In order to keep red grouse numbers as artificially high as possible for commercial shooting, gamekeepers routinely set cruel and antiquated, though legal, traps on estates to trap predators to the red grouse.
The intensive management of Scotland’s driven grouse moors is killing Scotland’s beautiful wildlife.
Around 1/5 of upland Scotland is used for driven grouse shooting. In order to keep red grouse numbers as artificially high as possible for commercial shooting, gamekeepers routinely set cruel and antiquated, though legal, traps on estates to trap predators to the red grouse. Although these traps are targeted towards the red grouse predators, such as foxes and stoats, these traps are indiscriminate and can cause suffering to non-target species, such as companion dogs, cats and badgers, too.
OneKind is calling for an end to the killing of wildlife on grouse moors and elsewhere in Scotland.
Types of traps
Tens of thousands of Scotland’s animals are being killed on grouse moors each year. Gamekeepers routinely use a selection of cruel traps that inflict mental and physical suffering on the animals caught in them. The method of trapping and killing varies dependent on species.
A snare is a simple anchored noose, that traps an animal either by its leg, abdomen or neck. It inflicts considerable mental and physical suffering. In addition to the considerable mental distress caused, struggling against the snare can cause it to twist and tighten, leading to injury or death. Some foxes and badgers attempt to chew through the wire, damaging their mouths and fraying the wire so that the snare tangles and effectively becomes self-locking. If caught around the abdomen instead of the neck, the animal may suffer deep wounds and internal organ damage.
Spring traps are essentially larger and more powerful mouse traps that target stoats and weasels, to prevent them from predation on grouse eggs and chicks. They are placed on routes likely to be used by these animals, frequently on logs across streams.
Upon catching an animal, they spring shut with enough force to hold, crush and kill the trapped animal. Newer designs have a higher accuracy rate; they generally hit the skull resulting in immediate death, which is the only practical measure of humaneness. Older designs, such as the Fenn trap, aim to break the spine but can easily catch a different part of the body, resulting in an agonisingly slow death.
Crow cage traps
Crow cage traps are used to catch birds, primarily crows. Gamekeepers claim its necessary to use these traps to prevent predation on grouse eggs and chicks.
Large multi-catch cage traps have a wooden frame and wire mesh walls. There will usually be a live ‘decoy’ bird, often a magpie, and a food lure inside. Corvids are territorial and will come to challenge the intruder and take the food. They enter the cage either via a funnel or through the horizontal slats of a ladder in the roof. Both are designed to be easy to enter but difficult or impossible to leave.
Smaller portable Larsen traps placed on the ground can also have a ‘decoy’ bird, in this case in a separate compartment, and a food lure, but they are designed to catch only one other bird. Larsen traps are made of wire and hinged along the bottom so that they open like a shell. They are held open by a false perch which gives way when the bird lands on it, causing the bird to fall through and the trap to close.
There are obvious welfare concerns about the psychological effects of sudden capture on wild birds, and of being in close confinement with other territorial individuals. Birds can also be injured when entering the traps or when trying to escape and can suffer from hunger, thirst, exposure and predation while in the trap.
To lure foxes into snares, gamekeepers often lay snares around a ‘stink pit’: a place where the gamekeepers dump rotting animal carcasses. The smell of decomposing animals lures the foxes towards the dead animals, where they are then caught in the snares surrounding the pit. During our work in the field we have discovered foxes, deer, geese and fish in stink pits.
What is OneKind doing?
OneKind have long-campaigned for a complete ban on the sale, use and manufacture of snares in Scotland. Our recent highlights include:
- In 2016, we released a SnareWatch briefing that summarised our reports and key findings from five years of operating our SnareWatch website.
- In September 2016, more than 7,500 people signed an open letter to the Scottish Government calling for a ban on snares.
- In March 2017, we welcomed the decision by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to stop issuing licences for snaring mountain hares.
- In 2017, more than 10,000 of our supporters emailed their MSPs in favour of a snare free Scotland.
- In May 2018, we released shocking footage which showed a stink pit and snares set on a Scottish grouse moor known for mountain hare culls.
- OneKind Director, Bob Elliot, was interviewed in Chris Packham’s documentary film exposing the grim reality associated with driven grouse shooting and filmed at Leadhills Estate.
- In October 2019 our parliamentary petition calling for an end to the killings of Scotland’s wildlife went live. The Public Petitions Committee passed the petition through to the Scottish Government for consideration. The petition was closed due to a Governmental review of traps and snares later this year, but the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform have included the issue in its legacy report.
- In December 2019, we released our joint report, ‘Untold Suffering’, the League Against Cruel Sports and Revive. The report details the suffering of untold thousands of animals across Scotland’s driven grouse moors and has been highlighted by Chris Packham.
- In January 2021, we released our SnareWatch.org case study report “SnareWatch Annual Report 2020: Case studies of snare use in the UK”.
What do I do if I find a trap?
If there is a live animal in the trap, call the relevant animal charity. We do not advise trying to release an animal yourself as the animal could be injured and require medical attention.
Scotland – Scottish SPCA Animal Helpline 03000 999 999
England and Wales – RSPCA Cruelty line 0300 1234 999
Northern Ireland – USPCA Animal Information Line 028 3025 1000
If you suspect the trap is illegal, call the Police on 101