Wildlife killed in illegally-set trap and snares in south Scotland

Press release from Scottish SPCA (17 July 2020)

Scottish SPCA raise concerns after animals die suffering in illegal snares and traps

The Scottish SPCA is appealing for information after being alerted to deceased animals caught in illegal snares and traps over the last month.

The Society’s special investigations unit was alerted to two incidents of badgers in illegal snares in North Lanarkshire since 5 July and a hare was discovered trapped in a spring trap in the Pentland Hills on 18 June.

From 2018 to 2019, the charity dealt with almost 60 incidents involving animals caught in snares and traps. The majority of these animals were dead on arrival.

Scotland’s animal welfare charity supports an outright ban on all snares due to the level of suffering an animal is caused.

The snares that killed the badgers were illegal as both had been set on a fence line. This is unlawful due to the risk of an animal trapped being wholly or partially suspended which can lead to severe unnecessary suffering. The snares also did not have a ‘stop’ which does not allow the device to tighten after a certain point. All snares are legally required to have an identification tag but this was absent on both devices. The snare in Motherwell was made out of nylon which is an illegal material for use in snares.

The hare was caught in an outdated spring trap which became illegal for use on non-target animals in April 2020. Trap operators should be aware of the recent change in legislation that dictates which traps are legal and which traps are no longer approved. This particular trap was unapproved and was not legal in the circumstances in which it was used.

Scottish SPCA special investigations inspector, who cannot be named due to undercover operations, said:

Snare and trap operators must check on the device every 24-hours and this was not the case in these incidents.

These animals were caused unimaginable physical and mental anguish being caught in these traps. The creatures will have experienced slow and agonising deaths. The level of suffering they would have felt is unimaginable.

The badger in Airdrie had been dead for two or three months and in Motherwell, the animal had been deceased for over 24 hours.

The badgers must have passed under the fence and become caught in the snare. One under its front legs and the other around its neck. Both animals must have panicked and this caused the snare to constrict them further and further.

The hare was found in the Pentland Hills near Balerno trapped by its front leg. By the time we found it, the leg had almost been severed due to the amount of struggle and fight put up by the animal.

These areas are popular with dog walkers so we would ask that anyone with pets in the areas are vigilant. Snares and traps are indiscriminate and domestic animals such as dogs and cats can also be caught in them. It is illegal for anyone to tamper with a legally set snare or trap so we would ask the public not to attempt this. If someone suspects a device is set illegally then they should contact us immediately.

We’ve been working closely with our partners at Police Scotland on these wildlife crimes and both agencies are keen to find those responsible.

We’d also like to thank the owners of the land in Airdrie, Premier Woodlands, who have been fully cooperative and are keen to find those responsible.

If anyone has any information on whoever may have set these snares or traps or if anyone finds what they believe to be an illegal item, we would urge them to phone our animal helpline immediately on 03000 999 999. All calls can be treated confidentially.”


20 thoughts on “Wildlife killed in illegally-set trap and snares in south Scotland”

  1. I know we almost get accustomed to it but it is so hideously cruel and is such a sad reflection on how humans choose to treat the creatures we share this planet with.Hopefully soon such practices will be condemned to history-where they belong.

    1. ‘Wildlife managers’, see death and suffering on a daily basis and it has become the norm for them. They have become desensitized which is a large part of the problem.

    2. I can never get used it.
      What are these creatures doing that is so bad that it justifies being subjected to such horrific treatment.
      The people who are inflicting this sadistic brutality are dangerous psychopathic criminals.
      Governments that permit it are no better than xxxxx

  2. Those poor creatures will have suffered long and painful deaths. This normalisation by certain people of cold blooded murder of our fellow creatures has to be challenged and ultimately stopped….there is, to my mind, no hope for humanity until it is treated as seriously as it should be, with appropriate punishments.

    1. Fully agree,outdated,barbaric practice and xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

  3. Number of questions arise.

    (i) Are there any stats regarding convictions for both illegally set snares, and for tampering with a snare?

    (ii) Is tampering with a legal snare an actual defined offence, and how is ‘tampering’ defined?

    1. I doubt that you will, it is covered under laws governing Criminal Damage, although I’m not sure what offence covers you firing a trap, leaving open the door of a cage trap or wrapping a snare around its anchor peg without damaging them but I’m sure somebody else knows and will respond.

      1. Does anyone, (not the owners, G Ks, setters), care if it’s an apparent crime to ‘interfere’ with a trap. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

  4. You can go along and accidentally get your foot in it completely fall over and have to remove yourself rather heavily , crashing around like a snared Badger, this would not be tampering would it, whoops ive tripped again sorry.

