Lamb euthanised after stepping on illegally-set spring trap in North York Moors National Park

A lamb has been euthanised after being found in the North York Moors National Park with an illegally-set spring-trap attached to its leg.

The lamb was discovered on 8th August 2020 and was seen by a vet, who reported a nasty bone infection tracking up the lamb’s leg from the trap injury. A decision was taken to euthanise the stricken animal.

The use of this type of spring trap (a Fenn trap) became subject to new regulations in April this year as it is no longer considered humane for killing stoats. Gamekeepers have been urged to stop using them altogether in most situations and switch to a trap with a different design (e.g. see here and here).

Nevertheless, even if the operator of this particular trap had a defence for its lawful use, it would appear that it had still been set illegally if this lamb had managed to get its leg caught in it. Spring traps have to be placed inside a tunnel (artificial or natural) with excluders at each end to prevent non-target species entering the tunnel and getting caught.

Of course, even though the police are investigating this incident the chance of anyone being prosecuted is absolutely zero because it would be virtually impossible to determine who had set the trap. Even if there was a lawful requirement for the trap operator to have an identifying tag on the trap (which there isn’t), the police would still have enormous difficulty finding sufficient evidence to demonstrate it had been set by the operator and not by a third party.

What the police can do, though, is to visit the landowners in this area and ‘give them advice’ about the lawful use of traps.

Interestingly, this lamb was found on land close to Hutton-le-Hole, which is remarkably close to where the suspected poisoned sparrowhawk was reported a few days ago (here) and where a satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappeared’ in 2018 (see here).

Anyone with information about any of these cases, please contact PC Jez Walmsley at Malton Police Station on 101.


14 thoughts on “Lamb euthanised after stepping on illegally-set spring trap in North York Moors National Park”

  1. As an aside… my experience with injured foxes, Vets are quick to euthanase wild and injured creatures,when there is not much prospect of a juicy fee.
    A common denominator.

    1. Substitute ‘full recovery’ for ‘juicy fee’ and your sweeping statement might have a bit more justification.

  2. Surely it is about time that proper legislation was introduced regarding the use of traps.
    Every trap should be required to be marked with the name of the owner, and any trap which was set without proper identification would be a criminal offence.
    Those setting traps should have to keep a register of where and when traps were set, and the number and species of animals or birds killed.
    This would help ensure that the use of traps could be justified for proper conservation reasons, and not simply as a tool of persecution.
    It also wouldn’t be difficult for the trap manufactures to mark traps with a serial number, which could then be traced from point of manufacture through to point of sale and then to the owner. Any further transfer of ownership would have to be registered.
    But of course this won’t happen as it would provide the public with too much information as to exactly how many traps were being set, how much and what wildlife was being killed, and whether the use of the traps was actually justifiable.

    1. It really is that simple John. It`s the most obvious solution to the problem. Registered traps and accountability. This should be Wild Justice`s next legal case. Anyone rallying against this would clearly be “exposed” as protecting wildlife criminals.

  3. Yet another awful crime- a lamb! At least the shepherd will surely not be very happy and will know who did it. I understood the recent legal changes made it compulsory to have an identity tag- or is that only in Scotland?

  4. Simple solution, ban the use of traps . Barbaric devices used by barbaric and ignorant excuses for human beings

    1. Unfortunately that simple solution does not work.

      Numerous poisons are banned. They are still widely used.

      Harming species “protected” by legislation does not stop them being shot, trapped, poisoned etc.

      Criminals disregard the law. The law is not enforced and that is where it all breaks down……… endlessly !

      Severely punishing criminals may well improve matters. That is a simple solution, but the powers at be manage to avoid doing that.

      1. I agree banning the traps won’t stop their use.

        But by introducing legislation regarding the use of traps this will have the effect that those estates which are operating entirely within the law ( and there are some) will comply with the legislation.
        Those that ignore the legislation will then be committing a criminal act.

        Whilst we have to accept that the current investigative powers given to the authorities are frequently insufficient to actually detect the individuals committing the crimes and bring the perpetrator to justice. The fact that crimes are being committed is something which can be recorded and quantified.

        Crime pattern analysis can then take place to show where the crimes are occurring.
        Which in turn should help enable the authorities and other NGO’s to target their resources on those hotspot areas.

        If the criminality is most frequent on moors or countryside used for shooting, then it will provide further evidence to support conservationists in their call to introduce legislation and regulations regarding these activities.

        At the moment without legislation regarding the use of traps, we are not getting the full picture of whether traps are being used in accordance with the codes of practice, or whether their use is just another reflection of the criminal activities which are taking place on certain estates.

    1. A good observation.
      The under lying sphagnum moss, which can be seen in some of the photos, looks to be in a very sorry condition- but as has been shown time and time again, burning the heather frequently exposes the underlying vegetation and soil, which lead to erosion and degradation of the moorland.

      All part of the “scorched earth policy” adopted by some estates to ensure that all that lives on their moors are an over abundant number of grouse!!

      It all supports my view, that those estates which engage in poor land management practices, ignore codes of best practice, ignore the voluntary ban on heather burning, ignore the changes in legislation regarding the use of traps etc, are more likely to be the same estates where raptor persecution is taking place.

      The same parallel can be drawn from the study of criminal behaviour- those that engage in anti social behaviour, ignore traffic legislation and generally behave badly are more likely to commit more serious crimes.

      However, I am really pleased to see that one of the more enlightened land owners in my area has invested in heather cutting machinery, and the moors on his land are no longer subject to burning. But then he is also a land owner who tolerates birds of prey, and his moors are teeming with all manner of wild birds.
      I suspect he is as frustrated as the rest of us with what is taking place on so many other moors.

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