SNH launches ‘independent’ (ahem) study into trap use

cage-trapThe long-awaited study into the use of corvid traps in Scotland has finally begun.

This research was first proposed in late 2012, following SNH’s controversial decision to permit the use of clam-type traps on the 2013 General Licences (see here for associated blog posts). There was much opposition to this inclusion, based on concerns that these traps are likely to cause unacceptable risks to non-target species (including raptors). SNH ignored the majority of respondents to a public consultation, who had called for research to be conducted BEFORE the traps were authorised; SNH decided to go ahead and allow the use of these traps and do the research AFTERWARDS.

Following a series of Parliamentary Questions in December 2012 about this decision, Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “We will commission objective research on these traps“. SNH then announced they would conduct ‘rigorous and independent’ tests.

SNH has now commissioned two organisations to conduct that ‘objective, rigorous and independent’ research. Those two organisations are Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

We have no problem with SASA – they have no vested interests in the removal of predators to enhance the number of gamebirds available for shooting and therefore can be seen as being thoroughly independent on this topic. But GWCT? This is the organisation that has consistently petitioned for buzzards and sparrowhawks to be included on the General Licences (thus allowing them to be culled in the interests of game-shooting) and many of their Trustees are directly involved with game-shooting. Not what we’d call ‘independent’.

According to the SNH press release about this new study, the research will cover all the different types of traps that are currently licensed for use in Scotland (e.g. clam-type traps, Larsen traps, crow cage traps). That’s good – concerns about these traps and their use have been unresolved for many years. These include (but are not limited to) compliance (or not) with European environmental legislation; welfare concerns; poor trap design that allows indiscriminate species trapping; year-round use (as opposed to seasonal use); ineffective regulation of crow trap users; ineffective monitoring of crow trap use (i.e. number and species caught/killed); inability to identify an individual trap user (traps are registered to estates, not to individual users); and a lovely get-out clause for any General Licence user with an unspent criminal conviction. Will this new research address all of those concerns? We’ll have to wait and see.

The press release states that the first phase of the research involves a survey of trap users from the following organisations: British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), Scottish Land and Estates (SLE), GWCT, and National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS). Hmm. Does anybody believe that these users are going to admit to having caught a non-target species? Or admit to ‘accidentally’ injuring or killing a trapped non-target species? Given that it is widely accepted (even by the Environment Minister) that these traps are often used for the illegal persecution of raptors, how reliable will these survey results be?

Curiously, there’s no mention of other interest-groups being involved (e.g. RSPB, SSPCA, SRSG, OneKind) – all of whom have previously expressed concerns about how these traps are used – but hopefully that’s just an oversight in the wording of the press release and not an accurate reflection of their actual participation in the study.

Later stages of the study will apparently include ‘field studies of how different traps are used in practice’. We hope the final report will also include information about every single incident of illegal trap-use recorded in Scotland over the last five years, including incidents that resulted in the conviction of a gamekeeper and those cases that remain unresolved.

Download the SNH press release: General Licences – Trapping Project – May 2014 press release

UPDATE 13.40hrs: A previous study looking at the use, abuse and misuse of crow cage traps in Scotland was undertaken by the Scottish Raptor Study Groups and RSPB Scotland in 1998. It was published in 1999 in the journal Scottish Birds (Vol. 20, pages 6-13). Download it here: Dick & Stronach 1999 Use, Abuse & Misuse of Crow Traps

16 Responses to “SNH launches ‘independent’ (ahem) study into trap use”

  1. 1 Dave Dick
    May 21, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    There was, of course an earlier published study into Crow Cage Traps – in 1999, in Scottish Birds Vol 20 : 6 -13 “The Use, Abuse and Misuse of Crow Cage Traps in Scotland..”..This showed that 78% of all traps reported were in some way being operated illegally – outside the terms of the Open General Licence in force at the time.We are, in the field of wildlife crime, once again reinventing the wheel. I wonder if any of those members of the present independent study are aware of that report?…I also wonder why , but not for long, these traps are still allowed in Scotland given the damning facts in the 1999 publication..and in a similar one produced a few years earlier by RSPB, at the request of the Department of Agriculture….and given the really damning fact that they are banned in many european countries, who see them as unselective and cruel?…Yet another massive waste of taxpayers money, like the pigeon/raptor studies to try to prop up our mediaeval “traditional” vermin control practices.

  2. 3 nirofo
    May 21, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Why do SNH keep on repeating studies such as this one over and over again, surely anyone with an ounce of common sense can see that all it achieves is to keep people in jobs and prolong the agony faced by birds caught in these and similar barbaric traps which should have been outlawed decades ago. It seems obvious to me that SNH is incapable of saying no to the shooting estates and continues to pander to their every whim including ignoring crimes against wildlife.

  3. 4 raptor1
    May 21, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    At least it will give some people in SNH something to do. Lots of paper will be shuffled.

  4. 5 Marco McGinty
    May 21, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Yes, the four conservation or welfare groups (RSPB, SRSG, SSPCA and OneKind) should all be included in the study group, but undoubtedly they will have been carefully and deliberately omitted from the group, just in case the public get to learn of the real truth.

