Baited pole trap found next to pheasant pen in Devon: appeal for information

RSPB press release:

Reward for information after baited pole trap discovered on east Devon farmland


The RSPB and Devon & Cornwall Police are appealing for witnesses after a trap designed to kill birds of prey was found on farmland, next to a pheasant release pen.

Police attended a location near Dunkeswell, in the Blackdown Hills, East Devon, following a tip off recently, where they discovered a live, baited pole trap.

Police officers photographed the trap, which was set and ready to use, but left it in situ. When police returned the next day the trap had been removed. Further visits accompanied by the RSPB’s Investigations unit have yielded no more information.


Pole traps have been outlawed for more than 100 years and work by smashing the bird’s legs when it lands on the trigger plate.

Mark Thomas, a senior investigations officer at the RSPB, said: “There is a reason why these traps have been illegal for so long, they are barbaric and they are designed to kill protected birds of prey“.

Inspector Martin Taylor, wildlife crime coordinator for Devon & Cornwall Police, said: “Despite it being illegal for over a century, we are still getting reports of spring traps being placed on poles or perches set to kill birds of prey. We will prosecute anyone setting these indiscriminate and lethal traps“.

Birds of prey habitually use posts as lookouts when hunting and in this case the trap had been baited using meat to encourage a bird to land.

The trap’s presence was reported on August 11 2016 and police first visited the following day. The RSPB is offering a reward of £1,000 for information that leads to a successful prosecution.

Anybody with information should contact Devon & Cornwall Police by phoning 101 or emailing quoting crime reference CR/56051/16.



45 thoughts on “Baited pole trap found next to pheasant pen in Devon: appeal for information”

  1. Is not the Landowner/owner of this shooting business liable….I wonder if the Police immediately spoke to him after making this discovery. Of course it was removed by the next day….did they expect the person responsible to just wait to be arrested ?

    1. no . he can say that another put the trap there. badgers setts filled with diesel on a farmers land the other day but the farmer, though he knows who did this, cannot be prosecuted.should be as should be held responsible for what is done to wildlife on his land.

  2. It would seem obvious that a hidden camera should have been watching it ? I can understand that the police might not have the manpower, but……

  3. Was the post removed? It looks like it’s been there a long time. If it’s not for a trap, why is it there? Surely the post is part of the trap….and may well have the DNA of previous kills?

    1. Or even DNA traces of the person that set the trap.

      As Roger Little has suggested, the owner or operator of the release pen should be the main suspects in such instances.

      If the police were doing their job correctly, the trap would have been removed immediately, tested for DNA or fingerprints (as well as the carcass), then the pen owner/operator should have been tracked down and ordered to give fingerprint and DNA samples.

      1. Vicarious Liability is needed, otherwise all they’ll say with a snigger is ‘not me guv’ or maybe ‘it’s the junior keeper again’ ….

          1. There wasn’t anything untrue in the comment, so I think deleting it was a bit harsh.

            [Ed: Marco, it was personal, offensive and off topic]

            1. Fair enough, you’re the boss as far as the site is concerned.

              However, the most offensive aspect of it all, was the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party’s leader claiming that the Scots were thieves and vandals!

          2. Vicarious liability in plenty of laws in England (e.g Weights and measures – “You did, by the hand of your servant Joe Bloggs, sell….etc”) but the provision either needs to be in statute or established by case law.

            In the MB case, there is a specific provision in the HASAW Act that covers saftey of people who are not your employees.

        1. To proceed with vicarious liability against the employer, it is necessary to prove that the employee committed the crime.

  4. “Inspector Martin Taylor, wildlife crime coordinator for Devon & Cornwall Police, said: “Despite it being illegal for over a century, we are still getting reports of spring traps being placed on poles or perches set to kill birds of prey. We will prosecute anyone setting these indiscriminate and lethal traps“.”

