Captive fox kept for hunting? Comment.

Fox

The BBC and other media reported on 29 March that ‘A gamekeeper who kept a fox captive in a brick shed – allegedly so it could be hunted – has been found guilty of an animal welfare offence’. (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-43568572 )

After a report to the League against Cruel Sports (LACS) in December 2017 their staff found a fox inside a brick shed on the Buckminster Estate, which is on the Leicestershire/Lincolnshire border. They suspected that the fox was kept for the purpose of fox hunting and set up video surveillance on the shed. The following day they watched a man come to the shed, then leave again shortly after.

LACS were aware that the Belvoir Hunt were due to meet for fox hunting the following day, 17 December, so they informed the police of what was happening, the terrible conditions in which the fox was being held, the fact it had no water, and returned to the shed to rescue the fox.

On the day the Belvoir Hunt were due to meet, the same man – later identified as the gamekeeper on the estate – returned to the shed. This time he was carrying a net and a hessian sack. The inference from these items was that he was going to catch and bag the fox. Though common sense cannot be used in evidence, it was clear the fox was to be released so that it could be hunted by hounds.

The gamekeeper, Nigel Smith, was arrested by the police and interviewed. In the typical fashion of most hardened criminals and suspect gamekeepers he made ‘No comment’ replies to each of the questions put to him by the officers. The principal questions were:

“Are you willing to tell me why you had that fox in the building?”

“Has somebody asked you to catch that fox for them?”

“Have you got that fox as a pet?”

“Would you generally keep a fox as a pet?”

“Have you any links to the Belvoir Hunt or Belvoir Estate?”

“Were you going to give it to one of the members of the hunt?”

Smith was fined and ordered to pay costs totalling £1640. He was also disqualified from keeping foxes (which is a strange acquisitive pastime in any case) or being involved in fox hunting for five years.

This is yet another incident demonstrating the illegality involved in fox hunting and is one of several cases where a fox or foxes have been held captive by people linked to a fox hunt. The common-sense suspicion that the fox was to be released blows completely out of the water the claim that mounted fox hunting is carried out as fox control.

This was a great bit of work by LACS. There was certainly the issue of the suffering of the fox and its need to be released from that suffering. The fox was a ‘protected animal’ in terms of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 since it was under the control of man. It was being subjected to unnecessary suffering, not only because of the poor conditions under which it was kept but because of its captivity, being a wild animal, and its visits from its most deadly predator, man.

Section 18 (1) of the Act gives the delegated power to LACS to seize the fox, stating:

If an inspector or a constable reasonably believes that a protected animal is suffering, he may take, or arrange for the taking of, such steps as appear to him to be immediately necessary to alleviate the animal’s suffering.

But it again brings up the confusing position of covert surveillance on what I am sure would be private land and whether or not it can be admitted in evidence. The police, CPS and the court in this case, thankfully, accepted the evidence of the covert surveillance, but unfortunately appeared to give no explanation for future cases as to why it did so.

The other aspect of the case worthy of comment was that the judge said he had drawn an “adverse inference” from the fact that Smith did not give evidence at his trial. I’m not particularly acquaint with court procedures in England but I can’t imagine a judge saying this in a Scottish court, where an accused person has the right to remain silent and it is up to the Crown to prove evidence of guilt.

In any event it was a good conviction, albeit it was only in relation to an offence under the Animal Welfare Act rather than under the Hunting Act 2004. It also provides more ammunition for the complete banning of the ‘sport’ of mounted fox hunting.

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The use of clam traps in England

Home-made and extremely powerful clam trap set in a woodland. The gamekeeper who set it admitted it was to catch a buzzard.

The trap photographed by the Hunt Investigation Team in the Peak District

I looked at a photo put on Twitter this morning by the Hunt Investigation Team. It was a clam or Larsen mate trap set with a pheasant carcass as bait. The caption was ‘Here is another clam trap, baited with carrion by a grouse moor gamekeeper, in an area populated by buzzards in the Peak District’.

The use of these traps, also known as Larsen mate traps, is permitted in Scotland only under specific conditions and following a year-long trial to see whether or not they would catch non-target species. I have always been doubtful about these traps, especially since the ones I was involved with before retirement were clearly set for buzzards. The trap resembles a clam and the principle is that a bird lands on the perch to get to the bait, causing the two sides of the clam to spring shut and trap the bird inside. For a big bird such as a buzzard this was likely to mean that it could be caught with its wings up in the air and sticking out of the top of the trap. The trial showed that, while this could happen, manufacturing the trap so that its two sides did not close completely would allow the bird to retract its wings.