    If these organisations have been omitted, then they should form their own study group over a similar timescale, allowing the public to scrutinise both reports. I know which report I would believe. To make it as transparent as possible, camera traps should be set at each trap.

    I wonder if SNH or the Scottish Government would support the idea of having webcam setups for all of the study traps?

    • 6 Dougie
      May 22, 2014 at 10:22 am

      I sympathise with your views, Marco. However, camera traps …………….. our wonderful criminal justice system has ruled covert photographic surveillance to be inadmissable evidence. It is OK to use cameras provided you forewarn all the villains beforehand. Is this lunacy ? Some may think so, but many others may think it is just another ploy to avoid certain criminals to be brought to account.

      • 7 Marco McGinty
        May 22, 2014 at 6:01 pm

        Yes, I’m aware of the ridiculous situation regarding cameras as evidence, ad I do believe that it is yet another instance of corruption to favour estate criminals, but I am referring to the trap study being carried out by SNH. We all know that there are certain organisations that cannot be trusted, and the study group seems to be heavily biased in favour of the shooting lobby, so SNH should ensure that webcam setups run throughout the course of the study. This way, we would have a full and perfect understanding of the impacts these traps have, and the results could not be skewed to suit any particular agenda (and certain non-target species would have to released unharmed!).

        It’s easily achievable if SNH want to adopt this approach, but somehow I don’t think they will do so.

        • 8 Circus maxima
          May 24, 2014 at 9:48 pm

          Its fairly straight forward really. The fact that the study is actually being carried out reflects the fact that SNH do not believe that the keepers “words are their bond”. Nobody will believe the results of this study unless there is a significant degree of independent corroboration. The trap cameras would give the study a degree of credibility.

  5. 9 Merlin
    May 22, 2014 at 11:56 am

    SNH are just giving these estates another chance to manipulate the figures so they can carry on using these traps, SNH are scared of upsetting these estates, they are worried of being drawn into a court case that could cost them as happened with Natural England, a waste of money and time by another spineless government agency

  6. 10 Mr Greer Hart, senior
    May 26, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    I have an allotment in Queen’s Park Allotments in Glasgow. Two years ago, a representative from Scotland for Animals and I caught two plot holders who keep chickens, examining a Larsen Trap which had a Mapgie caught inside it. We made remonstration to them, and told them that is was illegal to use such a contrivance in a public park in Glasgow. That claim was endorsed by the City Council’s Allotments Officer. We contacted the Strathclyde Police Officer dealing with wildlife crime, and he said that such traps were not illegal out with public parks. It seemed he had been giving out permissions to use them like confetti, as the control of them had become a formality. Those men had learned about Larsen Traps at some “fair” where they were buying chickens to keep on allotments, and were worried that corvids “may attack” their birds, which were kept under great security.

    This issue raised awareness of the extent of trapping wild birds could be. It is an example of a concession given to shooting estates and farms, to spread out to areas where “vermin” control had been banned, unless it was rats. I have even had to remove snares set on the same allotments to catch rabbits.

    • 11 Grouseman
      May 26, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      You had to remove snares? I wonder if you realise it’s a criminal offence to interfeare with legally set snares and by removing them you have committed theft. If you like I can report this to your wildlife crime officer just to confirm this?

      • 12 Marco McGinty
        May 26, 2014 at 7:49 pm

        Grouseman, how do you know the snares were set legally?

      • 13 merlin
        May 26, 2014 at 8:20 pm

        your assuming the snares are set legally! the people who have set them have a general license, have their contact details on their snares and haven’t just purchased some cheap snares from the internet to set in a public allotment in a city park were peoples pet dogs and cats are also free to roam, seems to me your thinking more about scoring points on someone’s comments rather than the public perception of the shooting and country pursuits fraternity which is were the blame will lie if someone’s pet gets killed

        • 14 Grouseman
          May 27, 2014 at 6:45 am

          I completely agree with what your saying about perception but was the legitimacy of the said snares not up to the police to decide rather than a member of the public. If he had just pulled them if there was a concern about illegality or a threat to domestic animals that would be one thing but surely by removing them any evidence was destroyed rendering it impossible to punish the perpetrators. (If indeed the law was being broken)

          • 15 Marco McGinty
            May 27, 2014 at 4:05 pm

            If they were set illegally, do you honestly believe that the perpetrators would have been caught? Concerned allotment users could have set up a covert video surveillance system in an attempt to catch them, but this evidence would not have been permitted in a Scottish court. I’m also quite sure the local police would not have spent much time on the subject, passed it off as a minor incident, and left it at that.

            No, the gentleman was quite correct to dispose of these traps, and I would have done the same in the same circumstances.

  7. 16 Merlin
    May 27, 2014 at 11:44 am

    It is highly unlikely anyone at SNH would give permission to use snares in a public area, an easy solution to the problem would be inexpensive rabbit fencing. this is basically lack of education. the problem of large rabbit numbers stems from a lack of natural predators, the lack of natural predators stems from the basic lack of education of people who rear and shoot pheasants and grouse and their unwillingness to evolve their victorian ways. its a sad situation, by the way do you think if he had only pulled the snares they wouldn,t have been used again?

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