Ring Ouzel is latest victim of ‘vermin’ trap on grouse moor

We’ve been blogging recently about wildlife that has been caught/killed in ‘vermin’ traps set by gamekeepers on grouse moors.

These traps are used to target legal quarry such as stoats and weasels but they often catch other species, as we’ve seen in recent weeks, such as red squirrels, song thrushes, mistle thrushes, red grouse, pied wagtails and kestrels (e.g. see here, here, here). These victims have been aptly described by Dr Rob Sheldon as “collateral damage”.

We have no idea how many innocent victims are killed in these traps, because there is no requirement on the trap user to report the number of animals killed. There must be thousands of them, every year, given the number of traps we know about (at least 2,000 of these traps are set on one grouse moor in the Angus Glens alone).

Here’s another victim. This time a Ring Ouzel, photographed dead in a trap on a grouse shooting estate in the Peak District National Park in May this year. If the GPS coordinates in photo #4 are correct, these photos appear to have been taken on the Moscar Estate.

These sorts of traps can be used lawfully as long as certain conditions are applied, e.g. they must be set inside a natural or artificial tunnel and efforts must have been made to restrict the entrance holes to minimise the chances of non-target species getting caught/killed. However, stupidly, the law does not specifiy the min/max dimensions of the entrance holes.

You can see in these photos that efforts to restrict the entrance holes has been made, but clearly not sufficiently to prevent this Ring Ouzel from gaining access and getting killed in the jaws of the trap.

[Photos by an RSPB fieldworker]


22 Responses to “Ring Ouzel is latest victim of ‘vermin’ trap on grouse moor”

  1. 1 Paul V Irving
    August 3, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    To me all these wire covered traps are only dubiously legal however restricted the entrance is. The key is the word tunnel, which to me implies a solid covering making the trap housing truly a tunnel, this is not a tunnel it is an open cage with a restricted entrance.

  2. 2 Jen Hawkes
    August 3, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    This is unforgiveable and totally indiscriminate and should not be happening. The law needs to be changed now!

  3. 3 Dylanben
    August 3, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    It is not clear to me what efforts have been made to restrict the entrance to this trap. Assuming that this is the bog-standard 2″ square mesh, as typically used for this purpose, there is a clear entrance the size of four squares – ie roughly 4″x4″ which is far larger than is necessary for the usual target-species.

    It is high time that some official body got to grips with this issue, not least to determine what maximum size of mesh is permissible – so as to preclude non-target species entering from the side – and to specify the maximum acceptable dimensions of entry holes for particular species.

    It is quite clear, from the images shown on RPUK and those which I have seen personally, that most of these ‘tunnel traps’ are DIY efforts with varying degrees of skill and proficiency applied to achieve the final product. If this barbaric method of supposed pest control is not to be totally banned, it is high-time that, at the very least, a licensing system for its use was introduced and that the only traps permitted should be those which are purchased as ready-made items, manufactured under licence and subject to stringent requirements in relation to their critical dimensions.

    Unless some form of control is introduced, these bastards will continue to kill a wide range of non-target species with impunity. They will, no doubt, claim that their actions are unintentional, but this will not stop them persisting in the practice. It makes my blood boil to think of the massive, widespread, damage these people inflict on our wildlife in order to preserve other species which are then, themselves, killed for perverted pleasure and financial gain.

    • 4 lizzybusy
      August 3, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      The law is completely inadequate and lax. There’s no clear guidance on mesh size or type of tunnels and the trap setter has to have knowledge or intent under various laws to kill or injure non target species. As a taster if the law …

      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.”

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

      “The approvals are granted on the conditions that:
      (a) the trap must be used in accordance with the instructions (if any) provided by the manufacturer.
      (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.”

      The Spring Traps Approval (England) Order 2012 Schedule

      The Schedule contains the list of approved traps; the animals which the various traps can be used to catch and specific conditions for each trap.

  4. 5 Zafar Ali
    August 3, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    I can’t make out the coordinates in pic 4 , I would like to know exactly where this was set.

  5. 8 ICT
    August 3, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Would be outlawed, but then again, so should driven grouse shooting.

  6. 9 ICT
    August 3, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    Sorry, typo, meant to read…”should” be outlawed, but then again, so should driven grouse shooting. Sicko’s.

  7. 10 Eric
    August 3, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Horrible traps, all over the moors near us. Hedgehogs and polecats are yet more species that fall victim to them. They are supposed to have been banned as inhumane but this process seems to be being continually extended, the latest deadline on their use seems to be 2020 https://www.gwct.org.uk/aihts.

    • 11 lizzybusy
      August 3, 2018 at 7:09 pm

      Actually, the deadline is 2020 in theory but it looks like there will be a year’s reprieve from the ‘deadline’ to allow those poor shooting estate owners time to replace all their traps! Poor things they’ve only had over 20 years to prepare to use more humane traps!

  8. 12 Loki
    August 3, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    I often see these traps broken and dismantled on my wanderings. I’m never sure who the perpetrator could be but I empathise with them.

