Police have stepped up patrols after several calls about animal cruelty and other incidents at Stocker’s Lake nature reserve.
Walkers witnessed someone swimming in the lake and another using a canoe or paddle board over to an island in the lake and removed a gull chick from its nest.
Disturbing nesting birds could be an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Damage to one of the floating tern rafts was also recorded.
This week, during half term, police and partners have been increasing visits to stockers lake and reiterating to the public the importance of preserving the nature reserve, as well as the safety risks of entering the water.
PCSO Steve Jacob, from the Rickmansworth and District Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “The nature reserve is home to a gull colony, and we are sorry to report that a witness saw someone intentionally swim out to an island before removing a gull chick from its nest.
“Sadly, we have been unable to confirm whether the animal was returned to its nest. We would like to remind the public that it is an offence to remove any wild bird from its nest, or interfere with its nesting site, and anyone caught doing so will be prosecuted.
“We know many residents enjoy the nature reserve respectfully, without disturbing wildlife or flouting byelaws, but my colleagues and I have increased our patrols in the wake of these recent incidents.
“There will be an increased police presence at the lake over the upcoming weekend and if anyone witnesses the disturbance of bird nesting sites, they should contact police straight away.”
Josh Kalms, People and Wildlife Officer (Affinity Water sites), from the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, said: “Stocker’s Lake is one of very few undisturbed refuges for wildlife in the Colne Valley. Swimming and boating is prohibited on the nature reserve all year round in order to protect the sensitive habitats of the wildlife found there.
“As well as endangering wildlife, people swimming in Stocker’s Lake are putting themselves in danger. The lake has many underwater metal snags and pockets of very cold water, even in warm weather. People in the water are at great risk of cold water shock, hypothermia and drowning.
“Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, along with Affinity Water, want people to enjoy the lake and remain safe without causing damage and disturbance to wildlife and their habitats.”