During a recent hike in the Scottish Borders, I came across bird traps containing two crows. It is the first time I have found such a thing, although they are apparently quite common in this part of the country.
As a walker, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. At the time I was uncertain about the legality of the traps. Should I intervene and free the stricken crows or leave well alone? The birds were clearly in a state of distress. It is a dilemma other walkers have doubtless faced.
A little research revealed that such trapping is perfectly legal, provided the traps follow certain requirements (although there seems to be a very fine line between what is legal and what is illegal).
Traps are placed by keepers to catch birds like crows that may prey on the eggs of ground-nesting game birds such as grouse. That, however, raises the question of whether one species of bird should be persecuted for the sake of another, clearly more profitable one.
The traps I found were a Larsen trap (legal) sitting adjacent to a Snapper trap (illegal). The Larsen trap is placed with a live decoy bird in it (food and water should be provided). The idea is that this decoy bird will attract others to the site.
The Snapper trap, which had snared a crow, is a rather more basic affair, a small cage that snaps shut when a bird enters. By law only carrion crows, rooks or magpies can legally be used as decoys in Larsen traps in Scotland and the traps must be checked on a daily basis.
A variety of other types of trap and snare can be legally used in the Scottish countryside. The animal welfare organisation OneKind produces a useful guide for walkers.
If you find a trap in the countryside and are unsure whether or not it is legal, contact OneKind or Against Corvid Traps. They have a useful link on their website where you can report traps. Provide as much info as possible including details of the location (with a GPS/OS grid reference), the type of trap, whether there are birds in it and if there is a decoy bird, does it have food and water? You can also attach a photo.
If you find a bird of prey in a trap contact the RSPB and police immediately.