Lochindorb Estate hare snare trial: verdict expected today

Mountain hare (photo: Alamy)

The long-running hare snare trial is expected to end today if Sheriff Abercrombie has reached a verdict.

We’ve blogged a lot about this case as the verdict could have far-reaching consequences on the way our uplands are managed, with a particular impact on grouse moor management practices.

Earlier posts can be read here (and see links within).

Two weeks ago the court heard the final pieces of evidence from the defence team, which consisted of a string of gamekeepers insisting that the type of snare used in this case is ‘selective’ (i.e. it doesn’t trap any species other than the target species). It must be a magic snare.

Many thanks to the contributor who send us a copy of the Badenoch & Strathspey Herald, dated 22 November 2012, with a summary of the evidence heard in court:

Gamekeepers tell trial of ‘selective’ snares

THREE gamekeepers have given evidence at the trial of a colleague facing allegations of illegal snaring of mountain hares on Lochindorb Estate more than three years ago.

The keepers told Sheriff Ian Abercrombie they had used the type of snare set by David Taylor and caught nothing other than mountain hares.

Former Lochindorb keeper Alexander McConnachie (66), Stuart Kennedy (45), from Tomatin, and Alan Hodgson (54), head keeper at Dalmagarry and a committee member of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association with special responsibility for snaring issues, told the trial they had all used the “W”  shaped snare, also known as a bow snare, as a means of controlling mountain hares on high ground on their estates.

David Taylor (65), who recently retired from his role as head keeper at Lochindorb, was charged with setting snares on April 14, 2009 on land at Lochan-t-Sidhie which were indiscriminate in which animals they could catch, contrary to the Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations which became law in 1994.

The trial, which started in March, reached its sixth day on Friday [16 Nov 2012] when the evidence was concluded.

Sheriff Abercrombie has agreed to written submissions being provided by both the Crown depute fiscal Iain Smith and the defence agent David McKie.

In evidence, Mr McConnachie said he was head keeper on Lochindorb between 1972 and 1993 before the new legislation came into place. He told the trial that where the snares were set, 1,500 feet above sea level, there were very few other species to be found.

Expert witness Hugo Straker demonstrating a fox snare in 2011 (photo: The Courier)

Wildlife expert Hugo Straker (57), a senior adviser with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and an expert on snaring law in Scotland, had earlier told the trial that the snares could be selective depending on how and where they were set. He also differentiated between a trap and a snare. In his opinion he said a trap was a spring-loaded device which can kill or trap an animal live while the snare was a “restraining device” which can kill.

Mr McConnachie told the court snares are never referred to as traps. ‘A trap is a mechanical device’, he said. Often they were concealed in a box to trap the targeted species and for the protection of other mammals. Wire cage traps, known as Larsen traps, were also used to control crows.

He said he used the “bow” snare used by Taylor extensively between 1990 and 1993 on Lochindorb because of the increase in tick of the moor.

Asked if he had ever found other animals caught in the snares he replied: “No, never. They are very selective, very humane and highly visible. I never caught anything else in them”.

He said you would get the occasional fox or roe dear [sic] at that level but it was quite rare to see a golden eagle.

Asked by depute fiscal lain Smith if an animal broke a snare how he would know it was a hare that did this. He said there was always evidence of hare fur nearby if a snare broke.

Mr Hodgson said the snares were perfectly legal at the time but gamekeepers had stopped using them because of this court case. He commented: “I would use them again in a minute. They were a brilliant tool. Easy to carry, easy to set and highly visible”.

Mr Hodgson said foxes and deer avoid them because they have forward vision. However, he said: “Hares have blind spots because their eyes are on the side of their heads, unlike predators”. He said he used them for nine years and never once found another species in them.

The trial was told by Mr Straker that since the alleged offence there had been major changes in law governing the use of snares going through parliament and all snares must have stops so mammals caught are not throttled and can be put down humanely. Everyone using them will require to be trained and certificated by a Scottish Government approved body and, from April next year, every snare will carry the operators certification number.

