Clap Trap

SNH is seeking input as it prepares to make changes to the 2013 General Licences.

This is a welcome move. The 2012 General Licences are not really fit for purpose, to say the least. We’ve blogged before about certain aspects of these licences, particularly those relating to the use of crow cage traps (see Crow traps: what you should know Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here) as well as clam traps (see here and here).

However, when you have a look at the consultation letter put out by SNH (see here) you’ll notice that they’ve carefully avoided many of the most concerning issues.

To better understand some of these issues, please read Crow Traps: What you should know Part 2 (here is the link again). These issues include (but are not limited to) compliance (or not) with European environmental legislation; welfare concerns; poor trap design that allows indiscriminate species trapping; year-round use (as opposed to seasonal use); ineffective regulation of crow trap users; ineffective monitoring of crow trap use (i.e. number and species caught/killed); inability to identify an individual trap user; and a lovely get-out clause for any General Licence user with an unspent criminal conviction.

The highly contentious issue of the ‘clam trap’ (also known as ‘Larsen mate trap’, ‘snapper trap’ and ‘butterfly trap’) has been raised in this consultation, although SNH’s plans for how to deal with it are astonishing. They recognise that welfare concerns remain about the use of these traps, but instead of banning them until independent research shows they are safe to use, they’ve decided to continue their use and commission research on their use “shortly”. They do suggest that they’ll require clam trap users to notify them of intended use, but really, what’s the point of that, other than being able to identify users as potential participants in their future ‘evidence gathering’ exercise?

When you consider the high level of training and accreditation required by those who want to trap wild birds for scientific research (i.e. bird ringing) and compare this with the very low standards required for those who want to trap wild birds to kill them (sorry, ‘control them for conservation purposes’), you realise what a joke the current system is.

The consultation is open until 9th November 2012. You can fill in the form (here is the link again), or, if you think that there are important issues that haven’t been addressed on the consultation form, why not write directly to SNH and explain your concerns? Email your comments to Robbie Kernahan, Head of Wildlife Operations, SNH:

SNH plan to publish a revised suite of General Licences for 2013 by early December.

19 thoughts on “Clap Trap”

  1. I have an allotment in Glasgow which I use for encouraging birds and pollinating insects, i.e. conservation purposes. A few months ago, a representative from Scotland for Animals and I found two allotment holders setting up a Larsen Trap. This was in contravention to Glasgow City Council rules and regulations. We reported the matter, and the Council told them to remove it. Both men, as a reason for setting the trap, stated that it was to protect song birds from crows and magpies. The real reason was that both had chickens on their plots, again in contravention of Council rules, and that they wanted to destroy any corvids coming near them. Not one chicken had been lost to crows as the chickens were under mesh. The had seen the Larsen Trap and some country show and fell for the Song Bird Protection Society’s speel about using them to save song birds.

    Strathclyde Police were contacted and they said that Larsen Traps were legal and anyone could set one up in a garden or wherever. What concerned me was that there are a lot of gullible people who would believe anything the shooter set would tell them, and acquire one of these devices which could trap a fox, a cat or whatever, and possibly the imprisoned creature could rot there without food or water, if the setter of the trap went away on holiday or did not monitor on a regular basis.

    The word “vermin” is an unfortunate term, as it can include any creature, bird or mammal, that has become a “nuisance” to those who raise game birds for shooting purposes. The public has become numbed by that term and accepted that term as gospel, and anything so designated deserved death. I have removed snares from allotments, set by people who should have known better. Some of these were set by individuals who only came to the plot once a week, so any rabbit or whatever, would have a lingering death in terrible pain.

    It is the contemptuous way the “shooter set” describes animal welfare activists as “bunny huggers”, that makes me angry. I have met many people in my active life for animals and the environment, who came from the countryside, the city, other countries, the rough areas of Glasgow or wherever, Such people have expressed anger when they hear of or see anything that is cruel towards other creatures. Millions of people have become members of the many humane groups that Britain has to campaign to save species from extinction and from cruel treatment; such a host far exceeds those who will not accept that wildlife has a right to live in peace. Hunting which breaks the law is outdated; a sport that belies that title.

