We recently launched our campaign to put an end to the killing of wildlife on driven grouse moors and elsewhere in Scotland with a petition calling for an end to these wildlife killings.

While the public are likely aware of the large-scale shooting of target grouse and mountain hares in the name of sport, they may not be aware of the thousands of other wild animals killed in order to increase the number of red grouse available for commercial shooting.

Traps and snares can be set, legally, on grouse moors to target the red grouse’s natural predators: foxes, weasels, stoats, and other birds. Many of these animals will not die instantly, and will endure physical and mental suffering, as they die slowly of their injuries.

We’ve put together a guide to the legal traps that you may come across on driven grouse moors.

Wire snare

1. Snares

A snare is a simple anchored noose, that traps an animal either by its leg, abdomen or neck. It inflicts considerable mental and physical suffering. In addition to the considerable mental distress caused, struggling against the snare can cause it to twist and tighten, leading to injury or death.

If caught around the abdomen instead of the neck, the animal may suffer deep wounds and internal organ damage.

2. Spring traps

Hedgehog caught in spring trap

Spring traps are essentially larger and more powerful mouse traps that target stoats and weasels. They are placed on routes likely to be used by these animals, frequently on logs across streams.

Upon catching an animal, they spring shut with enough force to hold, crush and kill the trapped animal. Newer designs have a higher accuracy rate; they generally hit the skull resulting in immediate death, which is the only practical measure of humaneness. Older designs, such as the Fenn trap, aim to break the spine but can easily catch a different part of the body, resulting in an agonisingly slow death.

3. Crow cage traps

Crow cage trap

Crow cage traps are used to catch birds, primarily crows.

Large multi-catch cage traps have a wooden frame and wire mesh walls. There will usually be a live ‘decoy’ bird, often a magpie, and a food lure inside. Corvids are territorial and will come to challenge the intruder and take the food. They enter the cage either via a funnel or through the horizontal slats of a ladder in the roof. Both are designed to be easy to enter but difficult or impossible to leave.

Smaller portable Larsen traps placed on the ground can also have a ‘decoy’ bird, in this case in a separate compartment, and a food lure, but they are designed to catch only one other bird. Larsen traps are made of wire and hinged along the bottom so that they open like a shell. They are held open by a false perch which gives way when the bird lands on it, causing the bird to fall through and the trap to close.

There are obvious welfare concerns about the psychological effects of sudden capture on wild birds, and of being in close confinement with other territorial individuals; there are often instances of aggression between birds in the same cage. Birds can also be injured when entering the traps or when trying to escape and can suffer from hunger, thirst, exposure and predation while in the trap.

4. Stink pits

Stink pit with animal bones

To lure foxes into snares, gamekeepers often lay snares around a ‘stink pit’: a place where the gamekeepers dump rotting animal carcasses. The smell of decomposing animals lures the foxes towards the dead animals, where they are then caught in the snares surrounding the pit. During our work in the field we have discovered foxes, deer, geese and fish in stink pits.

What do I do if I find a trap?

We’d ask that if you do discover any of these traps that you please send through photographs and location details to us at [email protected].

Please do not obstruct the traps in any way, as this is illegal.