An article today on the blog Raptor Persecution UK shows several very clear photographs of a dead ring ouzel caught in a rail or bridge trap (see https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2018/08/03/ring-ouzel-is-latest-victim-of-vermin-trap-on-grouse-moor/#comments ) This is the type of trap set in huge numbers in the UK, particularly on driven grouse moors. Some are set legally and some are not. In this particular case the person who set the trap, most likely one of the estate gamekeepers, had complied with the law in that the entrance was restricted within the terms of the various Spring Traps (Approval) Orders of the constituent countries of the UK. Nevertheless, a non-target species has been caught and killed and it is just one of many that will be the by-catch of these traps.
I have seen dippers, ring ouzels, grouse, hedgehogs, rabbits, leverets, red squirrels, pine martens and cats caught as by-catch in these traps, many of which, like this trap, were legally set. I have no doubt that in many cases the trap user regretted that these animals had been caught but it is still a situation that is unacceptable.
The police have a difficult enough task in establishing (a) that a crime has been committed, due to the woolly and unsatisfactory wording of the legislation, and (b) who set the trap. I have advocated for years that the law in relation to the use of tunnel traps needs to be revisited and tightened up, but note the paragraph from my book Killing by Proxy:
These failings need to be addressed and a chance to do this is coming. Both DEFRA and the Scottish Government are working on changes to trap legislation. Under the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) Fenn traps and some others are no longer considered humane for some fur-bearing mammals. In the UK this applies to stoats, even though they are not caught here for their fur. A new design of trap is required and tests are being carried out. This is an ideal chance to incorporate changes that will prevent, or at least minimise, by-catch.
Along with whatever changes may eventually take place the following should be considered as a priority:
- An entrance to the tunnel of maximum prescribed dimensions
- The tunnel covered over to exclude light, and thus minimise the risk of birds entering
- A number supplied by the police and identifying the trap user, displayed on a tag on the trap as in the manner of snares in Scotland.
- A presumption in law that the person who set the trap is the person whose number appears on the tag