    1. If the people operating Larson traps or snares in the allotments were not fulfilling the legal obligations to inspect them at least once every 24 hours they would be charged and taken to court the same as anyone else breaking the law. It is well documented in every single article or information leaflet published by the ‘shooter set’ as you describe them, that such traps and snares should be checked and operated as stipulated in the law so there would be no ignorance of the law excuse. Just because you don’t agree with it you have no right to interfere or judge anyone else for controlling pest species as long as they do so within the law!
      As for taking offence at the terms tree and bunny hugger I’m sure you will find keepers being called a lot worse on this blog!

      1. This is of course correct, were there not rules about the use of the traps written into the lease. The flipside is that there are thousands of snares and traps all of the countryside which dont comply with the rules written on the “shooter set’s” leaflets.

        1. To an extent, I agree with Grouseman, as there are laws relating to trapping, however there are a lot of people that refuse to accept these laws when setting traps.

          And I think you will find that Mr Greer Hart is perfectly within his rights to judge someone if he so wishes, even if that person is acting within the law.

          And you also miss the point about the contemptuous name-calling. I have been involved in an attempt to safeguard an area of intertidal mudflat and one day I was told by company representatives that I was not allowed access (to a publicly accessible area) as the company involved didn’t want tree-huggers chaining themselves to trees. As I said, the area is intertidal mudflat, so I’m sure I don’t need to say much else on this. It is this very same ideology that is perpetually delivered by the pro-shooting lobby, and it does get tiresome after a while.

          But there is a major difference in this type of name-calling compared with name-calling against gamekeepers on this site, with the difference being that any gamekeeper name-calling on here usually follows a report of illegal persecution and is a way for people to vent their anger at another raptor death, whereas the tree-hugging/bunny-hugging name-calling is usually issued by an imbecile with little or no environmental/conservation knowledge.

    2. Some very good points here, and in my opinion the only vermin species on this planet is the human race – some individuals more so than others!

      Yes, if there are readers here that don’t know much about Songbird Survival, I would urge those readers to be very careful about supporting this organisation in any way. They are nothing but a pro-shooting and anti-predator organisation and are marketing the anti-predator lies and propaganda to the general public under the false banner of a songbird protection organisation.

      If Songbird Survival are so concerned about songbird losses, why don’t they start a campaign against woodpeckers? Why don’t they campaign against owls? Why don’t they start a campaign against habitat loss? Why don’t they start a campaign against domestic cats?

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with your comments, Mr. Hart. The word ‘vermin’ and contemptuous titles such as ‘bunny huggers’ and ‘tree huggers’ annoy me greatly. However I do feel that the tide will turn against these killing estates, as more of the general puplic learn of their atro’cious behaviour. Documentaries such as ‘Gunsmoke and Mirrors’ will help in this regard.

  3. As somebody who has had some experience in seeing these ‘snapper traps’ in operation I thought that I would share my findings with you.

    I prefer to call these devises snapper traps rather than anything else because that is exactly what they do; they snap shut when the trigger mechanism is set off. As you can see in the photo above, bait, often a dead rabbit or hare is placed at the bottom of the trap and the trigger mechanism is in the form of a false perch which is in two pieces. When weight is put onto the perch then the perch collapses in two, slamming the two parts of the cage together. Although this trap is not intended to kill, just to catch, the design and indiscriminate nature of such a devise has the potential of causing great harm to any wildlife that is attracted to the bait at the bottom of this open cage.

    The snapper is set on the ground and has a large open area for access, with a dead animal at the bottom of it. This inevitably will attract foxes, badgers and pine martens, depending where it is placed, with the potential of trapping the head or other part of the body in the device such as a leg or even blinding them if the wire edge of the cage snaps across the animal’s face as it tries to flee or struggle. If the struggling animal is unable to pull the closed cage system apart from around its head and the trap is not anchored in any way to the ground, which it never is, then potentially the animal could drag the cage away from the location or even stumble down a bank into a river or stream and drown.

