Pine marten caught in spring trap on Highland shooting estate

This pine marten was found with its leg caught in a spring trap on a Highland grouse shooting estate in the Monadhliaths last month. It was still alive when it was found. The trap was not anchored and the pine marten may have dragged itself (and the trap) some distance before it was discovered by hill walkers. The SSPCA was called out and the injured marten was taken to a vet to be euthanised.

The photographs appeared on Facebook yesterday, posted by one of the hill walkers, Andy Ross.

The circumstances leading to this incident are not known. This could have been an illegally-set spring trap, placed out in the open next to a bait to attract a passing raptor; this seems to be a recurring theme on some grouse moors. However, it’s also possible that the trap may have been legally set inside an artificial or natural tunnel and somehow the pine marten had managed to by-pass the entrance restrictor that is supposed to minimise the chance of a non-target species entering the tunnel. Mind you, if this had happened, it’s pretty hard to imagine that the pine marten would have been able to pull itself and the entire trap out through the restricted entrance hole.

Whatever the circumstances were, yet another protected species has suffered appalling injuries and lost its life, just so a few more grouse can be shot for fun later in the year, and nobody can be held accountable.

If the Scottish Government (and the Westminster Government for that matter) are going to continue to allow the use of spring traps, shouldn’t there be some sort of mandatory trap-user training and a requirement for each trap to be individually marked so the trap user can be identified, much like snare use is now regulated in Scotland?

32 Responses to “Pine marten caught in spring trap on Highland shooting estate”

  1. 1 Secret Squirrel
    March 16, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Traps should be banned. The culling of predator species under the auspices of ‘management’ is a practice that should be confined to the Victorian past where it belongs, especially where the species being ‘managed’ is just to promote further slaughter for sport.

    There may be a case of some (ethical) selective removal of predators of domestic species (e.g. foxes in chicken farms) but the wholesale slaughter of predators to artificially boost wild or introduced ‘targets’ should cease forthwith.

    The time for shilly shallying is over.

    • 2 Ian
      March 16, 2017 at 8:50 pm

      Personally can see no justification for any of these traps, even to ‘protect’ chickens – surely housing can be made adequately secure, without resort to killing.

      • 3 Secret Squirrel
        March 17, 2017 at 4:03 pm

        Don’t disagree, meant that there are circumstances where predator control may be neccessary due to threats to domestic animals.

        • 4 John F. Robins
          March 21, 2017 at 2:40 am

          Under the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 farmers have a duty to protect their stock from the attentions of predators. This does not only mean stopping predators killing livestock it means that farmers must do all they can to stop predators harassing farm animals thus causing them stress and alarm. Free range chicken/hen farmers can keep predators away from their stock using wire topped fencing which is buried to stop animals burrowing under it. A common method is to deploy electric fences which keep the chickens within a designated area and foxes and other predators out. Chickens should be able to run back to pop-holes in their sheds to avoid raptors. Shooting predators and, even if it was legal, using traps would not allow farmers to meet their legal obligations under the 2006 Act.

  2. 5 michael gill
    March 16, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Surely, if the “restricted entrance” wasn’t restrictive enough (there’s a big difference between the size of a weasel and a pine martin) then it is by definition illegal?

    • March 16, 2017 at 6:44 pm

      Fair comment, Michael, but as we understand it, the legal definition of ‘restricted’ is vague and undefined in the legislation, meaning that trap users have to use their judgement rather than fixed measurements.

      • 7 Ron Bury
        March 16, 2017 at 9:31 pm

        Of course it’s vague and undefined in the legislation because a restricted entrance is unworkable in practise. The term is used in the legislation in an attempt to make it look as if the use of these traps is in some way controlled. As Ian said above there is no justification for their use.

  3. 8 Les Wallace
    March 16, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    The pine marten is a comparatively slow breeder, but even so wouldn’t its recent success in recovering some of its old range in Scotland not have happened decades earlier if there hadn’t been both incidental and deliberate trapping of pine martens on a large scale? Look how quickly the Tay beaver population built up (well until they got noticed, and pillocks started popping them off) and again that’s a slow breeder. Many keeper’s HATE martens, not just because they are a predator, but because of growing and near incontrivertible evidence they are a big, big boon for red squirrel conservation. Really undermines their argument that they are vital for conservation. Wonder how many wildcats have went this way too?

