An update on trapping legislation

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As already explained on the GWCT website, the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS), to which the UK is a signatory, will be implemented in the next 18 months through three measures: 

  • Spring Traps Approval Orders (STAOs)
    A new Spring Traps Approval Order (England) has now been made, coming into effect on 1 January 2019. This updates the list of approved spring traps and supersedes previous STAOs for England.  
    Equivalent STAOs will have been made by the devolved administrations (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) by 31 March 2019, when the Humane Trapping Standards Regulations come into force (see below).

    These STAOs set a date (1 April 2020) after which certain traps (Fenn-type, WCS tube trap, BMI Magnum models) may no longer be used to catch stoats. They approve the new Tully trap for stoats, weasels and rats, and the use of DOC traps in run-through tunnels (but not for grey squirrels). A new grey squirrel trap - the Goodnature A18 - is also approved.
  • Humane Trapping Standards Regulations
    A draft of this Statutory Instrument is also now published online. This is currently the subject of Parliamentary Committee scrutiny. If cleared for debate, it will be debated in the Commons and the Lords. The Statutory Instrument is then expected to be ‘made’ early in 2019, coming into force from 31 March 2019.

    The most significant effect of these Regulations will be that from 1 April 2020 the stoat becomes a protected species, which may be caught only under the terms of a licence.
  • General Licences
    From 1 April 2020, the capture of stoats will be allowed by General Licences (similar to those already governing the trapping of corvid birds). These will be issued separately in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but are expected to be similar in all four administrations. Trap-users will not need to apply for these licences, but will need to be familiar with what they say. We will post details as soon as they become available.

    General Licences will specify which trap types (including live traps) are authorised for the purpose of catching stoats. For kill traps, these must already be approved by the relevant Spring Traps Approval Order.

Subject to unforeseen events, the timeline is as follows:

1 January 2019 (in England and Wales, possibly a few weeks later in Scotland and Northern Ireland)

  • Tully trap becomes lawful for stoat, weasel, rat provided it is set in a tunnel which is ‘suitable for the purpose’ with respect to avoidance of non-target animals and human safety. 
  • DOC traps (DOC150, 200, 250) may now be used in run-through tunnels to catch stoat, weasel and rat (but not grey squirrel), provided the tunnel complies with the manufacturer’s instructions (not yet available) to ensure humaneness, and is ‘suitable for the purpose’. All three DOC traps may also be used in baited, single-entry traps as at present, but the instructions for tunnel construction are expected to be somewhat relaxed, provided the tunnel is ‘suitable for the purpose’. We will post details of the manufacturer’s instructions as soon as they become available.
  • Goodnature A18 squirrel trap becomes lawful. The conditions of use specified in the Spring Traps Approval Order (England) 2018 are puzzling, and we are seeking explicit clarification from Defra.

31 March 2019

  • Humane Trapping Standard Regulations 2019 comes into force. No immediate consequences for trap users, but only 12 months left to buy replacements for outgoing traps.

1 April 2020

  • Fenn/Springer, WCS Tube, BMI Magnum traps no longer lawful for stoat. At the time of writing (27 Nov 2018), only three spring trap types will definitely be approved for stoat beyond this date: Tully; DOC 150, 200 and 250; and Goodnature A24.

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