    Many species of bird will also be very interested in the dead bait at the bottom of the trap, which will of course include not only the target birds, but non target species also, including the larger protected birds such as raptors and ravens. As a bird lands on the false perch then its wings may still be open, particularly if this bird is a buzzard, raven or larger. When the cage snaps shut there is nothing from preventing the bird’s body from getting caught in the cage, but the wings get caught outside of the cage. Now imagine a panicking bird struggling with its wings caught between wire caging which has collapsed against them. Birds have a very quick fleeing instinct and so, realising that it is in danger as the perch collapses, the bird could also be on its way out of the cage as the cage snaps shut across its body or wings.

    So now, let us say that we have come across the situation as I describe above. A bird half in and half out of the cage, a buzzard with a broken wing and the wing is sticking through the two wire cage parts that have snapped shut. Who is responsible for this cage? We can report estate crow traps and larsons and supply the authorities with the ownership details of the cage, but a snapper trap does not have to be identified. Why is this and can we honestly rely on estates informing SNH when they intend to use the trap? Even if SNH are notified that a keeper plans to set one of these traps out, then does he have to give the location of where he has placed the trap and how long he intends to keep the trap out for?

    Apart from the issues of this trap causing injury to birds and mammals and the concern, going by the number of dead animals I find rotting in snares, that these traps will not be regularly checked, I have an even greater worry. It concerns the real purpose for the use of these traps, especially when they are set in areas where regular larson and crow cage traps are already in use. Through the information that I have obtained, it appears that these cages may be specifically targeting buzzards. Here are three examples why I have this strong suspicion;

    Example 1. On a trip to a Scottish shooting estate I discovered one of these snapper traps. This estate has plenty of crow cage traps and uses larson traps, but has decided to set a snapper trap out by a dry stone wall. Next to this wall has been erected a wooden perch, about three meters in height. The trap is on one side of the wall and a forest is on the other side, about eight meters away from the trap. The trap I find is baited with a dead rabbit and the remains of two more rabbits are found not far from the cage, indicating that the cage has been in operation for a while. I decide to take a look in the forest. Approximately fifteen meters from the trap, buried in the ground amongst the trees there are three raptors. Although they had all been there for some weeks and so decomposition had eaten away at most of the flesh, I could identify two of them as buzzards and the other I wasn’t too sure about, possibly a kestrel. I contacted the relevant people who came and took them away, but unfortunately I never found out exactly how they died, but if I do I will let you know.

    Example 2. As I gathered some educational film material of legal snares on an estate I stumbled across two snapper traps. They were close to a pheasant release area. Both traps were set and had dead hares being used as bait in them. What attracted me to the location where I found the first snapper was a buzzard circling above, just twenty meters off the ground. What also concerned me was the fact that there were four other buzzards in the area close to the two snappers. A local WCO, who I had called, arrived at the scene at the same time as the gamekeeper, who had turned up to feed the pheasants. I left them to it and when I later caught up with the officer he had only removed one cage and left the other one with the keeper. It was baffling to me why only one cage had been removed and I guess highlights the confusion by some authorities as to the legal use of these traps. However, I must admit, knowing at the time that these devises were an unrecognised trap in Scotland as well as being unlicensed; I was left pretty confused by this incident. What I was sure of though was the growing suspicion I had that these traps were being deliberately placed in areas where there were obvious populations of raptors and in particular buzzards.

    Example 3. On another Scottish estate, just outside some woodland, at the corner of a field and close to two pheasant release pens there had been a snapper trap in operation. Visiting this area to collect data on legal snares some weeks later, I walked to the location close by where the snapper trap had been, but it was gone. The snapper trap had been removed with just the remains of the dead rabbit bait left on the ground. Sure enough, I wasn’t surprised when I found a dead buzzard which had been stuffed under a fallen tree inside the woodland and approximately fifteen meters from where the trap had been.

