The long-running hare snare trial is expected to end today if Sheriff Abercrombie has reached a verdict.
We’ve blogged a lot about this case as the verdict could have far-reaching consequences on the way our uplands are managed, with a particular impact on grouse moor management practices.
Earlier posts can be read here (and see links within).
Two weeks ago the court heard the final pieces of evidence from the defence team, which consisted of a string of gamekeepers insisting that the type of snare used in this case is ‘selective’ (i.e. it doesn’t trap any species other than the target species). It must be a magic snare.
Many thanks to the contributor who send us a copy of the Badenoch & Strathspey Herald, dated 22 November 2012, with a summary of the evidence heard in court:
Gamekeepers tell trial of ‘selective’ snares
THREE gamekeepers have given evidence at the trial of a colleague facing allegations of illegal snaring of mountain hares on Lochindorb Estate more than three years ago.
The keepers told Sheriff Ian Abercrombie they had used the type of snare set by David Taylor and caught nothing other than mountain hares.
Former Lochindorb keeper Alexander McConnachie (66), Stuart Kennedy (45), from Tomatin, and Alan Hodgson (54), head keeper at Dalmagarry and a committee member of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association with special responsibility for snaring issues, told the trial they had all used the “W” shaped snare, also known as a bow snare, as a means of controlling mountain hares on high ground on their estates.
David Taylor (65), who recently retired from his role as head keeper at Lochindorb, was charged with setting snares on April 14, 2009 on land at Lochan-t-Sidhie which were indiscriminate in which animals they could catch, contrary to the Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations which became law in 1994.
The trial, which started in March, reached its sixth day on Friday [16 Nov 2012] when the evidence was concluded.
Sheriff Abercrombie has agreed to written submissions being provided by both the Crown depute fiscal Iain Smith and the defence agent David McKie.
In evidence, Mr McConnachie said he was head keeper on Lochindorb between 1972 and 1993 before the new legislation came into place. He told the trial that where the snares were set, 1,500 feet above sea level, there were very few other species to be found.
Wildlife expert Hugo Straker (57), a senior adviser with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and an expert on snaring law in Scotland, had earlier told the trial that the snares could be selective depending on how and where they were set. He also differentiated between a trap and a snare. In his opinion he said a trap was a spring-loaded device which can kill or trap an animal live while the snare was a “restraining device” which can kill.
Mr McConnachie told the court snares are never referred to as traps. ‘A trap is a mechanical device’, he said. Often they were concealed in a box to trap the targeted species and for the protection of other mammals. Wire cage traps, known as Larsen traps, were also used to control crows.
He said he used the “bow” snare used by Taylor extensively between 1990 and 1993 on Lochindorb because of the increase in tick of the moor.
Asked if he had ever found other animals caught in the snares he replied: “No, never. They are very selective, very humane and highly visible. I never caught anything else in them”.
He said you would get the occasional fox or roe dear [sic] at that level but it was quite rare to see a golden eagle.
Asked by depute fiscal lain Smith if an animal broke a snare how he would know it was a hare that did this. He said there was always evidence of hare fur nearby if a snare broke.
Mr Hodgson said the snares were perfectly legal at the time but gamekeepers had stopped using them because of this court case. He commented: “I would use them again in a minute. They were a brilliant tool. Easy to carry, easy to set and highly visible”.
Mr Hodgson said foxes and deer avoid them because they have forward vision. However, he said: “Hares have blind spots because their eyes are on the side of their heads, unlike predators”. He said he used them for nine years and never once found another species in them.
The trial was told by Mr Straker that since the alleged offence there had been major changes in law governing the use of snares going through parliament and all snares must have stops so mammals caught are not throttled and can be put down humanely. Everyone using them will require to be trained and certificated by a Scottish Government approved body and, from April next year, every snare will carry the operators certification number.
Police Constable Eric Sharkey (45), a wildlife officer with Northern Constabulary, inspected the site after a tip-off from a member of the public.