  4. 9 Kelvin Thomson
    March 16, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    Too many non target species being taken out by traps, including vulnerable recovering species like martens, red squirrels and ring ouzels. Definitely should be mandatory training, tagging of traps and limits on when/where they are used!

  5. 11 Danny Jenks
    March 16, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Manufacturers or suppliers of fens and similar traps could emboss the estate name on the traps for identifying purposes, even a serial number that links then to the owner and it could be done in batches as they are ordered.
    It will probably make them more expensive in the long run but who cares as long as it works.
    Along with this a licence should be needed to own the traps and this could tie in with the name/number on the traps. If this was the case the trap that caught the Pine Marten could be returned to its rightful owner.- ALONG WITH A FINE.
    Better still, just ban the use of the traps altogether.

  6. 12 Chris Roberts
    March 16, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    They are sick Basterds that set these indiscriminant traps, who have absolutely no compassion for their fellow creatures.

  7. 13 Chris Roberts
    March 16, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    You can just see the terror in this little chaps face.

  8. 14 Doug Malpus
    March 16, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    Really offensive. The users of these traps must be stopped from causing the harm and suffering that seem to be far too common. But they don’t care, custodians of our countryside they are NOT. More like custodians of all Victorian cruelty.

    Why do they continue to flout the law and yet remain to be immune to it? Real SCUM.


  9. 15 Dylanben
    March 16, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Problem is, they have a ready-made answer for everything. I’m aware of a defence, regarding an identifiable snare being found where it ought not to have been, that it was one which had been stolen from where it had been legally set.

  10. 16 lizzybusy
    March 16, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Well there are quite a few interesting avenues the police may consider.

    Pine Martens are protected species. If there were signs of the presence of pine martens in the area or the trapper knew they were in the area the trapper should not have set a trap.

    The trapper should have followed the law and restricted access by non target species and followed best practice guidelines by using baffles or restrictors at the entrance of the tunnel to prevent access by non target species.

    The trapper should have followed best practice guidelines and firmly anchored the trap.

    Offence 1
    Animal Welfare Act 2006, S9 Duty of person responsible for animal to ensure welfare

    S9(1) “A person commits an offence if he does not take such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which he is responsible are met to the extent required by good practice.

    (2) For the purposes of this Act, an animal’s needs shall be taken to include—

    (e) its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.”

    BASC Trapping Pest Mammals (good practice guidelines):
    •The entrances to tunnel traps should be restricted to prevent the
    capture of non-target species.
    •Traps should be firmly anchored.

    Offence 2
    Pests Act 1954, S8 Restriction on type of trap in England and Wales.

    S8(1)Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall be guilty of an offence under this subsection if (a) for the purpose of killing or taking animals, he uses, or knowingly permits the use of, an approved trap (ie under the Spring Traps Approval (England) Order 2012) for animals or in circumstances for which it is not approved.”

    Offence 3
    Pests Act 1954, S8 Restriction on type of trap in England and Wales.

    S8(1)(a) “Except for rats, mice and small vermin, it is an offence to allow approved traps to be used in a way that does not comply with the terms of the approval.”

    Spring Traps Approval (England) Order 2012, S2 Approval of Spring Traps

    S2 “The approvals are granted on the conditions that:
    (b) so far as is practicable without unreasonably compromising its use for killing or taking target species, the trap must be used in a manner that minimises the likelihood of its killing, taking or injuring non-target species.”

    Offence 4
    Spring Traps Approval (England) Order 2012, S2 Approval of Spring Traps

    S2(2) “The approvals (ie government approved traps) … are subject in all cases to the conditions that

    (a) the trap must be used in accordance with the instructions (if any) provided by the manufacturer.”

    The FennTrap Manufacturer’s instructions

    “The trap must be set in a natural or artificial tunnel which is suitable for minimising the chances of injuring or killing non-target species whilst not compromising the capture and killing of target species.
    Always correctly position and protect your spring traps from non-target species.
    … Regularly check traps in accordance with current legislation and risk-assess potential sites to avoid accidents.”

    Offence 5
    Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, S11 Prohibition of certain methods of killing or taking wild animals.

    S11(2) “Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person—

    (a) sets in position any of the following articles, being an article which is of such a nature and so placed as to be calculated to cause bodily injury to any wild animal included in Schedule 6 which comes into contact therewith, that is to say, any … trap
    (b) uses for the purpose of killing or taking (ie capturing) any such wild animal any such article as aforesaid, whether or not of such a nature and so placed as aforesaid …
    (f) knowingly causes or permits to be done an act which is mentioned in the foregoing provisions of this subsection,

    he shall be guilty of an offence.”

