As a field research officer, my job is to uncover the truth and supply material to support the facts on a particular animal welfare issue. But I never quite know what I will find along the way.
Here are a few examples of snaring incidents. As you read them it is worth keeping in mind that snares are legal and there are thousands of them set in the British countryside. Read all about snares at www.snarewatch.org
Snaring case studies
Case 1 - snared badger
A badger was caught in a legal fox snare around the neck. The snare had cut into the neck with some damage to the animal’s tissues. There is some disturbance to the ground around the badger, but it is possible that the badger had been caught within twenty four hours of my discovering it. Damage to the mouth and the wire itself suggested that the badger had tried to chew through the wire, making the snare no longer free running. There were no badger setts in the area and so this example shows how setting a snare on a natural animal path in the countryside, a very common practice, can catch non target species.
Case 2 - snared dog
A dog went missing in woodland running by a public path. Within forty minutes, the dog was found dead by his owner, having been caught in a snare and strangled, but not before biting off his own tongue.
Every year, cats and dogs are caught in snares and are either found dead or are rescued by their owners.
Case 3 - snared deer and fox
I discovered a line of twenty snares set through the whole width of a hillside woodland. All the snares were legal, but within this line were two dead animals, a fox and a deer. Both animals had been caught by the neck and died where they were trapped. Some weeks earlier, I had found another dead snared deerclose by the same area. Devastation to the foliage and ground around both animals suggested a struggle, possibly in an attempt to escape or defend themselves from predators. Neither animal was post-mortemed and so could have died for a number of reasons such as a broken neck, starvation or strangulation.
Generally, where the snares haven’t been checked for days, starvation will be the cause of death. During this time the trapped animal may have to fend off predators and as each day and night passes the struggle for freedom becomes less and the animal weakens until it finally dies.
My findings out in the field suggest that badgers will stay alive for longer than any other snared animal and I have found badgers still hanging onto life after five days. Post mortemsand disturbance to the ground give an idea of how long the animal has been caught. The typical ”doughnut” around a snared animal is the shape in the earth left by a snared animal as it struggles, digging deep into the ground as it circles around the anchor to the snare. Some doughnuts can be as deep as two feet.
Further clear and disturbing evidence of the time an animal has been caught in a snare can be found in the injuries that it has caused to itself. Within a short time, the snare can have the effect of a cheese wire. The animals are desperate to escape and pull on the wire with such force that it can cut into the neck orabdomen. I have found animals that are alive and it is not until the animal is cut free from the snare and lifted that it is clear that the animal must be euthanised immediately with the wire almost cutting the animal in two and only because a vital organ has not been ruptured the animal is still breathing.
Case 4 - two foxes snared
A stink pit is a common and legal way for gamekeepers to lure animals into snares. Foxes and other predators smell the rotting animals, dumped in a pile on the ground and surrounded by a wall of branches with snares set among them.
I remember the snares on one particular day - they looked legal in themselves and had been set legally around a stink pit. I found two foxes which had died and appeared to have put up a huge struggle. The branches used to construct a wall around the stink pit had got caught around the snare wire as both animals struggled, and they had probably died of strangulation.
Case 5 - badger caught in snare
A large adult female badger was found amongst deep foliage with a snare around her body, which had caused deep wounds. The wounds were infested with maggots and the badger was euthanized. During post mortem the vet suggested that she might have been in the snare for less than twenty four hours – the period that the law allows between inspections.
I would like to say that these are all the incidents that I recall, but this is far from the case. Visiting areas where snares may be located is only part of my work as I cover many other issues related to animal protection. Unfortunately it appears that snares are being set in huge numbers, including hundreds on a single shooting estate, making it difficult for those that set them to check the snares within a twenty-four hour period.
SnareWatch is a great tool which will help collate incidents nationwide. We hope to receive reports from everybody who comes across a snaring incident, be it a vet, a rambler, a member of a wildlife rescue organisation or other animal welfare organisations.
We already understand just how devastating snares are to wildlife as well as to domestic animals and what pain and suffering they can cause. But we must continue to collect information about snaring incidents and keep building the case for having snares banned, once and for all.
As somebody who has seen first-hand the agonising effects a snare can have on an animal I urge you to report any incidents of snaring that you may come across and help us in our work. Please look up www.snarewatch.org to learn more.