Police Constable Eric Sharkey (45), a wildlife officer with Northern Constabulary, inspected the site after a tip-off from a member of the public.

15 Responses to “Lochindorb Estate hare snare trial: verdict expected today”

  1. 1 Merlin
    November 30, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    It beggars belief you can call a snare humane, the definition of humane is inflicting the minimum of pain, its the same with argueing about snares not being called traps, pick up a dictionary and look up snare. these people are ignorant beyond belief

  2. December 1, 2012 at 8:41 am

    “A trap is a mechanical device”. Really? Where are the mechanical parts on a crow cage trap?

    • 3 Grouseman
      December 1, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      All traps consist of some type of spring mechanism and a snare doesn’t.

      • 4 Marco McGinty
        January 5, 2013 at 12:16 am

        I’ve looked into this and in addition to the traps that Merlin has mentioned there are also such things as pitfall traps, flight interception traps, malaise traps, moth traps, butterfly traps, fish traps (various types such as eel traps, fyke traps, katiska traps, octopus traps, stickleback traps, fish yairs, weir traps, putchers), bottle traps (various types for different orders – insects, fish, etc), lobster traps/pots (various types), crab traps/pots (various types), birdlime/liming, noose traps (just like a snare!) and light traps. These are all methods used to trap creatures yet none of them use a spring mechanism in their design.

        Once again Grouseman, your argument has been destroyed. Hopefully with evidence such as that provided above, the whole “is it or is it not a trap” issue will be revisited in the court.

  3. 5 Bob Barfield
    December 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Can someone explain to me why they need to control Hare? It the piece it is also stasted that “He told the trial that where the snares were set, 1,500 feet above sea level, there were very few other species to be found”?

    “He said you would get the occasional fox or roe dear [sic] at that level but it was quite rare to see a golden eagle.” Is this becuase they have all been poisened?

    It would seem to me that if there are too many Hare that that means there are not enough preditors! That is birds of prey, fox. In my experience nature is very adapt at “balance”.

    • 6 Grouseman
      December 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      I think you will find the area in question is not frequented by eagles due to the nature of the ground it doesn’t mean they have been persecuted. The reason hares are controlled is to limit and reduce the spread of the louping ill virus and ticks that can devastate grouse numbers. If there was an abundance of predators like foxes grouse moors would become unviable and lead to a lack of employment and damage the local economy.

      • 7 Marco McGinty
        December 3, 2012 at 6:30 pm

        Just out of curiosity, why is it you believe the nature of the ground at Lochindorb is unsuitable for eagles? Is it unsuitable because it is a grouse moor and they are simply not tolerated, even when passing through?

        And once again, you are trying to divert the discussion from gamekeeping lies and cruelty, so please stop playing the nonsensical employment and local economies cards. As Bob Barfield has also pointed out, nature will create its own balance. If there is an abundance of predators then there must be an abundance of prey items. But sadly, there is a massive imbalance on many pockets of land throught Scotland, mostly on grouse moors, where all predators are wiped out to favour the species-poor biodiversity that is prevalent on so many grouse farms.

        And just to clear up the whole snare/trap issue. Just type in “snare definition” into Google and you will arrive at an almost unanimous result. Yes, that’s right – a snare is a trap!

        • 8 Grouseman
          December 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm

          The thing I find interesting about your ‘natural balance’ argument is the questions it fails to answer. There are thousands of acres all over Scotland whether in Moray-shire, Banff-shire or Ayr-shire that used to be used for grouse shooting and are now covered in self seeded trees and ‘unmanaged’ so to speak. Are these areas stowed out with nesting eagles, harriers and peregrines? No, do they provide any employment?- No, Do they generate any income? – No. You always go on about all the bad management of grouse moors but the stark truth is raptors need grouse moors. Dont also try to claim these areas don’t have all these species nesting on them because they have all been killed before they get a chance to see them, you only have to look at the movements of some of the species on ‘Raptortrack’ and you can see they travel over virtually every area of the country but prefer sporting estates.

