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Snaring of badgers

Introduction

This page looks at the history of using snares to catch badgers in the UK, reviews the challenges associated with other methods of culling badgers, looks at how snares are currently being used in Ireland, and finally looks at ways of addressing outstanding issues associated with snaring.

History of using snares in the UK

Reference 1, which is a ministry MAFF report published in 1976, stated the following.

Catching badgers

5. Both cage traps and snares have been used to catch live badgers in the study area. Analysis of the relative success or these methods revealed that up to 31 July 1976 one badger, two jays and one pheasant were caught in 64 trap-nights, and 12 badgers and 2 foxes were caught in 44 snare-nights. The obvious advantage of snares over traps in catching badgers, and the disproportionately large amount of time required prebating and setting traps, has meant that snares only are now used when badgers are required for radio tagging.

6. Snares are carefully designed so as to avoid injury to the animal and, in practice, none of the animals caught in them has shown any sign of injury. A comparison is being made of different kinds of snares; that currently in use incorporates the swivel, and does not have a "stop" since it is thought that this might cause skin abrasion in captive animals. A large loop set low on a badger track is used with the intention of catching the animal round the body. The snare is anchored with a 60 cm stake made from 5/8 inch steel rod and care is taken to set well away from saplings, fences or other snags that might cause captive animals to become entangled. If snares cannot be kept under constant observation (eg from a platform nearby using infra-red binoculars) checks are made at least every hour after they have been set. Where possible they are placed where they can be seen from a distance, so as to minimise the amount of human scent left in their immediate vicinity.

Reference 2, a DEFRA report which reviewed the effectiveness, environmental impact, humaneness and feasibility of lethal methods for badger control published in 2005 stated the following.

Mechanisms that restrain the animal around the body rather than around the neck were used to capture badgers that would not enter cage traps during MAFF badger control operations in Devon (MAFF, 1984). The body snares used were free running and had stops, i.e. a crimp in the wire that prevents the noose of the body snare going below a set diameter. These body snares were set at ground level, or a few cm above, on active badger runs and were inspected every two hours. (Snares may also be set for badgers in the tunnel entrances to their setts but this raises the issue of trapped animals trying to retreat down their burrows). Of the 36 badgers restrained no injuries were reported, and only a few of the captured badgers were not caught around the body. Similarly Cheeseman & Mallinson (1980) used body snares to catch badgers for a radio-tracking study and stated that, when properly set, body snares cause less stress to restrained badgers than cage traps; they found no injuries in more than 50 captures using body snares whereas badgers sometimes damaged their teeth and claws in cage traps. However it must be emphasised that in these two studies the body snares were set by skilled personnel and checked every couple of hours. Setting a body snare for a badger is different from the placement of a neck snare for a fox. Hence, the competence of those using the technique is likely to affect capture rates and the welfare of the trapped badgers.

Summary of different methods used to cull badgers

Cage trapping is labour intensive. The traps have to be dug in and prebaited and this incurs large staff costs.6 The method is also expensive.2,3

It remains to be seen if free shooting in the pilot culls is effective. The following compares how many badgers in the cull zones were culled using cage trapping and free-shooting.4

YearAreaPilot Cull (Cage Trapped)Pilot Cull (Shooting)Extended Period (Cage Trapped)Extended Period (Shooting)Total
2013Gloucestershire16554314967924
2013Somerset5003654941955

Complex tunnel systems in setts with blind ends present gassing with challenges. DEFRA is investing very little into carrying out preliminary studies to investigate whether to look at developing gas technology. (Forecasted budget in 2013/14 was about 1% of that allocated to vaccination5,11) In view of this lack of will to invest, prospects for addressing this daunting challenge are not favourable.

Use of snaring in the Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland are snaring in the region of 6,000 badgers each year as part of their national campaign to control bovine TB.7 In recent studies, Ireland have used snares to capture badgers to attach collars to them 8 and to vaccinate them.9

Why is snaring not used in the UK?

Snares need to be set by skilled personnel who have the time to check them on a frequent basis to minimise the risk of suffering and injury. Technology exists to send alerts to setters but such technology needs to be developed to make it affordable and mainstream.10

References

  1. Bovine Tuberculosis in Badgers. Report by the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food. November 1976.
  2. Review of effectiveness, environmental impact, humaneness and feasibility of lethal methods for badger control
  3. DEFRA consultation Sept 2010: Annex B - Scientific evidence on culling
  4. Badger Cull Costs and Culled Badger Numbers. RFI 6456. DEFRA. 1st May 2014.
  5. Gassing Trials. vwvw.gov.uk/defra. RFI 6597/6615. 18 June 2014.
  6. Badger Vaccine Deployment Programme. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust . October 2011.
  7. Number of badgers removed in the Republic of ireland each year. Reply sent by Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food dated 21 Feb 2011.
  8. FORAGING EURASIAN BADGERS (Meles meles) AND THE PRESENCE OF CATTLE IN PASTURES. DO BADGERS AVOID CATTLE? Badger Talk by Enda Mullen, Pumphouse, Thursday May 2nd 2013.
  9. Vaccination programme on badgers could be biggest ever single advance in wiping out bovine TB. Connacht Tribune. Galway City Tribune. Published 9 April 2015.
  10. A Pilot Evaluation of Trap Monitors by the USDA Wildlife Services. A Darrow et al. USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Logan, Utah. Published 2008.
  11. Badger Culling : Alternatives. Standard Note: SNSC6447. House of Commons Library. Science and Environment Section. Author: Dr Elena Ares. Last updated: 11 June 2014.
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