During the period of the trial the traps were allowed to be used but only with bait of bread or eggs, which would still attract crows but much less likely to attract raptors. Since the beginning of 2017 the traps were then permitted to be used with a meat bait but the operators have to provide to Scottish Natural Heritage Licencing Section their names and contact details, the number and types of traps used and the area in which they will be used.

I wondered then what the legal position was in England, where this trap was alleged to have been used.

The general licence for England made no reference to any trap other than, generically, to a cage trap. Cage traps come in different sizes and designs, but the licence does not even define or describe any of those. I have found over the years that good clear definitions within legislation makes a world of difference. Could a Larsen mate or clam trap be said to be a cage trap? I would doubt it. I think the prosecution may be able to argue that it is a spring trap, and that its use would fall within the terms of Section 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, this being, (in Scotland) :

Prohibition of certain methods of killing or taking wild birds.

5.–(1)   Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person–

(a)        sets in position any of the following articles, being an article which is of such a nature and is so placed as to be likely to cause bodily injury to any wild bird coming into contact therewith, that is to say, any springe, trap, gin, snare, hook and line, any electrical device for killing, stunning or frightening or any poisonous, poisoned or stupefying substance;

(b)       uses for the purpose of killing or taking any wild bird any such article as aforesaid, whether or not of such a nature and so placed as aforesaid, or any net, baited board, bird-lime or substance of a like nature to bird-lime;

Clam traps being included in the general licence in Scotland, of course, derogates from the terms of the legislation.

But the equivalent section for England weakens any prosecution argument by the use of a term much more difficult to prove: ‘calculated’

5.-(1)  Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person—

(a)         sets in position any of the following articles, being an article which is of such a nature and is so placed as to be calculated to cause bodily injury to any wild bird coming into contact therewith, that is to say, any springe, trap, gin, snare, hook and line, any electrical device for killing, stunning or frightening or any poisonous, poisoned or stupefying substance;

This is yet another example of where wildlife legislation covering England is weak and full of loopholes that can allow a suspect an easy escape route.

While it does not seem that the use of Larsen mate traps is legal in England I telephoned the licensing telephone number to ask their advice. The girl I spoke to had clearly never heard of a Larsen mate or a clam trap. She took my details and said she would make enquiries and phone me back. It must have been a tricky puzzle as by the end of the day I had not had a response. If I do (eventually) get a response I’ll add it to this post.

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Abandoning guinea pigs in winter

Guinea Pig Dead

One of the dead guinea pigs

Guinea Pig

The rescued guinea pig that required to have an eye removed

The Courier of 3 March carried a story of a timid tri-coloured guinea pig which was found in the Reid Park, Forfar, by a dog walker. The guinea pig was taken to a local vet and though it appeared to be OK there was no way of knowing how long it had been out in the snowy conditions or where it had come from, since the nearest houses were some way off.

The story reminded me of an incident which we dealt with as wildlife crime officers in Tayside, probably around 2005. A person who had been walking in Little Glenshee in Perthshire reported that he had found some dead guinea pigs near a roadside banking of whin bushes. He said there were ‘some small ones and some larger ones’ and he had also seen some live ones in the thick jaggy bushes.

I met the man reporting the incident and he showed me where these guinea pigs were. There were indeed several dead ones, unsurprising considering the freezing weather conditions in the month of December when the incident took place. There were also some ‘small ones’ as well, which the witness had not realised were hamsters, not guinea pigs.

It was clear that these poor wee beasties had been dumped in the countryside. Between the cold and predators such as stoats and weasels they had next to no chance of survival. Some of those that were dead had been partly eaten, though this might have been after death. It was sad to see the remaining live guinea pigs in the impenetrable bank of whins and I wondered how – if at all – they could be caught.

The nearest house, almost a mile away, was that of a gamekeeper. I called on him to see if he had some live-catch traps that we could use to try to tempt the live guinea pigs into. He provided several traps and some carrots to bait them and helped set the traps round the bank of whins. We agreed between us to check the traps three times a day, with him carrying out the early morning and late afternoon checks and me carrying out a late morning check.

Unfortunately only two guinea pigs entered the traps. These two might have been the only two remaining, we had no way of knowing. No hamsters were caught, nor were any live hamsters ever seen.

As had happened at the Reid Park, the trapped guinea pigs were taken to a vet, this time in Perth. One was quite healthy and recovered well after being warmed up. The other had a damaged eye, which had to be removed, though it recovered after its surgery.