          • 9 Paul Risley
            December 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm

            they prefer shooting estates because there are no natural predators to provide competition for an abundance of voles that proliferate in these un natural environs

          • 12 Marco McGinty
            December 6, 2012 at 6:17 pm

            Once again, you refuse to answer questions set to you, so I will ask you again – Why do you believe the nature of the land at Lochindorb is unsuitable for eagles? if you read back, it was you that made the statement, so are you able to back it with a reasoned response, or is it just more pro-shooting piffle?

            However, unlike you, I will respond to questions. I will also try and educate you, as you just don’t seem able to understand the concept of natural balance. For a start, natural balance has nothing at all to do with employment and the local economy. Only you will know why you believe this to be the case and I will never understand why you would bring this into the topic. Perhaps it is the case that your industry so frequently spouts this ill-informed message that you all believe it is something to do with nature? Either way, it is mind-boggling that you could contemplate this as part of your argument.

            Secondly, due to habitats, territorial issues, prey availability, etc, it is highly improbable that any area of this land will be “stowed out” with raptors, so to suggest anything of the sort shows your distinct lack of knowledge of natural history, habitat usage and predator-prey relationships. So, many of these areas are not “stowed out with nesting eagles, harriers and peregrines”, but this is down to the reasons indicated above (i.e. a natural balance), and as you have already mentioned, the inability to move into other areas due to illegal persecution on shooting estates. But then again, as you you went on the defensive whilst bringing persecution into the discussion, you obviously know deep down that persecution is an ongoing problem on shooting estates but are unwilling to acknowledge this on a public forum.

            Finally, I think it is time to debunk another pro-shooting fallacy that “raptors need grouse moors”. Really? How on earth did you arrive at that conclusion? Are you seriously trying to suggest that if there were no grouse moors, raptor populations would plummet? It is quite obvious that grouse moors cover a large percentage of the Scottish uplands, so could it be that due to the territorial nature of established birds, the vagrant tendencies of immature birds and the natural aspect of migration, that many of these birds have to use/overfly grouse moors at some stage? Are you suggesting that eagles, harriers, falcons, etc did not exist in this country before the establishment of shooting estates? Footage from a Hen Harrier nest a few years ago revealed that throughout the course of the breeding season only two grouse chicks were brought into the nest. The vast majority of avian prey items brough to that nest were Meadow Pipits. Indeed, some studies have shown that Hen Harriers nesting attempts coincide with the fledging period of pipits, indicating that many raptors are not so grouse-dependant as you and your industry would have people believe. So, would you be willing to offer your views on such scientific studies? Or (like you do so often), will you choose to ignore these facts and instead provide a falsified, pro-shooting account in a pathetic attempt to discredit these studies?

            Anyway, to recap, natural balance has nothing at all to do with rural economy and employment, but it is intrinsically linked to habitat, territory and prey. And raptors are most definitely not reliant on grouse moors for survival. Indeed, in relation to the latter point, it has been the exact opposite for thousands of individuals throughout the years.

  4. 13 Merlin
    December 2, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Can you tell me were the spring mechanism is on a funnel trap used for trapping waterfowl for ringing is or were it is on a mist net used for trapping, the simple box on a stick attached to a piece of string, is this a trap or a snare? A rose can grow in bullshit, you can call it fertiliser but everyone else still knows its bullshit! you can picture them all in the pub after laughing at how they duped the sheriff into thinking a snare wasn’t a trap

  5. 14 EagleExpress
    January 27, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    An interesting comment from Grouseman above: “I think you will find the area in question is not frequented by eagles due to the nature of the ground”.

    There are vacant eagle home ranges either side of the lochindorb area. The Area in question does support wandering young eagles, if left alone I can think of a few places that they could nest. There was a young bird over the area in question yesterday afternoon – it put up a few grouse but not a mountain hare in sight!

    • 15 Marco McGinty
      January 27, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      Yes, twice I have asked why Grouseman holds this belief and twice he has refused to answer.

      You, I and everyone else on this forum knows that the area around Lochindorb could hold nesting eagles, so we have to wonder why Grouseman refuses to back up his own statement.

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