    I cannot begin to understand why SNH should even consider this trap for licensing when it has huge negative welfare issues and by its very design and placement will always be indiscriminate in its capture. If SNH propose to officially permit the use of these traps without any research, along with the knowledge that some animal welfare organisations have some serious welfare concerns about the use of this trap, will they then take responsibility when evidence is presented to them of animal suffering related to this trap’s use? It isn’t like gamekeepers don’t have enough other types of traps littering this countryside already.

    1. Very interesting and thorough investigative work you have carried out here, Steve, and keep up the good work.

      But could you make any suggestion as to how these raptors died? We are all led to believe that Pheasant and Grouse shooting interests have knock on benefits for all wildlife and that gamekeepers would never intentionally trap or kill protected species. So, would there be any chance at all that the first batch of dead birds you found were simply suicidal, and adept at digging holes and then burying themselves? And would it be possible that a tree could have fallen on the other unfortunate Buzzard. I can’t think of any other reason.

      And as for your suspicious belief that the traps were deliberately set in areas populated by Buzzards. How dare you suggest such a thing and vilify the fine law-abiding gamekeeping community. Surely a gamekeeper would never do such a thing?

    2. Condeming these traps because they snap shut is rediculous, is this not the case with virtually any trap whether it is for trapping mice, stoats or crows! A trap that slowly creeped shut is hardly likely to be effective is it!? As for your suggestions about animals getting their heads stuck and struggling away with the trap it is a scenario that is fancical at best. The springs on the larson mate traps are not strong enough to hold an animal by the head they would simply pull it out again and as its just flat weldmesh the chances of injury are minimal. There are many of these types of traps used in the country especially as a form of catching compartment when placed next to a traditional larson trap (hence the name larson mate) and i have never heard of any incident when birds captured were not totally inside the cage or had wings broken or any other injury caused by them. If you look at the trap closely when it is closed there is a gap all round whick stops it clamping onto a wing or leg.

      As for talking about these traps being placed where there is high populations of buzzards, well in my opinion this pretty much sums up the whole of the brittish countryside! In the right weather conditions there is hardly anywhere buzzards cannot be seen hunting or soaring on the thermals. For anyone who wants to dispute this all I can say is your bird watching skills are no existant or maybe its time to invest in a better pair of binoculars!

      1. Nice try, Grouseman, but you forgot to mention that it’s a legal requirement for stoat traps (a.k.a. Fenn or other spring traps) to be covered or set inside a tunnel precisely because they are a danger to non-target species.

        Never heard of a bird being injured by a clam trap? Well there’s a surprise – it’s hardly something the gamekeepers are going to shout about, is it? If it became public knowledge then the clam trap would undoubtedly become unlawful.

        1. You are totally correct it wasn’t intentional that I failed to mention Fenn traps must be covered to prevent them catching non target species but the Larson mate trap is designed to catch birds so it would be impossible to totally eliminate its chances of catching a raptor but if its caught unharmed and can be released what’s the problem. It’s surely better to allow efficient forms of live catch traps as it lowers the chances of people resorting to lethal methods to control crows which may impact on a non target species?

          1. And if, by chance, a raptor was caught in one of these traps, what are the chances it would be set free to live another day? Yes, there would be next to no chance and you just have to read Steve’s report to realise that.

            And as for Grouseman’s claim that there are high populations of Buzzards all over the land, I will again comment on a grouse moor not far from Grantown-on-Spey, where several hours watching produced 1 Kestrel, 0 Buzzards, 0 Merlins, 0 Peregrines, 0 Hen Harriers, 0 Sparrowhawks, 0 owls, etc. And to clarify all of this, there was more than 1 observer at the time. Absolute proof that raptor persecution is rife on some grouse estates.

            1. I know the area you mention well and I can only suggest you were very unlucky or bird watching on a bad day for it as all the species you mention can be seen frequently on speyside. One bad observation day out of 365 doesn’t constitute an overall lack of raptors or an area devoid of them.