This was a case that I was especially keen to solve. To release pet animals to certain death is cruel in the extreme and I worked closely with the media for help in tracing the person who had dumped them. I was sure that someone would be aware of a neighbour or acquaintance who had a shed-full of guinea pigs and hamsters one day and an empty shed the next day. Sadly there was not a single response to my media appeals. It was incredibly disappointing.

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Bird-watching in the garden

The female blackbird waiting beside the conservatory for its mealworms

The impatient (or hungry) male blackbird waiting for its mealworm breakfast

Chaffinches and bramblings under one of the feeders in the larch wood

The dejected mistle thrush that failed to find a single berry to eat

The dazed bullfinch under the conservatory window

Well there are some advantages of snowy weather, though not a lot. The day thus far for my wife and I has been bird watching without leaving the house – or at least the garden. The day started with one of the two pairs of blackbirds waiting for me just after 7.00am perched on the balcony rail of the veranda which is part of the conservatory. They get mealworms in the same places in the garden every morning and are always waiting there just after first light. This morning they were impatient and almost knocking on the window for their breakfast.

I filled the feeders at the three feeding stations first thing and by 7.30 there were birds galore. Most were chaffinches, and there have been between 30 and 50 in the garden all day. They surely can’t be the same birds; there must e some change around otherwise their wee bellies would burst with food. It would be great to know how many different chaffinches visit the feeders and the ground under the feeders over the course of a day.

The chaffinches were soon joined by bramblings, with their numbers building to a dozen or so. A few blue tits, three fat wood pigeons, four tree sparrows and about the same number of house sparrows made up most of the rest of the cast, though there was an occasional guest appearance by a wren, a tree creeper and a couple of dunnocks, the latter being more interested in stealing some of the blackbirds’ mealworms. These, of course, had to be topped up every couple of hours.

A mistle thrush appeared and searched every bush in the garden that had formerly held berries, though they had been scoffed earlier in the winter.  I could see one berry on a cotoneaster and the mistle thrush tried in vain to snatch it, but unfortunately it was at the end of a thin, wispy branch and tantalisingly out of reach.

Later in the day the same bushes were visited by a small flock of around half a dozen fieldfares, who also had to leave empty-handed. They’re the first to have visited the garden this winter and only ever come in snowy conditions.

Despite having their mealworm supplies, at one point a female blackbird clung on to one of the feeders, flapping wildly to retain its position. It seemed to spill more seed than it ate, a situation that the hens grasped immediately and scuttled over to pick up the best of the seed, scattering the ground squad of chaffinches and bramblings.

A flock of goldfinches visited the feeders yesterday but, though they were in the garden again today, they were more interested in the cones at the top of the larch trees and were able to feed without interruption. This must be a great source of food as, in addition to the goldfinches, I regularly see chaffinches, coal tits, blue tits and great tits feasting there.

The day almost included a disaster, as a male bullfinch crashed against the conservatory window. It nose-dived into the snow and lay there quivering as if dead. It must have been knocked out but a few seconds later it emerged from the snow and sat looking around, clearly still dazed. I was pretty sure by that time it would survive but it sat there for a good fifteen minutes before it eventually flew off. It would have been easy pickings for one of the sparrowhawks, though none have visited this past few days despite their bird table being full.

As I finish writing this at almost 3.00pm the feeders are just as busy as they have been all day, in fact two feeders of about 2 feet in length are nearly empty and will need refilled for the early morning invasion. I must say we get our money’s worth from the seed and mealworms.

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Mr Snowman, the hare courser

A brown hare, when it thinks it is unseen, will allow humans quite close. Hare coursers use this to their advantage.

The fact I am snowed in today is an ideal opportunity to write another blog. I wondered initially about writing about the mass of birds visiting the feeders in the garden, which would have been a great count for the RSPB Garden Birdwatch: 50+ chaffinches, 2 bramblings, 4 tree sparrows, a house sparrow, a robin, a tree creeper, a goldfinch, 2 dunnocks, 3 blue tits, 4 blackbirds, 4 woodpigeons and a magpie, which I can hear but not see. Anyway I decided to write about an unusual hare coursing case which took place in similar snowy conditions. It is recounted in my book A Lone Furrow:

In a Perthshire hare coursing escapade, with a participant I’ll call Mr Snowman, adverse weather conditions were no deterrent. On 4 January in 2008, after a heavy snowfall, a man local to the area was driving slowly and carefully along a narrow country road. He looked over the fence into a roadside field and saw a man walking a greyhound-type dog through the field. Just at this time three hares rose from the snow and ran off across the field. Mr Snowman now released his dog, which duly took off in pursuit of one of them.

