Even more innocent victims caught in traps set on grouse moors

About a week ago we blogged about the deaths of some birds in some traps that had been set on some grouse moors.

Some of the traps had been set legally, but still caught and killed an innocent Dipper (here) whereas other traps had been set illegally and had caught and killed an innocent tawny owl, as reported by the RSPB Investigations Team (here).

Yesterday, we were sent more images of some different traps that had caught yet more innocent victims. These traps were photographed on the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate in South Lanarkshire, and although the traps appear to have been set legally (i.e. the trap has been placed inside a tunnel and the entry holes have been restricted), they have still caught and killed another innocent Dipper and a Wheatear.

As we wrote last week, even though the traps in these photographs appear to have been legally set, and the trap operator has abided by the law, the traps have still caused the deaths of these native species but nobody will be held to account. These deaths are considered acceptable collateral damage, the price our native wildlife has to suffer to enable over-privileged members of the establishment the opportunity to blast to death thousands of game birds later in the year.

There is no legal requirement for grouse shooting estates to monitor, record or report these deaths. The Scottish and Westminster Governments and their statutory conservation advisory agencies (SNH and Natural England) have no clue about how many of these deaths take place on grouse moors each day/week/month/year.

Imagine if we all were setting out traps like this in our back gardens, routinely killing native wildlife without being held to account.

Imagine if you saw these traps set out in your town, killing blackbirds and song thrushes and robins every single day.

For how long do you think we’d get away with it? (Not that anyone with an ounce of decency would want to get away with it).

Now think about how long the grouse shooting industry has been able to get away with this without being challenged/stopped.

33 thoughts on “Even more innocent victims caught in traps set on grouse moors”

  1. Re the comment an innocent Tawny. Nothing is innocent on a grouse moor,if it moves it is there to be killed,end of story.That is the total mentallity of gamekeepers. It is appalling that a Dipper should become a victim,but I understand from a good source it is still commonplace to kill Dippers in Scotland as they eat salmon eggs.

  2. I found a full grown grouse killed in one of these last summer, on an estate in the North York Moors. Saw a well grown chick of some sort in another, possibly a pheasant poult, so think about what other sort of birds might be being caught in these. Rather worrying to think about.

  3. This has gone well beyond what should be tolerated as acceptable. Mistakes and/or legal they might be – we should no longer be prepared to accept this as collateral damage. There’s just no way of knowing their effect on a national basis. Is there any credible data on casualties in terms of totals and species type ? I am aware that where snares are set (in Scotland) they can only be set with the landowner’s permission and knowledge and they should be tagged, identifying an approved and competent individual responsible for setting and checking – shouldn’t the same apply to these traps ?

  4. How much photographic evidence does it take to make a strong case for the total banning of these indiscriminate items. I would propose this as a suitable cause for Wild Justice to pursue and would be happy to dip my hand deep into my pocket in support.
    Could we please stop having non-target victims caught in these devices described as ‘innocent’? The concepts of innocence or guilt are entirely misplaced where a creature is going about its normal, natural business. It is a purely human attribute that defines their culpability in this context.

    1. I agree with you completely. I too hope that Wild Justice gets involved and would willingly support the action monetarily.

  5. I wouldn’t be at all surprised. The salmon fishing lobby are as rabidly anti ‘predator’ as the grouse moors are, mutterings that the bottle nose dolphins in the Moray Firth need to be ‘controlled’. Their role in suppressing conservation and ecological restoration has probably been under estimated and they need to come under more scrutiny.

  6. I’m surprised no one mentions that a ‘tunnel’ implies by definition ( try various dictionaries) that it is underground or covered with only an entrance and an exit. By coincidence I think all the legal target species use tunnels so why are any of these cages deemed legal-given the ‘reckless’ implication ? These traps are surely cages with very big spaces in the wire. I’d guess most non target victims find the trap visually and enter through the wire. At the very least the outer wire should have very fine netting. Also does the law not state that traps have to be checked daily? Hard to prove with fresh looking bodies but some photos show poor creatures long dead.