  5. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1971/48/section/1
    Criminal Damage Act 1971
    “S1 Destroying or damaging property.
    (1) A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another intending to destroy or damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged shall be guilty of an offence.”

    However, there is a very important defence to the offence under S5 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971
    5S “Without lawful excuse.”(1) This section applies to any offence under section 1(1) above … (2) A person charged with an offence to which this section applies, shall, whether or not he would be treated for the purposes of this Act as having a lawful excuse apart from this subsection, be treated for those purposes as having a lawful excuse—

    (a)if at the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence he believed that the person or persons whom he believed to be entitled to consent to the destruction of or damage to the property in question had so consented, or would have so consented to it if he or they had known of the destruction or damage and its circumstances; or

    (b)if he destroyed or damaged or threatened to destroy or damage the property in question or, in the case of a charge of an offence under section 3 above, intended to use or cause or permit the use of something to destroy or damage it, in order to protect property belonging to himself or another or a right or interest in property which was or which he believed to be vested in himself or another, and at the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence he believed—

    (i)that the property, right or interest was in immediate need of protection; and
    (ii)that the means of protection adopted or proposed to be adopted were or would be reasonable having regard to all the circumstances.

    (3) For the purposes of this section it is immaterial whether a belief is justified or not if it is honestly held.

    Defence S5(a) was successfully used by animal rights activists who, allegedly, caused criminal damage to traps and snares. IIRC, they argued that the shooting estate was operating a criminal business but, had the business operated legal wildlife management practices, they would have consented to the destruction of the illegally set and operated traps and snares. The campaigners had wildlife and land management experts able to confirm that protected animals were likely inhabiting the area and that many of the activities being undertaken on the estate were illegal. They also had photographic evidence to confirm their honestly held beliefs.

    Defence S5(b) was successfully used by Greenpeace activists who destroyed GM crops which were on the point of flowering and being capable of cross-contaminating nearby organic crops which were in immediate need of protection and the Government had granted consent for the experimental crop to be planted so there was no other recourse of action to protect the crop.

    Fire officers and police officers are protected from prosecution under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 for damage they cause when, for example, they break down doors in raids attempting to prevent crimes or trying to protect the property of others during a fire.

    Technically, if a non-target animal (such as a dog or a badger, hare etc) was in immediate danger of being harmed by a trap or snare which had been set in the area it inhabited or used (near footpaths used by dog walkers) then the estate owner might technically be guilty of an offence and, in those circumstances, a person might honestly expect the estate owner to want the trap or snare to be triggered or unset in order to prevent the offence from taking place. Those are the sorts of defences that individuals who did ’tamper’ with a trap or snare might have available to them.

    1. Interesting, thanks you. That’s English and Welsh law – a little research last night indicates in Scotland it would either be covered by S52 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1995/39/section/52) or common law.

      In either case always pertaining to destroying or damaging property. Nothing about ‘interfering’ where the trap is not ddamaged.

      The other thing i noticed was several different E/W Police websites parrot the same information, which appears to come from BASC/GWCT.

  6. Snares should be banned but in the interim what chance requiring that all snares have an identification number which is traceable to owner? Any without such identification are deemed in law to be illegal and anyone ‘accidentally becoming entangled with one’ is not guilty of criminal damage? Apologies if this requirement is one already implemented in Scotland.

    1. https://www.mygov.scot/snare-identification-number/

      That is implemented, but as often the case theory and practice differ.
      Some of us find snares that do not have an ID disc / are not of the approved design (what sort of perverted mind would dream of having an approved design for a torture instrument) / not secured to prevent the animal dragging the anchor away (when you find a deer that has been dragging an old fence post about for heavens knows how long I can assure you that it is a sickening and heart breaking sight).
      People who set snares are nasty uncaring philistines.
      People in government who legitimise it are, in effect, no better. I’d like some of them to be forced to watch a snared animal.

  7. SSPCA need to be given additional powers to investigate crimes involving wildlife. It is a disgrace that the Scottish Goverment are resisting this when wildlife crime is so high and the clear and ongoing difficulties in reducing it.

  8. The dreadful suffering forced upon our meat-eating wildlife is driven by the greed of the ‘shootIng’ estate owners and the callous bullying of their game keepers. Between them, by a combination of political influence and intimidation they keep the awful reality of their ‘sport’ out of the public awareness. This will only change when there is an open debate at Holyrood and Westminster and the realities of this sad, sad business are made clear to the public both in terms of the animal suffering and the manipulation by the rich and powerful ‘establishment’ estate owners to keep things as they are and maintain their almost total lack of accountability.
    Once again it is a powerful elite that is behind the suffering and it must be ‘named and shamed’ into changing its mediaeval ways or receive new wildlife-friendly laws to compel it to do so. ‘Wild lives matter’ too!

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