I have held back on commenting on the illegally-set bridge or rail traps found by walkers on what is reported to be the Glendye Estate in Aberdeenshire. On 17 January the walkers found a number of traps set on logs over burns where there was no restriction to mammals or birds that are not the legal targets of these traps. Photographs and details were published on an excellent blog – davidadamsketchbook.blogspot.co.uk – written by one of the walkers but unfortunately there was no mention as to whether the police had been informed.
Since 17 January the incident has been reported by others on social media and it would not have taken long for the phones of the keepers on the estate to be red hot warning them of the widespread public knowledge of these crimes. If they had set the traps they would be there in a flash to remove them. I suspect that the police had been informed by the walkers since they had left the traps in the set position, leaving them liable to catch a mammal or bird, but that is only a guess since I thought from the blog that the writer seemed a very responsible person who, like many of us, has a hatred of wildlife crime. In any event I did not want to add to the chance of the criminals being forewarned before the police had a chance to carry out their investigation. As I have said in other articles I believe in publication of criminal acts as early as possible after the discovery provided it does not hamper the police investigation.
The bridge traps in question appeared from the photos to be Fenn Mk IV traps set either in wire mesh tunnels with no restrictions on the ends to exclude mammals other than small ground ‘pest’ species, or simply with a single loop of fence wire over the trap. I have never encountered this latter method before and I can see no use whatsoever for the loop of wire. Either of the traps could easily catch protected species such as pine martens or even wildcats, and these larger mammals would be unlikely to be killed outright and more likely to be trapped by a leg and left dangling from the log.
The use of these traps in this illegal condition is pure laziness on behalf of the person setting them. Most of these traps I have seen lately have been set legally and it takes little effort to surround the trap with a proper wire cage. Gamekeepers state they are professionals and if a gamekeeper set these (and on any grouse moor regularly patrolled by gamekeepers it is hardly likely to have been anyone else) there is nothing professional about them.
Part of the SGA quote on the incident is:
‘all traps operated must be set in accordance with the strict guidelines governing their use’.
It’s a wee bit more than ‘guidelines’ that govern their use; it’s legislation. The criteria for setting these traps are not something that might be advisable to do, they’re conditions that must be followed. I bet that Bert Burnett is absolutely raging at this latest incident. There are many critics of Bert but I found when I was with Tayside Police that he did more than anyone else in SGA to discourage gamekeepers from breaking the law, especially in relation to raptor persecution.
Let’s hope that the police managed to get to the traps before they were spirited away.