HS2 have been accused of wildlife crimes after a dead shrew was discovered at one of their development sites by a concerned walker.

Campaigners have slammed the company after one of the tiny protected mammals was discovered inside a HS2 pitfall trap that was designed to catch newts.

The body of the shrew was discovered in one of the pitfall traps that has been installed at the Waddesdon Greenway.

A resident, who was on her daily walk, found the pitfall traps full of rubbish and decided to keep returning each day to see if they had been cleared out.

It was after several similar visits that she found the dead shrew.

Any newts that are caught in the traps are translocated to new homes before development – but newts can die if trapped in cold weather, so HS2’s licence requires the traps to be closed with a tight-fitting lid to prevent deaths and other animals being accidentally caught.

Even when traps are open in warmer weather, the licence issued by Natural England requires climbable escape routes – known as mammal ladders – in a bid to prevent the deaths of any animal that strays inside.

Campaigners say photos they took at the scene prove that these mammal ladders have not been provided – leading to the death of at least one shrew.

Rob Mileto, a specialist in protected species with 30 years’ experience in ecological consultancy, said: “I would expect a government backed National Infrastructure Project like HS2 to follow legislation and industry best practice to the letter. Instead, all I am seeing is a disregard for wildlife law, government guidance and even any transparency on the wildlife surveys they have done.”

Rob has raised the likely breach of condition and later the death of the shrew with Natural England, who are investigating.

He added: “I trust Natural England will take their regulatory responsibilities in this matter very seriously and make public their findings. If HS2 are found to be in breach of their organisational licence, then the appropriate action would be to revoke that licence – it’s akin to being found guilty of drink-driving, you lose your driving licence.”

A HS2 spokesman said Natural England visited the site with HS2’s contractor Fusion on February 8 – where it was established that the newt traps had been vandalised.

Since then, they have put extra measures in place to stop passers-by from using the traps as rubbish bins, including daily checks by the site team, replacing damaged buckets and using fencing.

They added: HS2 and our contractors take our environmental obligations seriously and work within licensing laws.

“Natural England visited this area last week and it was found that the newt traps in this location have been vandalised.

“Our contractors have now put extra measures in place to reduce further interference from passers-by. We appeal to members of the public not to vandalise our ecology work which has been put in place by our expert ecologists to protect wildlife.”