    Or in other words, “We would prosecute them if we could be bothered, but in this instance we just couldn’t be arsed. We considered the options, and decided to leave the trap in place, and primed, so that it could still kill raptors, but chose not to bother with any surveillance cameras, as this would compromise our close relationship with this estate. Christ, we could end up losing a couple of days free shooting if we were to investigate this thoroughly!”

  5. Such lax police efforts! It is no wonder that we cannot start to make an inroad to stop and deal with these criminals.
    They have no respect for the law and no respect for nature.

    Fuming again!


    1. It’s not lax, Doug, it’s entirely incompetent at best. But as I’ve suggested in an earlier post, what we have here is police corruption on display.

      If it’s not corruption, then the officers should be sacked for being utterly useless, but no doubt we’ll be given some nonsense excuse for another complete failure.

  6. Why would you leave a trap set? Could well have killed a bird of prey in the intervening 24 hours. The fact the trap was removed might suggest that it had been activated and the evidence cleared up. RIP raptor. RIP the rule of law.

  7. Anybody with the slightest nowse about ‘pole’ traps, in this caes a Fenn Mk4, would’ve known to at least engage the safety catch, rendering the trap unable to spring, that way the trap would still appear set leaving the perpetrator open to be being caught on a concealed camera when he/she (I very much doubt a she..?) appeared on the scene.
    This is a classic situation where trained officers, either police or RSPB/RSPCA, need to be deployed to such incidences. Until that happens then we will continue to read reports of bungled investigations.

    1. My understanding is that once the safety catch is on it’s no longer an illegal trap, so it’s unlikely you’d get a successful prosecution in such circumstances.

      I’m not sure though why the police left the trap in situ if they weren’t keeping it under observation. What did they expect to happen?

      It would be interesting to know when, and by whom, the RSPB were first informed and whether the police, at the time of their first visit, were aware that the RSPB had been, or were to be, informed.

  8. Exactly what information do the police expect from this PR appeal? What do they need? They have a location, they can track down the shoot manager/gamekeeper and prosecute…

    Perhaps somebody should be putting in a formal complaint to the police service. Does the RSPB have anything to say about this. They would be the obvious choice to take such action.

  9. Leaving the trap in situ and active really does beggar belief and if true then the police in this case are culpable. Presumably this aspect of the situation has been expresssed to the Chief Constable and the Police/Crime Commissioner and an explanation demanded?? If not, why not? And will the response be published here?
    Looking forward to some genuinely heartfelt weaselly words to express pain, unlimited remorse and a promise to do better next time……name and shame these people….it makes Googling so much more fun!

  10. Cookie,(Paul Cook)
    These traps are still sold widely nowadays in your local farming supplies shops – I believe they are only illegal if the ‘jaws’ have ‘teeth’ or serrated edges or are set on a post deliberately targeting birds of prey – but what other use have they ???

    1. They’re used to kill rats, among other things.

      Used properly they kill instantly and are therefore humane.

      1. They only kill instantly if the jaws snap on the killing area of the trapped subject. I’ve seen many animals caught ‘badly’, on a leg for example, even when the trap has been correctly/legally set within a tunnel. Fenn traps are far from humane. The same goes for all other spring traps.
        All spring traps are readily available via the internet so anyone could have a stock of them without needing a licence, and without any training in using them.

  11. Sherlock…….. get a warrant and search the gamekeepers house and sheds

    You wont prove the pole trap incident but I bet you find his poison……

  12. Email address of local Chief Constable please for all of us to comment. Has RSPB informed local press, if not why not?

  13. Good old plod doing what they do best, sod all. My father in law was a retired police officer and always said that when the current lot of would be officers went to Tulliallan all they did was take their brain out and put them on the street. It appears in englandshire they have the same training methods. Just a thought but by leaving the trap primed, does that not make those officers an accessory to the crime. Is it not a criminal offence for an officer to ignore a crime in progress ?

    1. “Is it not a criminal offence for an officer to ignore a crime in progress?”