The dog chased the hare across the field and the hare gained some ground by being able to get through the fence at the top of the field much more quickly than Mr Snowman’s dog. The witness continued along the road but as he rounded a bend the road was blocked by Mr Snowman’s 4WD car. He got out and shouted to Mr Snowman, who politely enquired, ‘What the fuck do you want?’ before returning to his car. By this time the witness was using his mobile phone to contact the police, and received a tirade of curses from Mr Snowman.

Snowman moved his car, all the while anxiously looking up the field to see what had happened to his dog. The witness passed Mr Snowman’s car and continued on his way, but at that point, unusual for such a quiet single-track road, a man came walking down the road. This witness saw Mr Snowman in the field and heard him shouting, at first thinking he was calling to him but then realising when he saw the greyhound that he was calling on the dog. He also saw the farmer approaching through the fields on his tractor and realised then that Mr Snowman had been coursing hares.

As this witness approached Mr Snowman’s car, it coincided with the return of Snowman and dog. Mr Snowman tried to cover the rear number plate of the car with snow, all the time calling to his dog to get into the car. Snowman either didn’t seem capable of counting beyond one, or didn’t realise his car had number plates front and back. As the witness passed the car, he noted the number from the front number plate and saw the farmer arrive in his tractor.

The farmer told Mr Snowman he had no business chasing hares, and was subjected to a variety of threats for his trouble. This is just about standard with hare coursers, with the threats usually about returning and burning down a barn or opening gates to let stock on to the road. Occasionally blows are struck, with the hare courser often coming off second-best. In this case it didn’t come to that and Mr Snowman made his departure pretty quickly, knowing that the first witness had phoned the police.

Police officers attended and could read in the snow what had taken place. To a significant degree this corroborated what the first witness in the car saw. The second witness, on foot, could add other pieces to the jigsaw but did not see coursing taking place. The farmer did not want involved and refused to give a statement to the officers.  Identification of Snowman, of prime importance in any investigation, came from the first man, who was able to pick him out from a set of twelve photographs.

Because the farmer had refused to speak up, the case was short of the level of evidence to convict if Mr Snowman denied being involved, which was more than likely. Mr Snowman was a career criminal and I was determined that he wouldn’t get away with this, so called on the farmer the next day. I could quite see why he didn’t want involved. Apart from any threats made, the farmer was a busy man and didn’t want to spend time hanging about a court. I explained that the others, who were virtual bystanders, had spoken up, and that it seemed only reasonable that the person on whose land this had taken place should stand up and be counted. I managed to convince the farmer that if he gave a statement to me of what he saw, then the case would be really solid and it was much more likely that a guilty plea would be entered. He took a wee bit of persuading but in the end I left with a statement completely backing up that of the witness in the car.

Mr Snowman was charged with hare coursing and, as I suspected he would, pleaded guilty. His record determined that a jail sentence would be appropriate, though that was replaced with the alternative option to a court, that of a community service order. Mr Snowman was sentenced to carry out 80 hours of community service. He’d missed an opportunity to work as Santa Claus but I’m sure there would still have been some snow to be cleared off pavements.

See A Lone Furrow and other books on this blog. If you would like a signed copy contact me on wildlifedetective@gmail.com

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Fox snares, nesting birds and legislation

Fox in snare among trees – risk of fox being fully or partially suspended. (Photo from Somerset County Gazette)

Fox in snare on fence, resulting in it being partially suspended.

Swallow’s nest in outbuilding.

A recent story in the Somerset County Gazette took my interest as a further demonstration of how far behind wildlife legislation is in England and Wales.

Police had been called to the rotting body of a fox in a snare on a fence line adjoining a footpath on a Somerset farm. The group finding the rotting fox also found a live fox in a snare and released it. They had photographed both foxes and the photo of the live snared fox was reproduced in the newspaper, though the paper decided not to publish the image of the rotting fox.

The officer who went investigate the incident was unable to find the decomposing fox or any snares but spoke to the landowner. According to the news report the landowner admitted he had forgotten to remove the dead fox.

