Photo: clam trap – why haven’t these been banned?

This is a photograph of a clam trap, also known as a snapper trap, butterfly trap and Larsen mate trap. They are used to trap corvids, although obviously the traps are indiscriminate and can also be used to catch raptors and other protected species. We’ve recently blogged about clam traps and the controversy over whether they are a legal or an illegal trap (see here).

The clam trap photographed here shows a slight variation of use. Usually the trap will be held open by a false perch that collapses when weight is applied (e.g. when a bird lands on it) which causes the trap to snap shut. In this photo the false perch is absent and instead, the trap is set to snap shut when weight is applied to the base (e.g. when a bird lands on the bait).

It’s quite incredible that SNH has not yet banned the use of these traps on welfare grounds. Just look at the photograph. Imagine if a large raptor (e.g. buzzard, kite, goshawk, eagle) is caught in one of these things. Apart from the injuries that could be caused to the bird when the trap snaps shut (they are designed to shut with speed and force so it’s highly probable that the bird’s wings will still be open and thus caught in the jaws of the trap as it snaps shut), the trapped bird then has to endure up to 24 hours inside this cage before it is checked by the trap operator. Would it be able to move inside the trap? Does it have a perch? Does it have water? Does it have shelter? All these are basic requirements covering the use of crow cage traps and Larsen traps where a decoy bird is in use. Why should a clam trap be exempt from these welfare requirements? Is it because there isn’t a decoy bird in use? What about the welfare requirements of the trapped bird, whether it be a target or a non-target species? It’s probably fair to say that it would be stressful for any large raptor to be caught inside one of these things, whether it’s injured or not, and to be trapped like that for up to 24 hours? That’s assuming the trap operator bothers to do the 24 hour check. In our view it fails on all welfare considerations. The general licences used to permit the use of crow traps also explicitly ‘do not permit the use of any form of spring-over trap’. What’s this then if it isn’t a form of spring-over trap? Some organisations have argued that it isn’t a form of spring-over trap…no prizes for guessing who that was.

Unsurprisingly, the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association supports the use of these traps (see here and here) as does Scottish Land and Estates [formerly known as SRPBA] (see here).

Whilst we all wait for SNH to make a decision on the legality of clam traps….if you see one of these traps you are advised to report it immediately to the police, SSPCA and RSPB. As with the other crow cage traps, the clam trap should have an identification code attached along with the telephone number of the local Police Wildlife Crime Officer. See here for a discussion on the legalities of other crow cage traps and what to do when you find one.

19 thoughts on “Photo: clam trap – why haven’t these been banned?”

  1. Some humans (gamekeepers) are the cruelist of all animal spieces. These clam traps should certainly be banned.

  2. There is not as you suggest such a big difference between the Larson mate and a Larson trap. There is no requirements for food, water, shelter or a perch when it comes to the catching compartment of a Larson trap it is just mandatory (and rightly so) that the decoy bird is provided with these things. The Larson mate is just a slight variation on a catching compartment in fact the size of them closed is actually larger than the catching compartment of a standard Larson! I disagree about them being inhumane and likely to cause damage as the springs aren’t powerfull enough to do so and when closed there is a gap between the two sides that wouldn’t trap or damage a wing.

    1. Thanks Grouseman. I think your post is misleading though. You mention the size of the CLOSED clam trap being comparable to the catching compartment of the Larsen trap, but so what? Is the size of the OPEN clam trap comparable with the size of the entry point into a Larsen trap? No, of course it isn’t. An eagle could easily access an open clam trap but would probably have to be some kind of contortionist to enter the catching compartment of a Larsen trap.

      The spring action on the clam trap has to be powerful enough to close quickly, otherwise the trap wouldn’t work and the target species would escape. Wouldn’t trap or damage a wing? Who are you kidding?

      1. I understand what your saying but in reality the chances of an eagle entering one of these traps is slim to none. When set with the perches in place the open trap is very similar in size to the catching compartment of a Larson trap. Yes the trap is designed to close quickly but under no resistance tests carried out on them have found them to be a very humane and effective way of catching corvids.

        1. To my certain knowledge a golden eagle has been caught in a Larsen Trap in Inverness-shire in recent years….so its unlikely but one could get caught in this trap…extremely likely to catch goshawk, buzzard or tawny owl.

  3. All this angst over variations of these traps should be irrelevant…enclosing a live decoy bird awaiting attack by a predator should be illegal no matter what trap is used. I am as guilty as everyone else in being sucked into these arguments on the trappers terms…enough is enough…we should be campaigning to ban all decoy traps on cruelty grounds. This is barbaric…just watch the reaction of any member of the public when you show them crow cage traps, Larsens, Springovers or these new butterfly traps…

    and finally…almost all these traps are based on various types of hawk traps which were used to catch birds of prey for falconry/austringers in previous centuries – that says it all for me.

    1. There is nothing to suggest using a decoy for controlling corvids is cruel or barbaric as long as it is looked after and treated properly. Yes certain members of the public would be surprised ir shocked at certain predator control methods if they had never come into contact with them before but I’m sure the same people would the equally shocked at the sight of a still live lamb with its eyes pecked out or a robbed nest of some of our rarest waders. The majority of the population in this country is far removed from country life hence there is a call for better education and better practice not an outright ban on things.

      1. Ah..the ignorant townie excuses again…the great majority of people in this country are now well acquainted with wildlife red in tooth and claw…they see it on nature programmes such as Springwatch or African programmes which do not shy away from showing nest predation, lions killing zebras alive etc… What they wont stomach is the sight of a man choosing to ignore the stress and pain caused to wild birds and animals by a deliberate act. We are not animals.We can choose.