    Schedule 6
    Animals which may not be Killed or Taken (ie Captured) by Certain Methods

    Badger (Meles meles)
    Cat, Wild (Felis silvestris)
    Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)
    Marten, Pine (Martes martes)
    Otter, Common (Lutra lutra)
    Polecat (Mustela putorius)
    Squirrel, Red (Sciurus vulgaris)

    Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, S18 Attempts to commit offences etc.

    S18(1) “Any person who attempts to commit an offence under the foregoing provisions of this Part shall be guilty of an offence and shall be punishable in like manner as for the said offence.”

    Offence 6
    Animal Welfare Act 2006, S4 Unnecessary Suffering

    S4(1) – “A person commits an offence if—

    (a) an act of his, or a failure of his to act, causes an animal to suffer,
    (b) he knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act, or failure to act, would have that effect or be likely to do so,
    (c) the animal is a protected (ie captured) animal, and
    (d) the suffering is unnecessary.

    (2) A person commits an offence if

    (a) he is responsible for an animal,
    (b) an act, or failure to act, of another person causes the animal to suffer,
    (c) he permitted that to happen or failed to take such steps (whether by way of supervising the other person or otherwise) as were reasonable in all the circumstances to prevent that happening, and
    (d) the suffering is unnecessary.”

    (3)The considerations to which it is relevant to have regard when determining for the purposes of this section whether suffering is unnecessary include—

    (a) whether the suffering could reasonably have been avoided or reduced;
    (b) whether the conduct which caused the suffering was in compliance with any relevant enactment or any relevant provisions of a licence or code of practice issued under an enactment;
    (c) whether the conduct which caused the suffering was for a legitimate purpose, such as—
    (i) the purpose of benefiting the animal, or
    (ii) the purpose of protecting a person, property or another animal;
    (d) whether the suffering was proportionate to the purpose of the conduct concerned;
    (e) whether the conduct concerned was in all the circumstances that of a reasonably competent and humane person.”

    Offence 7
    Protection of Animals Act 1911, S1 Offences of cruelty.

    S1(1) “If any person—

    (a) shall cruelly beat, kick, ill-treat, over-ride, over-drive, over-load, torture, infuriate, or terrify any animal, or shall cause or procure, or, being the owner, permit any animal to be so used, or shall, by wantonly or unreasonably doing or omitting to do any act, or causing or procuring the commission or omission of any act, cause any unnecessary suffering, or, being the owner, permit any unnecessary suffering to be so caused to any animal such person shall be guilty of an offence of cruelty within the meaning of this Act.

    (2) For the purposes of this section, an owner shall be deemed to have permitted cruelty within the meaning of this Act if he shall have failed to exercise reasonable care and supervision in respect of the protection of the animal therefrom.”

    Offence 8
    Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996, S1 Offences.

    S1 “If, save as permitted by this Act, any person mutilates, kicks, beats, nails or otherwise impales, stabs, burns, stones, crushes, drowns, drags or asphyxiates any wild mammal with intent to inflict unnecessary suffering he shall be guilty of an offence.

    Offence 9
    Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, S43 Prohibition of certain methods of capturing or killing wild animals

    S43(1) This regulation applies in relation to the capturing or killing of a wild animal—

    (a) of any of the species listed in Schedule 4 (which lists those species listed in Annex V(a) to the Habitats Directive, and to which Article 15 of that Directive applies, which have a natural range which includes any area of Great Britain); or
    (b) of a European protected species listed in Schedule 2, where the capturing or killing of such animals is permitted in accordance with these Regulations.

    S43(2) It is an offence to use for the purpose of capturing or killing any such wild animal—

    (a) any of the means listed in paragraph (3) …;

    (3) The prohibited means of capturing or killing mammals are—

    (j) traps which are non-selective according to their principle or their conditions of use;


    Bats, Horseshoe (all species) Rhinolophidae
    Bats, Typical (all species) Vespertilionidae
    Cat, Wild Felis silvestris
    Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius
    Otter, Common Lutra lutra


    Hare, Mountain Lepus timidus
    Marten, Pine Martes martes
    Polecat Mustela putorius (otherwise known as Putorius putorius)

    • March 16, 2017 at 9:58 pm

      It’s pointless knowing what possible offences might have been committed unless you can identify the individual who set the trap.

