ALLOTMENT holders who trap and drown squirrels are being targeted by police - and officers are urging people to call 999 if they witness them doing it.
Waltham Forest police are alarmed that some allotment holders have been advising their fellow gardeners that it is okay to drown the animals.
But drowning mammals is a criminal offence under the Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996 and carries a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine or six months in prison.
Sgt Rowan Healey, borough wildlife crime officer, said: "There is clearly a misunderstanding here because anybody advising others to drown squirrels is encouraging them to break the law.
"There are organisations that can give advice on ways to discourage squirrels without harming them and it would be better if any allotment owners who are worried about squirrels consulted one of these groups instead.
"Similar legislation also protects the deliberate harming of foxes.
"The police, together with their partners the RSPCA, will take action against anybody in Waltham Forest found to be breaking the laws that protect our wildlife."
Sgt Healey has not revealed where in Waltham Forest allotment holders have received the advice.
It is not believed that any squirrels have been found drowned.
It is legal to kill squirrels humanely and it is not legal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to release squirrels, so anybody catching one is obliged to kill it, but without causing suffering to the animal.
Police are urging anybody with information about illegal harming of wildlife to contact Sgt healey on 8721 2649 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Officers want people to call 999 if the public see it happening, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.