You definitely won’t find a teddy bears picnic. Bears, like most of our large predators were hunted to extinction in the UK many years ago (1000 AD) and obviously not satisfied we seem to be hell bent on removing everything else predatory whether it flies, runs or slithers.

The argument that man has to take the place of the predators is also a non-starter. Ecosystems are built on evolutionary change over millions of years and these fragile food webs require natural apex predators to prevent a top down trophic cascade. One has to wonder then why, in these enlightened times are we as a species failing to understand our role and how to best minimise the negative affect our existence has on the planet.

This brings me to the point of predator persecution. The main cause is conflict with man and his interests. Some species are afforded protection but this seems to have little effect on actually saving them. It was great to see the petition to ban driven grouse shooting go past the 100,000 mark and will now be debated in Parliament, so well done to all that signed it and Mark Avery for starting it in the first place but the fact still remains that shooting estates and their keepers are the primary reason for loss of predators. Some can be legally killed including Foxes, Stoats, Weasels and  Corvids and all will meet their end in large numbers in all sorts of barbaric and grisly ways. It may be OK in the eyes of the law but from a moral and ethical standpoint its an abomination. Why should these species have to suffer just because some moron with a personality defect likes to kill a certain species of bird, that’s been artificially reared to provide an unnaturally high population, just for fun?

I’m always happy when someone redresses that balance in just a little way. I was sent these pictures (Police please note – it’s not illegal to report or publish this, I don’t want you banging on my door again) a couple of weeks ago which show both  (assumed) legal and illegal traps.

image2

This is a Larsen trap, complete with live Crow. The live bird will tempt other birds into the trap whereupon the gamekeeper will return and bash their skulls in with a large stick. The strict requirements for operating these traps are listed below.

The welfare of decoy birds is well-covered by law. If any of the following conditions are not being met then the trap is being operated illegally:

– Suitable food must be readily accessible
– Clean drinkable water must be available all of the time
– There must be shelter which protects the bird from prevailing weather conditions
– There must be a perch placed under the shelter
– No decoy bird can be left in a trap when the trap is not in use
– Operators can not use any live bird or animal which is tethered, or secured by means of         braces or other similar appliances, or is blind, maimed or injured.

Operation of the trap

The law is clear on how a live-catch trap must be operated.

Every trap must be physically inspected at least once every day at intervals of no more than 24 hours – and the inspection must be sufficient to determine whether there are any live or dead birds or other animals in the trap (so eg not a quick glance from a vehicle parked at a distance from the trap).

ALL Non-target species caught in a Larsen or Cage trap must be released UNHARMED immediately upon discovery.

At each inspection any dead animal, including any dead bird, caught in the trap should be removed from it.

Any birds killed in accordance with the general licences must be killed in a quick and humane manner (in Wales the general licences require that any bird held captive before being killed must be killed out of sight of other captive birds). In England a separate licence issued by Natural England is required to a trapped bird.

In Scotland each trap must carry a sign that gives the operator’s ID number and the number of the local police station or the Wildlife Crime Officer for the area.

Now just by looking I can see that several of these license requirements are being breached and therefore the trap could be deemed as illegal. Obviously there is no official monitoring of these requirements so it is no wonder that they are open to so much abuse. Fortunately for this Crow it was removed and sent for rehabilitation and release.

image4

The sign on top of the trap shows it’s been in use for a lengthy period but what it actually proclaims is a complete lie.

image3

The license restriction are clearly being ignored so the first statement is wrong for a start. The live bird isn’t being well cared for either and it’s not in accordance with the game conservancy requirements but the most galling statement is the claim that it is being used as some kind of conservation effort to encourage more wildlife.

The simple fact is you won’t find these devices anywhere else apart from shooting estates. They aren’t interested in other wildlife, the only thing are interested in is their profits from shooting and providing the highest number of game birds to shoot for their clients. Needless to say this cage was probably visited by the woodland pixies and won’t be trapping any more Corvids.

The second device is something not often seen and is indeed illegal although freely available to purchase.

raptor trap

Baited with a dead Pheasant a scavenging raptor, most likely a Buzzard or Red Kite will land on the device whereupon it will set off the spring and the net will capture the bird, alive. What happens to the captured bird next is unlikely to be pleasant. The use of this trap is currently being investigated so there is little more I can say however once again it shows what Gamekeepers and shooting estates are up to. These devices were happened upon by members of the public out walking, one wonders how many other horrors would be found on much closer inspection of these private estates (things like this maybe)? Estates which, incidentally we help pay for through farm subsidies. I for one don’t accept this kind of barbarity so dear reader if you do go down to the woods today, just keep your eyes open, you never know what you might find.

If you do find something which you believe to be illegal please report it your local wildlife crime officer or the RSPB here.

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