      On a large estate that employs multiple gamekeepers, that’s very very difficult. Even though we know keepers are employed for specific ‘beats’, when it comes to being questioned about a suspected wildlife crime they all close ranks and say that nobody has individual responsibility for a particular area. They’ll say they all cover the same ground, they all share vehicles, they all share game bags etc etc so the investigation has nowhere to go.

      In this particular case, another defence might be that because the trap wasn’t anchored it’s impossible to prove that it had been set on this estate. The pine marten could have been trapped on a neighbouring estate and crawled its way on to this one.

      At least if traps were tagged with a unique police-issued number assigned to a particular individual (as with snares), there might at least be a starting point.

      • 18 lizzybusy
        March 16, 2017 at 10:09 pm

        I completely agree with you. Not only should the traps be tagged but the gamekeepers should be required to record who has set the trap and who has checked the trap, when and any issues of note (non target captures, weather conditions, trap condition issues etc.). Even if the police question these scoundrels then hopefully it will put them on guard. The more people report potential crimes, the more these criminals will know they’re being watched.

    • 20 Scott Brewster
      March 17, 2017 at 9:34 am


      Well done before the research, however you missed a couple of points.

      It’s SSPCA and not the police investigating

      The offence happened in Scotland, English legislation and regs. Don’t apply.

  11. 21 Jimmy
    March 16, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    Until the gamekeeping “vermin” are removed from the moors, this type of thing will continue

  12. 22 Rebekah crouch
    March 17, 2017 at 6:35 am

    Is there a petion going to stop the use of these traps?

    • 23 lizzybusy
      March 17, 2017 at 10:58 am

      The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards is an international trading treaty which bans the use of inhumane spring traps for use with a variety of fur bearing animals. It bans spring traps that do not kill most animals within 45 seconds. The treaty was supposed to come into effect in the UK in July 2016 but, get ready for a shock, DEFRA officials held secret meetings with shooting, trapping, country land owner and gamekeeper organisations in 2015 and 2016 and decided to delay implementation of the treaty for 2 years til July 2018. No meetings were held with animal welfare groups. The treaty would have banned almost all the traps used on shooting edtates (mainly Fenn and Springer traps like, I think, the one responsible for this poor creatures suffering). The government is refusing to release the minutes of those meetings or the research on which the decision was partly based.

      Unfortunately the government looks set to approve the use of the Goodnature (hmm?) A24 traps instead for use with stoats. This prolific killing trap operates 24 times and self re-sets before it needs a new gas cannister inserted to operate it again. In New Zealand where it was developed and is used, the average checking times are one inspection a month as opposed to the (supposed) daily checks for the Fenn / Springer spring traps. The traps are being used in New Zealand as part of a campaign to kill off all alien species by 2050. One of the pest species considered pests is hedgehogs.

      The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has a campaign to ban these traps and has set up a petition to send to parliament. It’s on their web site. Please sign this if you, like me, are greatly concerned about these new developments.

  13. 24 Rebekah crouch
    March 17, 2017 at 6:36 am


  14. March 17, 2017 at 7:23 am

    A big problem and of course not one person will get picked up for this, however the more pictures people can get and post of this sort of thng the better. It will help the cause.

  15. 26 Bimbling
    March 17, 2017 at 10:11 am

    I know SNH are not always held up in great light on this blog but their work on the recent expansion of pine marten range in the Commissioned Report 520 http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/publications/commissioned_reports/520.pdf is particularly interesting.

    Look at the map Fig 8 and where the blanks are. Pine martens continue to be eradicated probably deliberately but also as by-catch from some areas and you won’t be surprised to see what the dominant land use is in those 10km squares.

  16. March 17, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Do the police ever do anything about this problem? How about a mass walk over the grouse moors on the 12th August by thousands of hillwalkers. You can bet the cops would be out to catch these evil criminals, it would certainly spoil the rich bastards days shooting.

  17. 28 Nandia Black
    March 18, 2017 at 12:00 am

    I oppose barbaric trapping of innocent animals! The steel jaw leg hold trap and spring trap are inhumane and should be universally banned!

    • 29 lizzybusy
      March 18, 2017 at 10:26 pm

      The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards has already banned the use of leg hold traps in the EU. See Implementation of AIHTS in EU.pdf

  18. 30 Richard Rouse
    October 10, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    Stop this needless destruction of nature’s natural order for profit for the very few.

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