      Probably, unless they were going to set up a surveillance system, but as this didn’t happen, then you seriously have to consider police corruption, from the top down, in a concerted effort to allow the criminal(s) to escape punishment.

      Just imagine if a small package (let’s say 2 kilos) of heroine or cocaine had been found, and the investigating officers chose to leave it in situations, without setting surveillance on the package, then a few days later, make an appeal to the public asking for information.

      Such an absurd scenario would have resulted in immediate dismissals for the officers, no questions asked, but as mentioned, we have top-down corruption in evidence here, so the rule of law is conveniently ignored, all to assist their friends in the shooting industry.

      1. It just annoys me that those that want to make a difference cant (because of the powers that be) and those that can wont. We just have to keep shouting until we’re heard. I definitely think RP’s making a difference here though.

    2. we had a brilliant wildlife police officer but he was given a desk job as he was too good. he will stay in the job another yr and then he retires and he will then be joining us; protecting setts, probably sabbing and he is a great guy.

  14. sadly when traps are found on a landowners place the landowner can’t be prosecuted. as I have previously said, it is the pheasant shooting industry that puts out more snares, traps etc., to kill anything and all creatures so that poults are not predated. of course foxes, badgers and peoples pets die in snares, slowly and in agony. I believe that most other european countries have banned snares but sadly not here. the fox hunters, shooters, badger baiters etc., all rub along happily together destroying our wildlife and our birds of prey too. the shooting industry is totally immoral. imported poults shot by morons who have big lunch , get pissed and out again in the afternoon shooting pheasants. Their guns are even reloaded for them!. thousands and thousands of dead pheasant s are buried in pits.

  15. The only two ways a prosecution could be successful would be
    A. Trigger the trap. Keep surveillance on the trap. Some comes back, reviews the trap and resets it.
    B. Remove the trap as evidence and find and match dna to the perpetrator.
    Anything else will get the response – not mine I just found it there.

    I think B. would have been quite likely to succeed as there would be a limited number of suspects to check.

    But that would have taken some effort and brain-work from a police officer.

    1. Andrew

      I admire your enthusiasm and willingness to offer suggestions however ,B is unlikely to succeed the obvious defence being that the trap does belong to the the person whose DNA has been identified on it. It was legally set by him as part of his duties as a gamekeeper and someone else has picked it up and set it illegally.

      This defence has been routinely used for snares, crow traps and other types of trap.

      It is perhaps not quite as easy as you or others may think.

      That said I would rather go with both your suggestions and fail than fail to try.

      1. The big problem with any wildlife crime – you really need to catch them in the act. And setting cameras for a targetted surveillance has implications in terms of powers, RIPA and getting approval. (Cases have been lost because the non-staututory investigatory body didn’t legally have the power to be there/set the camera)

        1. Secret squirrel

          Are you referring to cases in Scotland if so be interested to know which cases you are referring to.
          Conversely there has been a number of cases in SCotland where covert cameras have been used ( Mutch case RSPB, Aitken case SSPCA) which have been successful and resulted in convictions.

          Of course RIPA or RIP(S)A would apply if the organization was the police or other public authority.

          The answer is straight forward for the police…………get a RIPA or RIP(S) A authority.

          Truth is the senior police view wildlife crime as very low priority and most police Wildlife Officers do not have the experience or knowledge to investigate what is serious crime, hence no RIPA or RIP(S)A application.

          For many reasons police have become part of the problem and continue to make the same mistakes or simply fail to investigate wildlife crime appropriately.

  16. Now that the location is known, then just keep a close eye on it, the trapper will do it again, next time, dont tell anyone except the rspb, they had a very good prosecution against the Cumbrian buzzard beater. The trapper could do with his nackers in it, absolute pleb,

  17. If more people were to contact their local MP and their local authority elected member, it’s possible in some cases that greater pressure would be applied to the Police to do their job properly.

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