A DAIRY farmer has defended his right to shoot Canada Geese which are deluging his farm, despite protests from angry residents.
The shooting of the birds over the past three months has outraged animal lovers in Church Kirk despite it being legal until the end of the month.
Hundreds of geese descend on a grass field belonging to Holt Farm, Rishton, which borders the canal, railway line and M65 motorway on the Church and Rishton border.
The shootings, which have taken place on occasional Sundays between 7am and 8am, have attracted protesters in fluorescent jackets who have tried to deter the gunmen with their presence.
Susan and Alan Cook, of St James' Road, Church, regularly walk their dog along the canal path opposite the field and have mounted early morning patrols to try to stop the killings.
They say they understand the problems geese can cause but claim the birds are being killed unnecessarily as a "sport".
Mr Cook, 50, said: "It is a delicate subject because the shooting is allowed but should only be carried out as a last resort. We love seeing the geese as do visitors to the area.
"Shooting the birds so close to the canal, railway line and motorway is also a huge safety risk, the birds don't always die in the field and can fly a distance before they fall to the ground so could easily hit someone on the path or in a car."
Canada Geese are protected by the EU and have few natural predators meaning their numbers can soar.
But they can be shot or trapped by authorised people during the open season between 1 September and 31 January.
Thomas Threlfall, 64, of Holt Farm, off Hermitage Street, said the geese are trampling his grass and ruining the oat crop which has been planted and said only about 15 birds had been shot.
He said: "These birds are vermin and we need to eliminate them as farmers in the area have problems with them. We didn't kill any last year because only 40 or 50 birds came onto our land but now there are hundreds, they're multiplying and they're destroying our crop.
"We can't stop the birds flying to the canal but they need to be controlled."