    1. I can’t see what make of spring trap it is but it may well be a Fenn Trap. Fenn traps should be checked twice a day, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

      Spring Traps Approval (England) Order 2018, S2 Approval of Spring Traps

      Approved traps (2)(1) “are subject in all cases to the conditions that—

      (a) the trap must be used in accordance with the instructions (if any) provided by the manufacturer; and

      (b) so far as is practicable without unreasonably compromising its use for killing or taking target species, the trap must be used in a manner that minimises the likelihood of its killing, taking or injuring non-target species;”

      The FennTrap Manufacturer’s instructions

      “MK4 and MK6 … This spring trap is suitable for small mammals including: Stoats, Weasles, Rats and Squirrels…. The trap must be set in a natural or artificial tunnel which is suitable for minimising the chances of injuring or killing non-target species whilst not compromising the capture and killing of target species. Always correctly position and protect your spring traps from non-target species. It is the law to use these traps in a tunnel. Check traps at least twice daily.”

      Gamekeeping organisations recommend that the traps are placed on a regular route used by the target animal but not by non-target animals. Many spring traps, on grouse moors, are placed across streams and ditches on logs placed at crossing points regularly used by the animals (and, of course, all animals. Like us, we all use easy to follow tracks.) The animals become used to crossing the ‘bridge’ safely. Then, bobs your uncle, the gamekeepers set the trap and pop! Vile, isn’t it.

      1. Significantly, neither the Spring Traps Approval (England) Order 2018 nor the manufacturer’s instructions make any specific mention of protecting non-target species of a similar or smaller size than whatever the target species might be. Why not? Because it’s a total impossibility to do so. The Spring Traps Approval Order is little more than a legal form of cover for the indiscriminate killing of our smaller forms of wildlife – whether protected species or not. I would like to know how this issue is covered on courses attended by trainee gamekeepers. The teaching authorities must be aware of this issue. Do they sanction it as an unfortunate form of by-catch of what they regard as a legal activity and simply turn a blind eye to it?

  7. The usual drivel but I expect a lot of you have cats for your own selfish pleasure whick kill millions of birds and mammals each year! But that’s OK because they don’t wear tweeds or drive range rovers!

    1. You set up a false dichotomy William. I keep dogs not cats for the same reason that you describe. But I also support a range of organisations that want the protection of our native species. Those that manage the grouse moors and those from the shooting fraternity introduce millions of non-native species ie red-legged grouse and pheasant to shoot for their pleasure. So, its not one or the other its both, restrict the reproduction of cats and ban all shooting for pleasure.

    2. I don’t have a cat, no. Even if I did, how could that possibly justify the actions in the above article? A truly stupid argument to put forward.

  8. I agree with the above comment that using “innocent” in this context is inappropriate and unhelpful. Anything caught and killed in these traps is “innocent”. They are set to kill native wildlife regardless of whether that wildlife is a “target species” or not. By discriminating in this way, surely we are using the same categories of “good” wildlife and “bad” wildlife that the game shooting industyry uses?

    1. I can’t understand why a Dipper is “innocent” but a Stoat not so, as defined by the huntin’ n’ shooting’ mob. Man may be guilty in introducing non-native species such as Mink, but the Mink preys upon native species because it was designed by Nature to do so to survive. In my opinion we should leave well alone, so long as it cannot be shown for certain that the non-native is genuinely harming the sustainability of its native prey. For example, careful scrutiny is now suggesting that Biologists have seriously over-estimated the American Mink’s impact on Water Vole populations.

  9. The bankers provide the moors and the police guard the bankers and they do what they like.

    1. I’ve been involved in wildlife on grouse moors for well over forty years and think that as time has gone on and management intensified the positives are precious bloody few, but perhaps you would care to enlighten us.

  10. Is there no possibility here for Wild Justice to take start a legal case or a mass petition using these photographs as prime evidence?

  11. Surely every sad and indiscriminate report such as this or another tragic raptor disappearance or blatant killing is obviously other nail in the coffin of the totally unacceptable barbaric archaic corrupt grouse moor industry. How long will it take ? Probably never. Unless major change is agreed by more than a concerned minority.

