CONSERVATIONISTS have expressed their anger after an organised shoot was spotted on a “fragile” nature reserve.

The incident happened on Astley Moss Nature Reserve and Lancashire Wildlife Trust think it is not the first time the shooters have been on the land with them believed to be hunting pheasants.

The land is owned by the trust with shooting not allowed on the site.

Reserve officer Martyn Walker said: “I was on Astley Moss with a team from the trust, undertaking health and safety work in Rindle Woods.

"As we got out from the vehicles we started to hear lots of gun shots and shouting coming from the moss.

“I went over to look and there was an organised shoot heading over the moss towards the woods. "They were strung out in a line walking through the moss with dogs and beaters.

"I shouted them to stop and asked them to leave. They walked away off the moss, but would not answer any questions regarding which shoot they represented.

“They had obvious disregard for being on private reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and appeared unconcerned they had been spotted.”

Astley Moss forms part of the SSSI and also the Manchester Mosslands Special Area of Conservation.

Martyn said: “The site is fragile and vulnerable to disturbance and obviously we do not allow such activities to take place on the moss.

“The shoot must know that the land is owned by the trust and that we do not allow shooting on the land but appears to have ignored this.

"I do not believe this is an isolated incident, as we have found many gun cartridges on the reserve over the years.

“This incident occurred while we had members of staff and volunteers on site.

"We feel that the shoot was dangerous and illegal and are looking to pursue the matter with the help of the police to prevent future incidents of this type.”

The trust has also had problems in the past with hare coursing and thefts on the Manchester Mosslands which includes Cadishead and Little Woolden Moss in Salford.

It is trying to make the area a safe environment for wildlife, which can be accessed by people keen to seen native birds, animals and plants.