The truth about snares – your questions answered

Fox snared round abdomen on Glenogil Estate

Unlike other issues such as foxhunting, snaring is a lesser known but sadly, still completely legal method of persecuting wildlife in Scotland.

Many people might be shocked to discover that animals are still being trapped in these barbaric devices, and left to suffer mental and physical distress for hours on end.

That’s why we’ve compiled this list of questions that you may be asking about snares and provided answers based on evidence and expert opinion.

1. What is a snare?

Snares are anchored loops of wire or steel cable, resembling a noose, that are strategically placed to try to catch wild animals deemed to be ‘pests’.

They are positioned to trap an animal around the neck, but can also capture them by the abdomen or leg. The noose then tightens so that the animal cannot escape.

Legally, snares must be checked every 24 hours and have a stop to prevent the noose from tightening to a circumference less than the target animal’s neck. However, these regulations have failed to protect animals from suffering.

2. Do legal snares cause suffering?

Fox snared round abdomen on Glenogil Estate

Fox injured in the abdomen after being caught by a legal snare in Glenogil – via SnareWatch.

Despite being designed to capture, rather than kill an animal, legal snares can still leave animals suffering for hours with severe and often fatal injuries. Even if the animal survives being snared, the purpose of their capture is so they can then be killed by an operator. The manner of death is dependent on the skill of the operator and may not always be humane.

Following capture by a snare, an animal will naturally struggle to escape, often leading to painful wounds and in some cases strangulation, regardless of the snare having a stop or not.

We’ve also received report after report of animals being caught by legal snares in the leg or abdomen. This can lead to deep wounds, as the snare can tighten as far as the circumference of an animal’s neck – which is of course much narrower than their abdomen.

Legally, snares can go unchecked for up to 24 hours, which has proved too long for many animals with severe and ultimately fatal injuries. Even if an animal is lucky enough to go physically unscathed, the mental distress of being snared for such a long period of time is evident.

The vegetation and ground around where the animal is snared may show signs of extreme disturbance – known as a “doughnut”. This is where the animal has tried to run, jump or scrabble its way out of the trap, often for a period of several hours or more.

A recent statement by British Vets aptly summarises why nothing short of a full snaring ban is needed,

‘Due to the nature of snares and the duration of time animals may legally be held in snares even when best practice is followed, the potential negative animal welfare impacts are significant.’

3. Why are snares used?

Snared cats

The bodies of a dead fox and cat found near legal snares set on the Bolton Abbey grouse shooting estate – Snarewatch Annual Report 2021.

Snares are routinely used on grouse shooting estates to kill grouse predators i.e. foxes, so that grouse can then be shot for ‘sport.’ They may also be used by farmers in an attempt to protect farmed animals from foxes or control rabbit numbers. However, sadly, as we’ve seen, farmed animals can also be caught by these indiscriminate traps.

It is a misconception that snaring is necessary for conservation. Key government bodies such as Nature Scot, as well as conservation charities such as the Scottish Wildlife Trust, RSPB Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland, do not use snares.

In fact, in 2017, Nature Scot announced it would no longer be issuing licenses for snaring mountain hares due to ‘unnecessary suffering’. As we said in 2017 in response to this news, in terms of animal welfare, there is no difference between a mountain hare suffering in a snare and a fox suffering in a snare.

4. Aren’t snares designed to only catch target species?

Snared deer

The main targets of snares in the UK are foxes, rabbits and brown hares. However, up to 70% of individuals caught in snares are non-target wildlife, companion and farmed animals.

Our SnareWatch reporting site is full of evidence that snares can often catch companion animals like cats and dogs, non-target wildlife like badgers and deer, as well as farmed animals like lamb.

Our recent blog documents some of the worst of these reports, demonstrating the cruel and indiscriminate nature of snares. Tragically, juveniles, pregnant and lactating individuals have been caught in snares.

5. Could a snare ban be imminent in Scotland?

With the Scottish Government currently reviewing snaring legislation, now is our chance to push for a full ban on the manufacture, sale and use of these barbaric traps. This is the optimum time to push for change, as Scottish Ministers are legally only required review snaring legislation once every five years.

The animals at risk of being snared don’t have another five years to wait. That’s why it’s vital that we make the most of this key moment to send a powerful message to the Scottish Government that the public supports a full ban on snares.

We need your help to do this. Here are some impactful ways you can help us consign snares to history.

  1. Join our March for The Foxes on October 29th. In partnership with League Against Cruel Sports and Scottish Badgers, we’ll be marching down the Royal Mile calling for a full snaring ban and a real ban on foxhunting. We’d love to see as many of you there as possible to demonstrate public support for an end to these cruel practices.
  2. Send a letter to Minister for Environment and Land Reform, Màiri McAllan, urging the Government to introduce a full ban on the manufacture, sale and use of snares in Scotland. We’ve set up an easy template you can use to send a letter in just a few moments.
  3. Support our appeal for a ban on snares. Every donation, no matter how small, counts towards helping us campaign for a future free from snares.