my concerns about matters that are dear to me, and I am sure to many others as well. We were enjoying listening to the wild bird song on a lovely, sunny, New Year's Day. All was delightful, until we heard the bang of a shotgun nearby, and suddenly all was silent, and not a bird to be seen. Sadly, hardly a week goes by without hearing gunshots in the Lothersdale Valley. As a local resident of some 40 years standing, I have witnessed a dramatic reduction in terms of the numbers of birds and wild animals in the locality. This would appear to conform to national statistics. I believe that the time has come to call a halt to shooting, or else the wildlife will go the way of the Dodo. One may think that it is okay to go out with a gun and decimate the rabbit population. Rabbits provide food for the larger raptors which are meant to be encouraging. I strongly suspect that some of these birds have been shot, although I lack the evidence at present Shooters need reminding that these birds have protection under the law. In addition to that, on a New Year's Day a much larger number of walkers were on the footpaths. Surely in the interests of public safety shooting should not be taking place. The wildlife at the Hellifield Flashes is worth preserving, but so is that in Lothersdale, and elsewhere.

Chris Ingham

Suzanne Robinson

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