Thousands of animals are killed in Scotland each year as part of a circle of destruction that surrounds driven grouse moors.
The driven grouse industry aims to maintain artificially high densities of red grouse to be shot for ‘sport’. Therefore, gamekeepers routinely set cruel traps and snares to target any animals perceived to be a threat to red grouse. However, it’s not just target species that are trapped. Accidental victims of these methods are numerous and include protected species.
The extermination of thousands of other wild animals whose very existence threatens the continuation goes unseen. These victims must be more widely known.
An estimated 500,000 red grouse are killed each driven grouse shooting season, which runs from the 12thAugust to 10thDecember. They are killed for fun, as a ‘sport’ offered for a select few.
Foxes are targeted with cruel snares- a simple anchored noose, that traps an animal either by its leg, abdomen or neck. It inflicts considerable mental and physical suffering.
Early last year, a landowner got in touch with us to express her extremely distressing discovery of a snared fox on her land. It appeared likely that the fox had been snared elsewhere and managed to pull away with the wire tightly attached to its leg. This fox would have suffered for a considerable amount of time.
Crows & magpies
Crow cage traps are used to trap birds- primarily crows. 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.
Romain Pizzi, who provided veterinary opinions for our joint report with League Against Cruel Sports and Revive Coalition on animal cruelty on driven grouse moors, “Untold Suffering”, commented that:
“ Crows and other corvids are arguably the most intelligent of all birds…Decoy crows removed from traps often have very poor feather condition, demonstrating they have been in the traps for long periods, and shelter and perching is often inadequate.”
Stoats & weasels
Spring traps are used to target stoats and weasels. These traps are essentially larger and more powerful mouse traps, that are placed on routes likely to be used by these animals- frequently on logs across streams.
Although only certain spring traps are now permitted to trap stoats on welfare grounds, fenn traps- the prohibited type of spring trap for stoats- are still set to catch weasels and therefore it is very possible that they will also still catch stoats. Of course, we also question what is the logic in protecting the welfare of certain species, when other species are also trapped in large numbers by similar means?
Check out our recent blog on the quest for “humane” traps here.
Gamekeepers fear that mountain hare carry a virus that they can spread to the red grouse, despite there being no scientific evidence to back this up. Therefore, they kill them in their masses, with an average of 26,000 mountain hares culled each year alone.
Most mountain har killings are conducted as localised culls on shooting estates, but mountain hare hunting is also a commercial business, with many estates offering packages of 8-10 mountain hares per gun and up to 200 for a driven hunt party.
Our joint investigative footage of the culls with League Against Cruel Sports and Lush can be viewed here.
A wide range of species other than those legally permitted to be targeted are frequently caught in traps and snares. These are some of the most frequently caught.
Cats & dogs
Sadly, we often receive reports of pet dogs and cats being trapped in snares to our SnareWatch website.
Dogs have become trapped in a snare when on walkers with their owner or dog walker. While this often means help is immediately to hand, dogs may suffer from injuries as they and their owner attempt to set themselves free. Trying to free a dog from a trap or snare can be difficult and dangerous and is distressing for both dog and person.
For those that have been walking their dog off lead, they may also not find their dog in a snare, but discover once their dog has returned to them, they have injuries consistent with a snare, as was the case in this recent incident reported to us at SnareWatch.
In a very sad case reported to us in 2018, a cocker spaniel, Murphy, was killed instantly when he blundered into a snare, which broke his neck.
Cats are also common victims of snares, often dying as a result or suffering injuries that lead to amputations if the animal is set free.
Earlier this year we received a report about a cat, Tala, who was found days after she disappeared with a swollen paw. The vet was certain that the injury was from a snare. Unfortunately, Tala is now a much more fearful cat, as a result of her ordeal.
Similarly, last year we heard from a cat owner whose cat, Mackerel, was treated for a snare injury, dehydration and starvation after he was found entangled in a snare.
Birds of prey can be caught accidentally but are also targeted deliberately, and illegally, due to their perceived threat to grouse. Species affected include our iconic golden eagles, and hen harriers, which are known as ‘sky-dancers’ for their spectacular flight patterns.
Last Summer, OneKind Director, Bob Elliot, was interviewed by Chris Packham about raptor persecution crime on driven grouse moors, after a hen harrier was found trapped beside its nest on a Scottish grouse moor.
Badgers are frequently caught in snares set for foxes as they are of a similar size and are also attracted to stink pits. Badgers are a protected species, which means it is illegal to snare them, but these cruel traps don’t discriminate to the species caught.
We’ve had multiple reports of snared badgers at SnareWatch.
Last year, after a member of the public reported a snared badger, the RSPCA commented that “Snares can’t distinguish between animals and it is thought that around 40% of snared animals are not the intended target species. Sadly we do see animals come into us with snare trap injuries as a result.”
In our “Untold Suffering” report, we told of a badger who was trapped in a snare that had become entangled in a nearby electrical fence. The badger was being subjected to a continuous electric current for the duration of the time he was caught in the snare. The badger was found dead; there is no way to know how long he suffered before death, but forensic evidence determined that the body was in the snare for longer than 24 hours.
Not only is it illegal to snare a badger, its also illegal to set a snare close to a fence and not checking the snares every 24 hours. The gamekeeper was fined just £600.
What can I do?
The suffering caused to vast numbers of animals is one of the most urgent reasons to reform practices on driven grouse moors. It is ethically indefensible to allow animals to die slow, agonising deaths; to spend hours in a state of fear and pain after being suddenly snared and held around the neck; or to be trapped in a situation of social discord, fear and deprivation.
Our petition to end the wildlife killings is currently pended in Parliament, while the Scottish Government deal with the COVID-19 crisis. In the meantime, we ask that you please share our blog to raise awareness of the level of suffering Scotland’s wild animals are being subjected to at the hands of the commercial driven grouse shooting industry. You can also report any snare sightings to us on our SnareWatch website.
To learn more about the suffering of animals of driven grouse moors, check out our “Untold Suffering” report with League Against Cruel Sports and the Revive Coalition here. You can also purchase our guide to hunting and trapping in Scotland for just £3 here.