        1. Well for one I would be ignorant or dispespectfull enough to cite people as ignorant townies but whether people have grown up in an urban environment or a rural one there is no denying many are not involved directly with agruculture, forestry or countryside management. Yes there is many popular shows on tv regarding countryside matters but very few of them give a balanced viewpoint on why things are managed in the way they are. You only have to watch the like of foxes live to see how by humanising animals by naming them etc you can influence people’s opinions of them.

      2. Grouseman,
        Any attempt to defend the use of the trap pictured is simply pathetic and speaks volumes if representative of the organisations cited. I also find the all-too-common line that if you don’t live in the country then you don’t know what your’e talking about to be equally pathetic. It’s 2012, not 1812 Grouseman.

        1. I come on this blog simply to defend my beliefs and engage in some healthy debate so for a start don’t be as disrecfectfull as to call my beliefs pathetic and as I mentioned above I would never be as ignorant as to call people stupid townies I simply stated that much of our society whether rural or urban is now far removed from rural issues. How many people know or even care about the true origins of their food for example.

          1. I do applaud your efforts here Grouseman…I may disagree utterly with your reasoning and hobby [profession?]..but at least this blog is not just the usual moaning about how bad things are, if there is a voice from “the other side”. You must understand however that most of those who post here have watched the wildlife they love, respect and understand being repeatedly destroyed, often in an horrific manner by your compatriots. There is little room for understanding or compromise when the result is a dead raptor. …and what most angers people like me is the amount of denial and abuse we have had to face for merely bringing up the true situation. Many people on the shooting side are either being utterly cynical or criminally naive. I hope you are spreading the wordabout that amongst shooters?

  4. Grouseman – first question – why don’t you use your proper name instead of hiding behind a pseudonym? If you truly have the courage of your convictions at least be man enough to let us iknow who we are talking to, and what your occupation is.

    Second question (raised by RPS but unanswered by you) – what about the stress caused to a trapped bird? Are you stating that there nis none? If so,on what basis are you working on?

    Third question – Can you please tell us what happens to any Buzzard, Red Kite, Golden Eagle or any other carrion eating predator if it is found in the trap? If you claim it will be freed I would suggest you will lose whatever credibility you currently have. Or are you saying only corvids are caught in these traps?

    1. Hi Tony the answer to your first question is that’s it’s not a case of hiding behind a pseudonym I don’t think there is a person on here that would have any doubts about my politics or beliefs and I should be free to express them, my name and occupation is immaterial! Surely the fact that I come on here at all and try to argue my case and beliefs shows that I’m more of a man than the ones who simply sit quietly and let others attack their occupation or livelihood?!

      Secondly I’m not claiming no bird caught in a trap has ever been stressed it is just my opinion that with good practice this stress can be kept to a minimum. There is no way we can ever eliminate stress in everything it’s a question of how much stress is unavoidable! Every living organism is placed under stress at some point whether it is a human, bird, mammal or plant.

      Thirdly no I’m not away to claim that every non target species ever caught in a trap has been released unharmed as that would simply be an insult to your intelligence but many many have been and there is none of our raptors (maybe despite the hen harrier) whose numbers aren’t increasing significantly and are under no threat so the numbers involved is obviously not a threat to the spread of populations.

  5. Yes that ‘ignorant townie’ excuse always makes my blood boil. Myself I live in Inverness-shire and have ‘sporting’ estates all around me but not many birds of prey, I wonder why!

    Nature is cruel and Grouseman’s point of lambs having there eyes pecked out isn’t a pleasant thought. In the same way I don’t enjoy seeing one of my pigeons being eaten alive by a sparrowhawk. However I would never consider harming the Sparrowhawk, and the thought of killing any wild bird just to protect one, that is bred only to be shot for fun and profit, is abhorrent in the extreme.

    It is well beyond time that grouse moors leave the 19th century behind and enter the 21st. All traps of cruelty should be banned.

  6. I have come across a number of these traps that you show here. On one occasion I found three buried raptors in woodland, yards away from the trap and on another occasion I found a raptor, again yards away from this trap that SPRINGS OVER, which was stuffed into a hole in a fallen tree (incidents were recorded and reported). I have also found two of these traps set in exactly the same way as the one you have here in the photo. There was no perch to set the trap to SPRING OVER and catch the bird. Instead, the bird would trigger the trap by landing on the bait and pushing the hinge to the ground and the trap would snap shut. As somebody who has seen and handled these traps, it doesn’t take much weight and effort for the perch to collapse and set the trap off. However, when they are set in the way we see here then more weight and effort is required. This second method of trigger can make it more difficult for a crow to set the trap off, but any larger bird wouldn’t have a problem.

    These traps are as indescriminate and as cruel as snares are.

  7. simple it is a spring over trap there fore it is illegal, for me end of argument. Not sure if the written law on this is the same in Scotland as here in England. The general licence here applies to agricultural protection, public health protection and flight / airport protection so here at least ALL keepers traps for corvids should be deemed illegal.

  8. Just found one of these traps while walking my dog , the trap wasn’t tied down so I expect to see a fox pretty soon with his head encased in a cage !! I do not think we can defend our inhuman behaviour by recounting misdeeds by others, animal or man! If you cannot do your job without cruelty it doesn’t say much about your intelligence.
    I am sickened by what I see in the name of sport, dead owls , traps and foxes bludgeoned to death.
    It’s time keepers took a pride in what they do instead of hiding behind a perverse sadism!

    1. Hi Jane,

      We’d urge you to report the location of this trap to the SSPCA and to the RSPB.

      SSPCA 24 hour hotline: 03000 999 999
      RSPB investigations: 0131 317 4100

      We have an update on the latest legal position on the use of these clam traps and we’ll be blogging about that shortly.

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