Reprinted from the GWCT members' magazine 'Gamewise' by kind permission of GWCT. www.gwct.org.uk/scotland
I would welcome contributions to this blog covering topics that will be of general interest to a range of Forum members.
The report to Scottish Government by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on the use of snares in Scotland was published in March. This meets the requirement for the regulation of snaring to be reviewed every five years.
The main thrust of the report is that current legislation is working and that no fundamental changes are needed. However, SNH does recommend some changes with regard to fox snares and to the Code of Practice. These proposals are as follows:
- Require each snare to have at least two swivels — this follows the findings of research by Defra and the GWCT to further minimise risk of a snare breaking should a single swivel become clogged with vegetation with resulting welfare issues.
- Require the stop position, which determines the minimum noose size, to be 26 cm from the running eye — this follows research by the GWCT to identify the optimal stop distance whereby hares are more likely to escape while not affecting the retention of foxes.
- These hardware changes would bring Scottish snaring practice in line with the recently published Codes of Practice in England and Wales (2016).
Other proposals in the report include:
- Standardising attendance methods and 'pass' criteria.
Code of Practice
- Clarifying authority and responsibility where another person is required to provide 'sick cover' for the original operator.
- Implementing a maximum period for updating snare records — SNH is proposing within 48 hours.
- Reducing the time allowed to produce snare records for inspection. This currently allows 21 days, but the proposal is to reduce this to 'immediately' when requested by police on location, or otherwise to be produced at a police station within seven days.
Penalties on conviction of an offence
- Introduction of the power of disqualification for a snaring offence, although it is not clear how this would operate, how long disqualification would last, or whether there would be a system of appeal.
Overall, the report found that snaring related incidents had reduced and therefore further changes were not required. Any changes to come from the review will be delivered through the Snaring Code of Practice.
Next steps are likely to include consultation with the Snaring Technical Assessment Group (TAG) and possibly wider public consultation.
Changes to fox snares, such as the introduction of a double swivel and change to stop position, will require amendments to the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which could take time.
We do have concerns over the sanctions being proposed and these will need careful discussion and consultation. It would certainly be wrong if very minor mistakes, as opposed to blatant abuses of the Code, could result in disqualification. We will need to wait and see the detail.