Trapping and killing stoats – the new rules

The trapping and killing of wildlife to increase the number of gamebirds available for shooting parties is a daily routine for many gamekeepers.

It is legal to kill some species (e.g. stoats, weasels, foxes, crows) as long as certain conditions are met and it is illegal to kill other species (e.g. most birds including raptors, some mammals) unless a specific licence has been issued for limited purposes.

Earlier this month new legislation was enacted concerning the legal killing of stoats (see earlier blog, here) and there are now General Licences which include new rules and regulations, particularly around the use of Fenn traps, although there is still a lot of uncertainty on some issues.

[A Fenn trap set on a log, photo from the Untold Suffering report published by the Revive Coalition last year]

For those of you interested in this subject there are two excellent blogs that are worth taking the time to read:

The first one is by the animal welfare charity OneKind and it explains some of the welfare issues associated with Fenn traps and why these traps are no longer permitted to be used to trap and kill stoats. Read the blog HERE

The second blog is by author and former police wildlife crime officer Alan Stewart and it explains and critiques the new legislation relating to the killing of stoats. Read the blog HERE

If you’re out walking on your permitted exercise route and you spot one of these traps it’s worth taking a photo, noting the location (use the app What3Words, it’s brilliantly accurate and easy to use) and reporting it. Given the police are pretty busy at the moment it’s probably worth reporting it to OneKind and the RSPB. Their expert staff can assess the photograph and either advise you that the trap looks lawful or they can report it to the police if it looks dodgy.

14 thoughts on “Trapping and killing stoats – the new rules”

  1. Many thanks for this blog and for bringing together the links to the two very informative articles – duly bookmarked. What a tangled web this is – plotting the downfall of one creature to preserve more of another so they can be shot for fun? If only the general public knew more about this!

  2. Alan does some excellent blogs.

    However I feel a point of clarification is needed.

    Alan Stewart’s blog explains that the Spring Traps Approval Orders (STAOs) simply set out conditions for the use of spring traps but it is not an offence to contravene the guidance in the STAOs. That is the case in Scotland and Northern Ireland but it is not the situation in England and Wales.

    The Explanatory Note for the Spring Traps Approval Orders 2018 for England and Wales state that “Under section 8 of the Pests Act 1954 (c. 68), it is an offence to use or knowingly to permit the use of any spring trap, other than a trap that has been approved by Order, for animals or in circumstances for which it is not approved.”

    Pests Act 1954, S8 Restriction on type of trap in England and Wales.

    S8(1) “Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall be guilty of an offence under this subsection if . . . (a) for the purpose of killing or taking animals, he uses … any spring trap other than an approved trap for animals or in circumstances for which it is not approved.”

    S8(2) “The approvals given by S8 paragraph (1) are subject in all cases to the conditions … (if any) as to the animals for which, and the circumstances in which, the spring trap may be used as are specified in the corresponding entry in Column 2 of the Schedule (or, in the case of a trap approved under the equivalence provision in paragraph (1)(b), as are so specified in relation to the trap to which it is equivalent).”

    S8(3) “In subsection (1) of this section any reference to an approved trap refers to a trap of a type and make for the time being specified by order of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries as approved by him either generally or subject to conditions as to the animals for which or the circumstances in which it may be used, and any reference to the animals or circumstances for which a trap is approved shall be construed accordingly.”

    Of course all the offences Alan mentions that include use of traps also apply.

    1. I’ve responded to Lizzybusy’s helpful points in a comment under my blog article but I think she has misunderstood what I’m saying in relation to STAOs. When a person deviates from any of the conditions of the STAOs the offence committed is under other legislation (not the STAO) such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act, The Pests Act or the Agriculture (Scotland) Act.

  3. It seems in England at least the attitude of police forces may be crucial to the effectiveness of the new rules with some claiming that for anyone trapping with old style Fenn traps if they catch a stoat you would have to prove intent. To my mind this is rubbish, to trap rats and weasels( why would you want to trap this tiny mouse/vole predator?) in a Fenn trap how can you make the tunnel such that a stoat cannot access it— you cannot. Hence any Fenn type trap set anywhere that may or will contain Stoats is either of itself a criminal offence should you catch one or it is criminal negligence. I suppose you could set Fenns for rats in buildings but in such situations most folk use poison.
    If anyone finds Fenn type traps still in operation in our countryside report it because they are almost certainly illegal.

    1. I couldn’t agree more: it is this weasel-word (excuse the pun, totally intentional) “intent” that has rendered the Hunting with Hounds Act useless and given the police and the CPS their opt out so they don’t upset their lords and masters and their hired thugs.

      Apart from a few notable exceptions (Nick Lyall, etc), oh for a police force that serves the public and not the already rich and powerful!

    2. Clearly not a clue what you’re talking about I’m afraid. Fenn traps can still be used to catch weasels in areas where there are stoats, so long as the entrance into the fenn trap is covered by 25mm weld mesh so that weasels can enter and stoats can not. What an absolute waste of police time telling people to report any fenn trap they find. How selfish of you giving out false information and possibly wasting a lot of police time and effort.

      1. The stoat/weasel/Fenn Trap issue could be made much clearer if there was a legal definition of the sizes of mesh permitted in the use of the traps for the respective species. Having gone to great lengths to produce supposedly humane traps for stoats, it is still a crazy situation that the barriers at the ends of the tunnels can be extremely variable in their effectiveness – a few nails hammered in presenting no effective horizontal limitation or a few twigs stuck in the ground etc.. This really is Mickey Mouse stuff and it’s time that the authorities got to grips with it.

        It wouldn’t have taken a great deal of joined-up thinking for this issue to have been addressed under the new legislation – after all, there’s been time enough!

      2. Note the advice from Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust: On the subject of using Fenn traps after 1st April they state: ‘Because of the overlap in body size between weasels and stoats, it is very unlikely that a physical excluder can be devised that will allow weasels to pass through while excluding stoats. We therefore urge trappers to fully embrace change and demonstrate full compliance with the law by switching to new generation stoat traps for both species’.
        Lastly they state: ‘The old traps will also remain legal for rats and grey squirrels, but there are surely very few situations where a keeper can target these species in full confidence that there is no risk of catching a stoat’.

      3. I’ve seen female stoats in traps with such exclusions, there is an overlap in size of small female/immature stoats and male weasels. What the hell would you want to trap weasels for!

        1. TBH, I hadn’t realised that weasels were quite so lithe and thin. Even the narrowest gauge 25mm weld-mesh is going to have gaps of only 24mm square (the 25mm measurement being centred on the wire).The gaps get smaller with heavier gauge material. As PVI says, why would anyone wish to trap them?

  4. Leave nature to do what nature does very well if its left to its own devices with no human intervention

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