  9. 13 Ian Poxton
    August 3, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    In 2013 and 2014 we found dead fledgling ring ouzels in the exact same trap on a grouse moor in the Lammermuir Hills, SE Scotland, during our 30-year study of merlins. We alerted the head keeper each time and on the second occasion we suggested that we ought to inform the police; we had already informed the RSPB. At the beginning of the following year we were told we were no longer welcome on that grouse moor, as well as the neighbouring ones. This brought an abrupt end to our long-term merlin study. Over the years several dippers were also found in similar rail traps. The detailed results of this merlin study, and a discursive article on merlins on heavily managed grouse moors, which include photos of one of the dead ring ouzels, were published in British Birds 110, 2017: 138-154 and Scottish Birds 37, 2017: 250-256, respectively. If anyone would like copies please contact me at i.r. poxton @ ed.ac.uk

  10. 14 Tom Gun
    August 3, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    Kill traps being set in huge numbers in areas where it is known there are protected and large numbers if non target species present is ridiculous.

    Almost any bird is at risk and young otters, badgers, hedgehogs, polecats red squirrel the list goes on.

    Any wonder why some species are endangered or find it difficult to increase population or areas populated.

    This isituation is KNOWN and permitted by NE, SNH and both English and Scottish governments.

    Why can’t live catch traps be used in these areas…..or other selective control methods?

    • 15 Dylanben
      August 3, 2018 at 10:13 pm

      The use of live catch traps would mean that the lazy bastards would be obliged to check them daily, whereas with these they are not.

    • 16 lizzybusy
      August 3, 2018 at 11:36 pm

      Live traps would be more time consuming. Gamekeepers might need to use bait and do trial runs until potential victims might feel confident entering a cage. Animals are more likely to enter a tunnel with two openings (and a trap) (like the current ‘run-throughs) rather than a dead end cage.

      Having said that, gamekeepers already use live rabbit drop traps and the animal welfare / care law is regularly ignored. The traps should be checked within 6 hours of being set as impounded animals must be fed and watered at least every 6 hours. Unfortunately these basic animal welfare requirements are routinely ignored and animals are commonly left to die in these disgusting traps.

      Rabbit drop traps are live traps which have false floors which drop open when the victims run through the tunnel with a false treddle floor. The victims fall into an underground metal box approximately 18 x 24 x 18 in and the weight triggering ‘floor’ then flips back up leaving the victim entombed. These traps often don’t get checked daily.

      I’ve come across drop traps which are completely full of dead animals. Not only are these poor creatures left to starve to death, the traps are completely indiscriminate. It’s common for rabbits and predators to be trapped together in the same chamber.

  11. 17 Jimmy
    August 3, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    High time only live catch cage traps were legal

  12. 18 PTH
    August 3, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    I’ll just use the One adjective – ‘Barbaric’

  13. 19 Iain Gibson
    August 4, 2018 at 2:35 am

    I’d like to look forward to a day when traps are unnecessary because all hunting and shooting of wildlife is banned. Only then can we start to call ourselves a civilised society. It is quite distressing how wide a range of views exists, even among students of natural history or biology, and wildlife conservationists. The default solution to imaginary ‘problems’ by adopting lethal methods is actually a curse running through the human race. Recreational hunters try to justify their activities by comparing themselves to primitive communities living by hunting wild game. These sham moral excuses are disingenuous. We repress many primitive urges to maintain acceptable behaviour, but the killing of animals for deep-rooted sheer pleasure keeps hanging on. Meanwhile it remains a mystery as to why so many share a compassionate approach, ranging from vegans and vegetarians through to those who care about sustainability and respect for other species, even omnivores who insist that meat has been produced without cruelty. Meanwhile on the other side of the coin are those who enjoy killing wild animals just for the fun of it.

    Groups like RPUK exist due to this philosophical conflict between individuals who form opposing sectors within society. In a wider sense such conflicts are complicated around different themes, some harmless such as differing musical or food preferences, while others are more vulnerable to disagreements or worse, ranging from football hooligans and politics, or those who live simple contented lives compared to multinational corporations who drain society of the wealth created by their workers and consumers. The more unfortunate traits include those who are out of control, like petty criminals, to evil dictators who are in control and use violence and war to maintain power. Most who read and support RPUK and other conservation groups, like RSPB or Greenpeace, are relatively benign, but unfortunately conflict of ideas does still exist, whether between internal factions or against other groups in society. Perhaps these perceptions are too simplified.

    I’m not quite sure why I’m stating the flaming obvious, as if I have some special insight, but everyone has their own opinions and the civil right to express them, so long as they are not inciting prejudice on spurious grounds, or promoting violence or criminality. It’s hard work being human, but it would help if disagreements could be discussed rationally without resorting to personal insults or expressing hatred. This might not always be realistic, but rational, preferably calm debates will always be more productive, even if it takes time. I know this through my own mistakes and a lifetime of office meetings. Many of the world’s problems are caused by xenophobia and an urge to dominate other races or weaker countries with desirable and profitable natural resources. Unfortunately, xenophobia within the human race often carries over to irrational prejudices against selected wildlife, such as default prejudices against non-native species or predators, presumably born through the long evolutionary process of self preservation.

  14. 20 Laurie Wright
    August 4, 2018 at 4:18 am

    So wrong

  15. 21 Jimboricho
    August 4, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    I’ve never even seen a ring ouzel what do these people get out of this what a shame

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