The use of Larsen traps is permitted and regulated by the Open General Licences issued under section 16 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Separate licences are issued in each of the devolved countries respectively by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Natural England (NE), Nature Scot (NS), and in Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
Operators do not need to apply for these licences, but they must know and comply with the conditions stipulated in the relevant licence and, in Wales, operators are advised to print, sign and date a copy and retain it for inspection. However, a recent development in Wales (2019) is the need for operators undertaking control in specific designed sites (SSSI, RAMSAR, SPA, SACs) listed in an annex on the licences, to have individual licences granted by Natural Resources Wales.
This applies not only to the site itself but also within 300 metres of the boundary (500 metres in the case of the Dyfi Estuary SSSI/SPA). In Wales, on a SSSI not listed in the annex of the licences, you do not need to obtain a consent to carry out actions within the terms of the licences. However, the licences only authorise the operations specified in the licence and do not authorise activities in connection with the licence’s activity, such as use of vehicles to access the land. If these related activities are listed as notifiable operations in that SSSI’s notification documents, then the owner or occupier of the land should separately seek SSSI consent from Natural Resources Wales.
A further recent development in Wales (2019), is the condition that operators using General Licence 004 for the purpose of conserving wild birds must only undertake authorised actions to prevent the predation of chicks or eggs of species of birds listed in Annex 1 of the licence. This annex lists red and amber listed species in Wales (2019) and the afore mentioned condition (5) means that actions to prevent the predation of chicks or eggs of species not listed in Annex 1 may constitute an offence.
In Wales the two licences relevant to agriculture, game management and conservation include:
- GEN/WCA/001/2020 – Licence to kill or take certain wild birds to prevent serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables or fruit or to prevent the spread of disease to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables or fruit.
- GEN/WCA/004/2020 – Licence to kill or take certain wild birds for the purpose of conserving wild birds.
The General Licences restrict the use of Larsen traps to ‘authorised persons’ (effectively landowners or persons with their permission). They also impose a series of licence conditions on the user which mainly relate to the welfare of the decoy bird. The licensing system continues to grow in complexity, but if you follow the guidance given in this leaflet you should be well within the law. The following points should be emphasised:
- Check your trap every day (at intervals of not more than 25 hours). This must be a physical inspection.
- Provide adequate food, water at all times, appropriate shelter and a suitable perch.
- Under GL 004 for the purpose of conserving wild birds, only the following four corvid species may be used as decoys: carrion crow, magpie, jackdaw and jay. Under GL 001 to prevent serious damage to livestock and crops, only the following three species may be used as decoys: carrion crow, magpie and jackdaw.
Under GL 004 for the purpose of conserving wild birds, ensure that any action undertaken is done so only to prevent the predation of chicks or eggs of those species listed in Annex 1 of the licence.
If you intend to use a trap on or near a designated site i.e. SSSI, first ensure that your intended location is not listed in Annex 1 for GL 001 or Annex 2 for GL 004, which list locations where the licences do not authorise the taking of any action. If your intended location is listed, you will need to apply for a specific licence from NRW.
- Any non-target captures that are fit for release should be released as soon as they are discovered at the capture location, or as close as is safe to do so.
- Remove the decoy, food and water if the trap is not in use
- In Wales, when the trap is not in use it shall be removed from site and stored in such a manner as to prevent its accidental use.
It is important to remember that the licences are normally issued for a year at a time (Jan - Dec), but they can be amended at any time and recently have been revised at shorter intervals because of legal challenges. The current licences will run until 31 December 2020, at which point there may be some changes. It is up to you to ensure you are aware of the current licence conditions, and that you stick to them. You can view and download the current licences on the NRW website.
Please take note of the welfare points mentioned in these guidelines. Look after your call birds and keep your traps clean. Strict adherence to our guidelines will not only ensure keepers are working within the law, it will also help the public accept this valuable trapping technique.