              1. Where and when did I say that the whole of Speyside was devoid of raptors? I mentioned that several experienced observers over a period of several hours could only account for 1 Kestrel on a grouse moor near Grantown-on-Spey, which in our opinions was indicative of systematic raptor persecution. And for the record, we were there during perfect weather. I am well aware that there are areas on Speyside where raptors can be found, but once again when there is any criticism aimed at grouse estates, you immediately jump to the defensive.

                And how can you possibly know the area when I have not mentioned it? Could it be that because I suggested that raptors were being persecuted in this area, you instinctively knew which area I was referring to? If this is the case, exactly how much do you know about raptor persecution in this area and have you reported such crimes to the police/RSPB/SSPCA?

                1. All I am saying is that just because you and a few others were unable to see many raptors over a period of time it doesn’t mean they cannot be seen in abundance in these areas on other days. A few hours observation is hardly enough to base such sweeping statements on. You haven’t mentioned the area you were in but are you suggesting that if raptors are prevellant in other areas of the region that if one estate is persecuting that birds will stop at the boundary? As I’m sure you are aware the areas raptors choose to hunt or display in can vary hugely in different winds and weather conditions and for different species. Only by prolonged monitoring in a certain are can you assess the density of birds in a certain area.

                  1. In my opinion, a few hours observation by many experienced observers covering a large area of land during the breeding season is enough to suggest that large scale raptor persecution is occuring on this estate. And no, I am not suggesting that raptors will stop at the boundary of this estate. However, what I am suggesting is that any raptor seen on this estate will soon be trapped, bludgeoned, poisoned or shot. It could also be the case that neighbouring estates are also illegally killing birds of prey. But when you consider, that along with the vast tracts of heather moorland, there were also areas of scattered woodland, it does seem incredibly suspicious that there was only one Kestrel. It must also be added that more raptors were seen on the short journeys to and from Grantown-on-Spey. Make of that what you will.

                    But then again, we are dealing with an industry that envelops itself in double standards and tends to exagerate greatly when it suits them; the 1 raptor = hundreds of raptors = we need to cull these out-of-control raptors mentality is often used. Yet when the situations are reversed and a gamekeeper finds himself in court for raptor persecution, he is part of a tiny minority.

                    But, I would like to return to the monitoring aspect. You have clearly indicated that several hours monitoring by several observers is not enough to make an assessment of species present, so are you trying to suggest that it would be unfeasible for several experienced observers to spend several hours in woodland, farmland or any other habitat during the breeding season and arrive at a decent estimate of species present? Are you suggesting that the BTO Breeding Bird Survey results should not be seen as representative of the nation’s birdlife?

                    But, we will take your suggestion for prolonged monitoring in order to gauge population densities and apply it to the following scenario;
                    It’s a day in mid-September and a grouse moor gamekeeper sees a Hen Harrier quartering an area of moorland he has responsibility for. Does he;

                    1. Instigate a monitoring regime to see whether the bird is just passing through?
                    2. Do everything in his power to exterminate the bird before it gets off his land?

  4. If I come across one of these traps I,m going to trash it, its blatently a raptor trap, as for calling us bunny huggers, we understand predator prey relationships and dont have a problem with it, its the pheasant and grouse huggers that dont like the big bad wild animals hurting their pheasants and grouse

    1. That’s interesting you vilify gamekeepers that break the law to protect their livelihood but you advocate the interfearance and destruction of a legal trap which is against the law. Criminality is present in most walks of life I suppose!

  5. Grouseman you,d be quite right to condone me for interfering with a legally set trap whatever my opinion as to the rights of the people setting them, however with 8 gamekeepers being cautioned so far for setting clam traps and the sga advising against there use for the time being its pretty obvious to anyone with an inclining of common sense if the trap is set with eggs its a corvid trap, one set with a dead animal as bait is as much a raptor trap as it is a corvid trap, no matter how you dress it up it is an illegal trap

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: