Traps & Snares: Secret Sabotage

A great deal is said about the sabotaging of hunts and organised shoots, and more people are now becoming involved in sabotaging angling, but I read very little about the sabotage of actual shooting estates.Many Howl readers will be well aware of the mass extermination of wildlife by gamekeepers.

As a recent edition of the League Against Cruel Sports Wildlife Guardian mentions, each year in Britain around five million wild animals are killed with traps, snarcs. guns and poisons. Most of it goes unseen, unlike hunting, and therefore it never reaches the media. Often traps and snares are lelt unchecked tor long periods of time, and hence animals and birds suffer slow and agonising deaths.

Sabbing hunts is usually done enmasse, but estates are best checked by individuals or groups of just two people – confrontation is to be avoided, since the immobilising of traps and snares cannot be carried out if the gamekeeper knows you are there. Also, the same area should be regularly re-visited and checked for reintestation of the offensive implements. (On one occasion I discovered fresh snares on one fence run three times in four weeks. Thankfully, since the last time no more snares have been in evidence. A small success, but one that has saved lives.)

Snares and traps can be placed in most countryside areas, but two of the most common locations are: Around release pens – snares are set around the perimeter and attached to the fence. Traps are usually found under box-like tunnels, staked to the ground, again around the perimeter fencing. Along Wire fencing either deer fencing or stock fencing. Usually mammals will use regular pathways, leading to a gap under the fence – the pathways are easy to spot and the snares and traps are normally set in the gaps. Sometimes, if there are no gaps under the fence, pathways will run along the edge. These can also be snared, especially in areas where the undergrowth forces the animal into a small gap. This can also occur in dense woodland away from both release pens and fencing (I remember once falling flat on my face having stepped into a snare along a pathway!)

The actual release pen can be a problem, especially if it is occupied. You are faced with a dilemma – knowing full well what will happen to these young birds in the near future. However, at this point I would not advise damaging the pen in any way, or releasing the occupants, since if they are still confined they are not mature enough to be able to escape from predators and since they are semi- tame, and food is normally available, they will remain in that area. Releasing them only plays into the hands of the gamekeeper, who will label you irresponsible – unfortunately I would agree with him.

Satisfy yourself with being able to sabotage the actual shoots when they occur. What you do with an empty release pen is obviously up to you, but they are quite costly to erect, the wire being the most expensive component.

Once you know what you are looking for it becomes easier, though beware it can become addictive!

Shooting estates are easy to spot if you are out walking you may notice food bins amongst the woods; usually they are full of corn to keep the pheasants in the area. You may even notice an area with an obvious over-abundance of pheasants.

Be aware of the law – most sabs know all about trespass (ie, that it isn’t a criminal offence) but far more difficult is the law concerning the demobilising of snares, an action which could be regarded as criminal damage, carried out with what could be regarded as an offensive weapon. The best rule is not to get caught, as much for your sake as the animals.

Anyone can be involved in this form of wildlife protection, whether you are an active sab out in the country to visit a hunt, or just someone out walking. It’s something you can do even if you are unable to regularly sabotage hunts.

To conclude, might I suggest that local sab groups keep records of release pens in their area? This would allow people to help save at least some of the five million animals lives lost each year at the hands of gamekeepers and farmers .

Some other points to remember when visiting shooting estates:

Always carry a haversack to carry traps in – it also makes you look like a member of the public. A pair of binoculars and a birdwatching book in your pocket can be invaluable as an excuse for being on keepered land. Keep an Ordnance Survey map with you. If at all possible avoid confrontation, but if you are seen don’t run away – approach the person and make out that you are lost and need guidance to get back on the right path. Be courteous and apologetic remember that you may need to revisit the same area on another day. Finally, remember that it’s not just shooting estates that put out snares and traps. Farmers use them as well, so if you are out walking the dog why not check along the bottom of stock fences’? You never know what you might find…

Reproduced from HOWL (No 53, Autumn/Winter 93-94) – magazine of the Hunt Saboteurs Association