Traps, Snares and Pits

Written in July 2017

Due to recent events (a sab finding a weasel seriously injured in a ‘humane’ trap, followed by the Hunt Investigation Team releasing footage taken in the Peak District) we thought it was about time to write some information about traps and snares. There is a huge amount of information out there, much on the internet these days, and if you’re looking for some specific information we suggest you do some extra research, especially as new methods are being developed all the time. Hopefully here we’ll be able to summarise how various traps work that are more commonly found while we’re out with hunts or sett-surveying and what to look out for, what is (currently) legal and give some links to other sites.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of types of trap available

While many traps can be bought legally by members of the public (for example snares and mole traps) there may still be conditions placed upon their use, restrictions on the animals that may be targeted. On a wider, more industrial scale, traps and snares are found around the majority of shooting estates, used by gamekeepers to ‘protect’ ‘gamebirds’, such as pheasants, from predators so that they can then be shot for sport…

Traps must be approved by DEFRA for use in the UK. There is also an ‘Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards’ (AIHTS). What is legal in some of the countries bound by the AIHTS will not necessarily be legal in others – for example, hedgehogs are considered pests in New Zealand but are protected in the UK so traps designed to kill them may not pass the test here and traps which are approved in Canada for catching stoats may not be approved for their capture in the UK (as Canadian stoats are smaller) – the same traps may be authorised for use here in catching other species however, like rats…


Cages: Multi-catch cages (Larsen traps / Funnel traps) and ‘Normal’ cages

Leg-hold / body-grip traps: Gin / leg-hold traps, ‘Tunnel’ / body-grip traps (Fenn traps and others)

Raptor traps

Snares and (stink) Pits

Injured animal advice


General licences are issued annually to allow landowners, those with landowners’ permission or other ‘authorised persons’ to capture and kill certain species of birds and to destroy eggs and nests in order to “stop serious damage to livestock”, fisheries, crops, etc., for ‘conservation purposes’ or for health and safety reasons. More info and current licences can be found here. General licences do not have to be applied for.

2017 licences allow for the trapping / killing of birds including feral pigeons, crows, collared doves, lesser black-backed culls, jackdaws, jays, magpies, rooks, wood pigeons, Canada geese, monk parakeets among others. With some species of birds, their nests and eggs can also be taken or destroyed. It’s best to check up-to-date licences if you’re unsure if someone is breaking the law in which species they are targeting (see above link).

Killing or destroying the eggs / nests of wild birds without authorisation is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Licences can be applied for in order to ‘control’ other bird species providing that non-lethal methods have first been tried or ruled out and that there is shown to be a genuine problem. There should be done attempt made first to deter or scare away the birds, restrict their food source in the area and so on.

As general licences are issued annually they can change from year to year and gamekeepers, etc. need to keep up-to-date with any changes.

Some species of animals are protected by law, such as badgers and birds of prey, and special licences must be applied for in order to trap or kill them or disturb where they live. Others have no protection and can be culled year round, such as rabbits, foxes and various corvids. Many are given some protection under welfare and protection laws e.g. their eggs can be destroyed but not them or they must be killed only in certain ways or circumstances.