Pets such as cats and dogs were among animals caught in snares that can cause death and severe injury, says a new report.
Protected species such as badgers, deer and foxes, have also been caught in snare traps, which can inflict deep wounds and internal organ damage, as well as death.
The animal welfare group, OneKind – which produced the report – and the Scottish Greens, have renewed calls for the Scottish Government to ban snares.
The Scottish Government claimed Scotland had “the most robust” snare regulation in the UK, but said current legislation would be reviewed, “including the question of a ban”.
The report by OneKind – a charity based in Edinburgh – includes evidence gathered by members of the public in 2021.
Examples included dead creatures being used to lure other animals to snare traps near the Highland’s River Connon, and a dog walker who was tripped by a snare on a Cairngorms estate.
Snare traps are anchored loops of wire or steel cable made to catch animals that farmers, gamekeepers and landowners consider to be pests, such as foxes, hares and rabbits.
Snares are designed to catch animals by the neck and restrain them until the operator comes to kill them.
“Animals may suffer from deep wounds, internal organ damage or even death due to being trapped in snares,” said OneKind campaigner, Eve Massie. “Trapped animals are also likely to become fearful and emotionally distressed.”
She claimed that “up to 70 per cent of all animals caught in snares are not of the species snares are set for.”
Echoing OneKind’s call for a ban, the Greens said snaring is hard to monitor and causes “indiscriminate killing”. But the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) warned against a crackdown.
“Snaring is a vitally important predator management tool that enables land managers to protect livestock, gamebirds and ground nesting birds from predation by foxes where other methods of control are not viable,” said Dr Colin Shedden, BASC Scotland director.
Snare sightings and incidents in the UK in 2021
OneKind’s report includes 11 case studies reported by members of the public in 2021, largely via the charity’s SnareWatch website.
|A snared fox and blood surrounding other snares||Scarrowmanwick, Cumbria||January|
|Snares and stink pit found in field holding sheep||Oxenhope, West Yorkshire||February|
|Runner discovered dead cat and fox near snares||Bolton Abbey Estate, Yorkshire||February|
|Snares found near stink pit||River Conon, Highland||February|
|Badger killed by illegal snare||Tilbrook, Cambridge||February|
|A dead fox found caught in a suspected wire snare||Ely, Cambridgeshire||March|
|Snare, poison and body of fox found||Millbrook, Bedfordshire||March|
|Dog caught in a snare||Welton Dale, East Yorkshire||May|
|Deer killed by snare||Flitch Green, Dunmow, Essex||May|
|A cat with suspected snare lacerations||Charing Hill, Ashford, Kent||August|
|Dog walker caught in snare||Phoines Estate, Cairngorms National Park, Highland||October|
Examples include a runner who tripped over a snare on a grouse moor estate in Bolton and discovered the bodies of a cat and fox beside further traps.
Blood was found surrounding a snare in Cumbria, where a trapped fox was spotted a day earlier. A badger and deer were killed by snares in Essex and Cambridge, respectively.
Seven snares were reported by the banks of the Highlands’ River Conon alongside a ‘stink pit’ which contained the dead bodies of a lamb, a fox and two roe deer. Stink pits are dug by gamekeepers and filled with dead animal remains to lure foxes and other animals to hidden snares.
On the Phoines Estate in Cairngorms National Park, a dog walker was caught in a snare set on a vehicle track. The walker, who was unhurt, said he found another snare and a live capture trap nearby.
Laws around snare traps
Scotland’s current legislation states that users must have accreditation, and check their traps at least once every 24 hours.
Snares must be ‘free-running’, meaning the wire relaxes when the animal stops struggling, and set so that the trapped animal will not become suspended or drown.
A stop must be installed to prevent the wire reducing to a certain circumference, depending on the species it is targeting. Snares must also be staked to the ground or attached to an object so it cannot be dragged.
OneKind’s report claims that free-running snares can become damaged and lock, while animals may struggle against snares, causing the device to twist and tighten, leading to injury or death.
The charity’s report argues that “24 hours is an extremely long time for an injured or distressed animal to be trapped”. It urged anyone who discovers a live animal in a snare to call the SSPCA.
Calls for snare ban
Campaigners and politicians are now reiterating calls for a ban on snares. Green MSP Mark Ruskell said the report revealed that “snaring causes indiscriminate killing and is hard to monitor.”
“This is why the Scottish Government is currently reviewing the use of snares in Scotland and it’s clear a ban would be the most decisive approach to tackling this cruel and unnecessary practice,” he added.
The Scottish Government said it understood ”concerns about the use of snares in Scotland and why some people want them banned on animal welfare grounds.”
A spokesperson said the government had reviewed current snaring legislation, and was developing a “wider review of aspects of snaring including the question of a ban”.
“The Scottish Government will consider any recommendations from the review and will take action if necessary, including introducing further legislation.”
Image credit: OneKind