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Contact us

This leaflet is based on the combined experience of research and advisory staff at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust. We welcome feedback from snare users about the advice given - please contact the GWCT Advisory Service on 01425 651013 or advisory@gwct.org.uk.

Our Advisory Service has a professional team of regional advisors specifically to assist with technical advice on predator control, including the proper use of snares, and on all other aspects of shoot management and game conservation.

We also run training courses on snaring and other aspects of predation control, plus general training courses covering a wider range of topics, suitable for all levels of ability. Please check our events calendar for more information.

What snares to use

It is your responsibility, as the operator, to ensure that each and every snare you use complies with the law. Do not rely on the shop that sold it to you, or the manufacturer, or your headkeeper. The following table lists the requirements for snares used, depending where you are. Note that the code of practice recommendations are more demanding than the minimum legal requirement. Our own recommendations, given after the table, are more demanding still.

  England and Wales Scotland
  Statutory requirements Code of practice Statutory requirements Code of practice
Possession Not restricted Not restricted Only if not self-locking. On land only with owner's permission
 
Only if not self-locking. On land only with owner's permission
Eye
 
Not self-locking Not self-locking Not self-locking Not self-locking
Stop position
(measured from eye)
- Approximately 23cm (GWCT recommends 26cm)
 
At least 23cm At least 23cm (GWCT recommends 26cm)
Inspection regime At least once every day At least once every day before 09:00, and preferably again in late afternoon
 
At least once a day, at intervals of not more than 24 hours At least once a day, at intervals of not more than 24 hours
Cable strength - At least 208kg (460lbs)
 
- At least 208kg (460lbs)
Swivels - Two good swivels, one at tail of snare, one near mid-point
 
- Include a
strong swivel
Weak point - At eye
 
- -
Anchor - Stake, not drag Fixed to stake or other immovable anchor
 
Fixed to stake or other immovable anchor
Accreditation/training - Training recommended Obligatory accreditation
 
Obligatory accreditation
ID tags - - Obligatory upon accreditation and issue of operator ID number
 
Obligatory upon accreditation and issue of operator ID number
Record keeping - Recommended Obligatory upon accreditation and issue of operator ID number
 
Obligatory upon accreditation and issue of operator ID number

Self-locking versus free-running snares

You must not use a ‘self-locking’ snare. The term ‘self-locking’ is not defined in the Wildlife & Countryside Act (WCA), and there has been no successful prosecution in a Court high enough to clarify the law by legal precedent. So ‘self-locking’ remains a vague term. Broadly, it means that the snare tightens progressively as the animal struggles, through a kind of ratchet effect of the eye on the snare cable.

The opposite concept, ‘free-running’, did not appear in the WCA, but is in common use and has been introduced onto the statutes by the Snares (Scotland) Order 2010. Unfortunately ‘free-running’, too, is undefined, and one must use common sense. The Scottish Order obliges the operator to check that each snare is free-running at each daily inspection (see below). There is no authority that can certify a particular snare as self-locking or free-running. For spring traps, Defra has the responsibility to test and approve designs as appropriate for use in the UK; this is not the case for snares.

The intention of the legislators in outlawing self-locking snares in 1981 was apparently to eliminate the death by strangulation of accidentally captured non-target species. If so, they were probably misguided in addressing the ‘eye’ of the snare rather than the ‘stop’ (see above), but we have to live with the law as it stands. By implication, the legislators intended snares to be used in the UK as a ‘restraining device’ rather than a ‘killing device’ (these are terms recognised by the International Standards Organisation). This differs totally from their current use (where allowed) in the USA and Canada, where the objective is to kill the captured animal quickly and humanely, and where extra devices (springs and winches) are used to ensure a rapid death by strangulation. DO NOT use snares or ancilliary devices designed for the North American market unless you are certain they comply with our legislation.

Snare length

Mistakenly, some people choose to use a long length of snare cable, reasoning that because the anchor can be fixed further from the run, the fox will be less likely to detect the anchor, and therefore the snare.
But so long as the anchor has been fully knocked into the ground, and the snare and site are free of foreign odour, there should be little chance of the fox detecting and avoiding the snare.

On the other hand, the longer a snare is, the greater the risk of the captive injuring itself. An animal that is allowed a longer ‘run’ in the snare will build up greater momentum, thereby increasing the risk of an impact injury when brought up short, besides increasing the risk of a break-out.

Also, long snares increase the risk of the captive becoming entangled, either in the snare, or around some obstacle. Entanglement greatly increases the risk of captive injury, so snares should be kept as short as possible. We recommend that snares should be approximately one metre in length, from the outer edge of a fully closed snare noose, to the end of the anchor swivel.

Inspection

In England and Wales, the law requires that snares must be ‘inspected at least once every day’. Although the intention of this is clear, a literal interpretation could leave the captive animal for almost 48 hours before the next inspection. The Defra CoP goes a little further in recommending you to check every snare at least once every day ‘while the snare remains in position’. In Scotland, the law requires you to check every snare at least once a day at intervals of no more than 24 hours.

Since most fox captures are made at night, we recommend that you make your check early in the day, ensuring that the fox is dispatched promptly and that you don’t risk losing it. We recommend that you also make a second check in the late afternoon. This second check further reduces the risk of poor welfare in any captured animal, and gives an opportunity to reset snares that have been knocked during the day. Do not set more snares than you are able to check and remove those that are unset. In Scotland, it is an offence to fail to release or remove an animal, whether alive or dead, while carrying out such an inspection of snares.

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