Firstly, the LACS report prompts an important discussion about the conservation of predators and their prey species. Predation control, which includes the use of traps and snares, has repeatedly been shown to be key to addressing conservation challenges for many species, which include hares, curlew, black grouse and ring ouzel, on sporting and non-sporting moorland, and farmland. The best available figures do not suggest any risk of this predation control to the predators’ populations.
This report reflects at best a snapshot in time that it is already out of date. Development of new humane spring traps being introduced across landholdings from this year will render many of the issues raised in this report as historic. The GWCT is continually pressing for more humane traps (for example with built-in excluders) and higher standards, as we recognise that this is central to justifying these important land management tools, which are vital in areas where there is no alternative control that can be applied. We also agree with the recommendations in Professor Werritty’s Grouse Moor Management Review that there should be improved trap monitoring, and better technology developed to locate and check traps.
We think the LACS numbers are questionable, based as they are on extrapolation from a limited sample. The Trust has been collecting trapping data for 50 years from sites all across the UK and we know that because of the huge variations among estates, extrapolating to arrive at a possible total by just multiplying up is not a sound approach.
Whilst enforcement is not the Trust’s responsibility, we check estates regularly for snare and trap compliance and find the fail rate in this report at odds with our own professional assessment. The Trust’s remit is in research, technical development (e.g. snare lengths, stops, swivels, monitoring, tagging and recording requirements, spring trap excluder sizes, coverings, rail trap guidance, best practice), and regular training and refresher courses in the use of traps and snares, ensuring the highest standards of animal welfare in order legally to deliver the greatest conservation benefit. Compliance falls to Police Scotland or to SNH. Importantly, if traps and snares are not regularly checked within the legally specified period then the operator is not doing his job correctly and legally, and the trap is not addressing the purpose for which it is deployed. Poor practice cannot be condoned.
Finally, we reiterate that traps and snares are not used just for the benefit of grouse and other game. Reducing predation pressure has wide conservation importance and protects livestock and poultry. Nor is their use exclusive to the private, land management sector. Predator control is vital in securing the future of waders and other ground-nesting birds, as our science has continually demonstrated. One public sector example would be the Orkney stoat eradication project where, to meet conservation objectives, the same measures are being used with the same or greater intensity, and the same non-target risk, but without any grouse interest to pay for it.
Notes to editors
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is an independent wildlife conservation charity which carries out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.
For information, contact:
Telephone: 0131 445 5570