Avon and Somerset police have rightly been criticised over the poor investigation. A decomposing carcass immediately suggests that the checking of the snares has not been within the terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. The lack of knowledge and lack of guile seems to indicate that the officer attending was not a wildlife crime officer. It is doubtful that an officer trained to deal with wildlife crime would have gone to the landowner before again contacting the group who found the foxes and asking better directions. From personal experience it is certainly not always easy to find a location without a grid reference or some focal point to aim for, so there is no shame in quietly pulling out and getting more accurate information.  He also seems to have been unaccompanied, presumably making the admission by the landowner inadmissible in court through lack of corroboration. He is also reported as having reminded the landowner to check his snares every day in future, effectively giving him a warning.

Aside from the police failings in this case there are also government failings. The law relating to the use of snares is woefully behind in England and Wales compared with Scotland. Plugging a glaring gap in the law in Scotland, way back in 2003, arose from us in Tayside finding a snared fox that had clearly been dead for several days. There was no doubt in my mind that the snare operator had not checked his snares over that period, but when interviewed, he claimed that he had checked the snares every day, had found a fox caught, which was dead, and hadn’t bothered removing it.

This was clearly a major loophole in the law which we reported to the Scottish Government. To their credit the legislation was changed the following year and the relevant section relating to the checking of snares now reads:

Section 11B(2)  Any person who while carrying out such an inspection —

  • finds an animal caught by the snare must, during the course of the inspection, release or remove the animal (whether it is alive or dead)

There is also a specific section in the Scottish version of the Act that prohibits snares being set at a place where the animal caught is likely to become fully or partially suspended. This could relate to snares being set on a fence as one of the fox snares in this episode appears to have been, or set among trees (as in the photo in the newspaper), where the animal is likely to become tangled and fully or partially suspended.

Many people would still rather have the use of snares banned but at least the improvements in snaring legislation in Scotland in 2004 and 2011 have resulted in more professionalism by the operators and consequently less suffering by the victims.

Following on from a recent discussion on Twitter about disturbance of nesting birds the law in England and Wales gives far less protection to nesting birds than the law in Scotland. The Wildlife and Countryside Act relating to England and Wales states:

‘if any person intentionally kills, injures or takes any wild bird; takes, damages or destroys a nest whilst in use or being built; or takes / destroys an egg of a wild bird, he shall be guilty of an offence’.

There is also an offence of disturbance to a nesting bird included in Schedule 1 of the Act.

Intent is always much more difficult to prove and it is helpful for investigative purposes that the same section in Scotland states that the disturbance can be intentional or reckless. In addition, the section goes on to state that it is an offence if a person intentionally or recklessly obstructs or prevents any wild bird from using its nest.

I can give two examples that could have constituted offences to nesting birds by preventing them from using their nest. The first related to a kestrel nest in a quarry. There was to be some construction work in the quarry and a birdwatcher was concerned this work would keep the kestrel off its nest. We made enquiries at the time and indeed the work would have caused problems to the bird as it was to be right under the nest site. The farmer knew of the nest but never considered the work would affect the bird. When this was pointed out to him he agreed to begin the work at the far end of the quarry so that by the time he was anywhere near the kestrel nest site the chicks would be fledged.

In the second case, work lasting a whole day was to be done in a small outhouse attached to a house that was being renovated. A neighbour let us know of this intended work, and said she had pointed out the nesting swallows in the shed to the workmen. They said they would work quietly but that would have made no difference as they would have been in the outhouse and would have kept the swallows from feeding their young, which could be seen peeping over the edge of the nest.

We hatched a plan with the neighbour, which kept everyone happy and allowed the birds to be fed.  The men started work just after 0900 and the neighbour took out a tray of tea and scones to the men at 1030, with the men happily agreeing to take a half-hour break away from the outhouse.  They left the outhouse clear between 1200 and 1300 for lunch, and had another tray of tea and buns (and a half hour break) at 1500. The men finished work just after 1600 and everyone was happy with the outcome, with the neighbour reporting that the swallows fledged successfully. There are sometimes routes to success without resorting to prosecution.

There are many examples of where birds have been obstructed or prevented from using their nest. The most common relates to birds that nest under slates or tiles and repairs are carried out that keeps the bird off the nest over a long period, with the result that eggs are chilled or chicks are starved. In a worst case scenario they may be deliberately blocked out of the nest as a result of the work. There is still a bit of work to do to address these shortfalls in legislation in England and Wales.

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Tunnel traps: professional and unprofessional

Hunt Watch UK photo of tunnel trap with hedgehog

Tunnel trap set legally with restricted entrance

Tunnel trap set legally with entrance restricted by a rock

Legal tunnel trap with entrance restricted by gridweld mesh

On Twitter the other day there was a photograph of a hedgehog caught in a tunnel trap. The photo was taken by Hunt Watch UK and I commented: ‘Completely illegal. Tunnel traps with entrances as wide as this should be reported to the police’.