  12. When thinking about something it’s important to establish a contingent model of the wider reality. Just because you or anyone else doesn’t observe something, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. The vast majority of these traps are used on private land on private estates, and most of these traps are set in places the public would never look. In other words, the only people who know what these traps actually catch in terms of unintended by-catch including protected species and domestic pets, are the ones who operate them. For everyone seen and photographed by a member of the public, undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of these by-catches has gone unwitnessed.

    The reality is this. These traps and snares have been catching none target species, which include not only protected species, but domestic pets like cats and dogs for as long as gamekeeping on driven shoots has existed. We’re not talking about the odd accidental “by-catch”, these traps catch non-target species on a regular basis, on a massive scale. The idea that only target species will go into these traps is a fantasy.

    I’ve written about shooting’s dirty secret for a long time, but shooters have just attacked me and claimed I was making it up, because they think out of sight is out of mind. Unfortunately for them the prevalence of camera phones has meant that their dirty secret is now leaking out into the public domain.

    However, let’s get this very clear. Every single gamekeeper, every manager of them and their employers know very well that their traps and snares regularly catch non-target species including protected animals and domestic pets. They know this because not merely is it a legal requirement to check these traps, but they have to regularly check these traps to reset them. However, the shooting industry never tells anyone about this problem, because for want of a better term they are well practised liars, and they deliberately give the public a false and misleading impression about what happens, because they know that if the public knew about what really happens, the public would be horrified and want to ban their “sport”.

    Conservationists need to think about the deeper implications of this. If all gamekeepers and land managers have always been at the very least keeping the by-catch from their trapping secret, and in most cases actively misleading everyone about it with lies, then what else can we believe? When they claim that they don’t illegally persecute raptors and it’s just a few bad apples, then why did we ever believe this? This is coming from people who regularly trap and kill people’s pet dogs and cats, along with protected species, and secretly bury them, so no one finds out about it. I’ve long argued it is absolutely absurd to allow gamekeeping associations and shooting industry representatives to be on boards and committees about wildlife crime and conservation, because these vested interest groups are only their for intelligence on what is known about their activities and are there to try and control the narrative.

    To illustrate this knowing dishonesty inherent in the management of driven shooting, let’s look at one bit of evidence. In the 19th Century gamekeepers and estates used to very openly keep a log of everything they regularly caught and killed. Reading one of these game books now is a horrifying experience when you see the now very rare species they caught and killed in large numbers. So why did shooting estates stop keeping a log of everything they caught and killed? The dishonesty and the hiding of their dirty secrets is quite knowing and deliberate, which is why we should not believe a word of what the shooting industry says. As I say, they know much, much more about these accidental by-catches, then we’ll ever know, but why did they never tell anyone about it? Is anyone naive enough to think this only started happening when people had camera phones and the access rights to highlight it? But again, remember even now, that the public does not see 99.9% of what these traps catch, but gamekeepers see everything these traps catch, and their employers and managers likewise know about it.

    1. You paint a dreadful, but accurate picture of the shooting industry. I don’t wish to be too political but it is the ruling classes who think nothing of their own perverted view of what constitutes pleasure. As steb1 says this has been going on for centuries and for all those decades has included the Royal Family. Perhaps this is why the practice of shooting and hunting animals for pleasure goes on without comment in the main press. [Ed: the rest of this comment has been deleted as it’s potentially libellous. We don’t know if what you claim is true and don’t have the time to go checking. Thanks.]

      1. I understand, but it was in the national press. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

  13. I honestly & truthfully do not understand mankind.what gives a person the right of superiority over what nature has put in place for a valid reason.the killing of anything is abhorrent by selfish self important people.leave nature to run itself,if left with no interference from ignorant so called dubious experts we could be more content with life.leave nature alone and stop interfering

  14. You would need to be a heartless and soulless cretin to set such traps. Imagine going home at the end of a day and your son or daughter asks what you being doing. “What a day I had. I killed a Dipper. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get a wagtail or a robin.”
    Perverted or depraved etc. hardly begins to describe these people.

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