'Blokes with guns' kill magpie at Lismore shopping centre
GUN-WIELDING men isn't what you expect to see on an afternoon grocery run.
But that's what residents say they were confronted with at an East Lismore shopping centre on Tuesday.
What may have been a standard approach to a menacing magpie has members of the public shaken.
Paramedics were called to Esmonde St about 11.20am on Tuesday after a 70-year-old woman was struck by a magpie and fell over, injuring her knee.
About an hour later, two men dressed in shorts and T-shirts and carrying guns appeared in the nearby Wyrallah Rd Shopping Centre car park and shot the magpie out of a palm tree, witnesses said.
Russell Brown said the men claimed they were police officers, but did not appear to be forthcoming with identification.
Mr Brown said the magpie had been swooping people in that area "for years", but he questioned how the men approached the situation, whether or not they had authority to dispose of the bird.
"Something should have been done to warn the people what was about to happen," he said.
"Everybody that I saw looked rattled, they just looked upset.
"I don't think they should ever go about anything in that fashion."
Richmond Police District Inspector Bill McKenna said it was "not uncommon" for the council, National Parks and Wildlife Service or the public to request them to deal with problem magpies.
"Our specialised police, highly trained tactical police, are called regularly at this time of year to destroy magpies that are putting members of the public at risk," Insp McKenna said.
He said if such police from uniformed general duties were not available, plain clothes officers may attend.
But he said they should have had "some visible police identification".
"They are not going to put members of the public at risk in destroying a magpie," he said.
"They do that as quickly and as efficiently as possible with minimal to no risk to the public."
He was unable to confirm whether Tuesday's incident involved police officers.
Another witness named Heather - who asked for her surname to be withheld - said she was unable to sleep that night, as she replayed the incident in her mind.
"I saw these blokes with guns and I didn't know what the hell was happening because there was no uniforms, there was no cop car, there was nothing," she said.
"It scared the living hell out of me until they shot the bird, then fear just turned to anger."
She said if the men were police, they should have acted differently and warned the public.
"I would have thought they would have shut the area off," she said.
"I would like to know why the hell they did it when there were people around, why they didn't block the streets off."
A spokesman for the shopping centre's management said he was not aware of the incident and declined to comment.
Last Thursday, the Lismore Magpie Attack Facebook page said the bird had been protective but was "quiet and lovely for most of the year".
The Magpie Alert website, meanwhile, had another swooping incident recorded in the same street last week.
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage did not respond to a request for comment on whether the OEH or the National Parks and Wildlife Service was involved.
But the department's website say magpies are a protected species in NSW.
"It is against the law to kill the birds, collect their eggs, or harm their young," the website states.
"If you feel a magpie is a serious menace, it should be reported to your local council or the nearest National Parks and Wildlife Service office.
Lismore MP Thomas George, who Mr Brown approached after the incident, said he had referred the matter to police.