The following response was posted in relation to my comment: ‘I’m not sure it is ‘completely illegal’ (sadly). The trap shown looks to me like a mk4 Fenn. The below from GWCT and some relevant legislation.’

I agree the trap seems to be a Fenn Mk IV trap and repeat, in part, from one of my earlier posts (11 August 2013):

Hedgehog numbers have plummeted and I am always concerned about them getting caught in tunnel traps that are set ostensibly for stoats, weasels and rats. There is no maximum entrance size to these traps laid down in law. The nearest the legislation comes to that is to state that (at least in Scotland) ‘the traps must be set in a natural or artificial tunnel which is suitable for minimising the chances of capturing, killing or injuring non-target species whilst not compromising the killing or taking of target species’.

Despite having studied wildlife legislation for many years and written four books on the subject I am still puzzled by the last phrase of the definition.  Most legislation in Scotland is run past various organisations and interested parties before finalising but I can’t say that I saw any of this. Had I seen it I would have been looking for an explanation of what exactly ‘whilst not compromising the killing or taking of target species’ means. I have absolutely no doubt that it will be a ‘get out of jail’ card at the termination of court proceedings in the future.

Because of loose legislation, many tunnel traps are still set with an entrance wide enough that can easily allow an adult hedgehog to gain access. The largest mammal that may be legally caught in the smaller of the traps (Mk IV) is a grey squirrel, while the largest allowed to be caught in the more powerful (Mk VI) trap is a mink. Both are long and narrow and able to squeeze into a narrow entrance that would easily exclude an adult hedgehog. These unprofessionally-set traps with their wide entrances must inevitably catch hedgehogs, even from time to time if not frequently. By their rotund shape, a hedgehog will often be caught by a leg, and will certainly not be killed instantly as should most of the legitimate victims, such as the long and narrow stoat, weasel, rat or grey squirrel that get caught around the body. Further, since legitimate victims will invariably be killed outright, nothing is laid down in legislation that requires these traps (if set properly) to be checked daily as in the manner of snares and live-catch traps. I accept that many trap operators do check their tunnel traps daily, but there will be an equal number who do not. The poor hedgehog, therefore, is sometimes consigned to death by shock, starvation or, worst of all, being eaten alive by maggots.

The comment querying my view quoted part of GWCT’s advice re tunnel traps, which included: ‘It has long been standard advice to restrict the tunnel entrance further by the addition of two sticks at each end, primarily to discourage the entry of small birds’.

I think this is poor advice from GWCT. Sticks pushed into the ground could quite easily be bulldozed aside by a mammal such as a hedgehog, cat, otter, badger, fox, dog and possibly others. GWCT need to revisit this.

The other part of GWCT’s advice quoted was: ‘The use of physical excluders remains discretionary for the tunnel trap operator, who must weigh up the risk of catching a protected non-target against the utility of the trap for its intended purpose’.

Have a look at Hunt Watch UK’s photo. The two sticks are so far apart they are useless in any case as protection against any of the mammals I have listed gaining access, at least by their muzzle or paw. What is not discretionary is that the tunnel trap is only approved to catch the species listed against the particular trap, and that it must be set in a manner that, so far as possible, excludes other species.

In relation to the Mark IV Fenn trap, the Spring Traps Approval (Scotland) Order 2011 states:

The traps are to be used only for the purpose of killing or taking grey squirrels, stoats, weasels, edible dormice (Glis glis), rats and mice.

The traps must be set in a natural or artificial tunnel which is suitable for minimising the chances of capturing, killing or injuring non-target species whilst not compromising the killing or taking of target species.

In relation to the same trap, the Spring Traps Approval (England) Order 2012 states:

The traps may be used only for the purpose of killing grey squirrels, stoats, weasels, rats, mice and other small ground vermin (except for those species listed in Schedules 5 and 6 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981). (As an aside I hate when legislation perpetuates the use of the term ‘vermin.’)

The traps must be set in natural or artificial tunnels which are, in either case, suitable for the purpose.

So far as is practicable without unreasonably compromising its use for killing or taking target species, the trap must be used in a manner that minimises the likelihood of its killing, taking or injuring non-target species;

I would doubt that under either of these orders there is leeway for an entrance to the tunnel to be anywhere near that shown in Hunt Watch UK’s photograph, which is why I stated from the outset that these traps should be reported to the police.

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