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Outrage as three pole traps found set on grouse moor

Outrage as three pole traps found set on grouse moor

Published at 6:02am 2nd June 2016. (Updated at 8:56am 2nd June 2016)

There are calls for a clampdown on setting pole traps, after an incident in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Pole traps were outlawed in 1904 and consist of a metal spring trap placed on an exposed post to target birds of prey.

When triggered, they snap shut with considerable force, crushing the legs of the bird.

Trapped birds remain there until they succumb to their injuries or are killed by the trap's operator.

On Friday 6 May, a member of the public reported finding three spring traps illegally set on posts around 100 metres apart, along the north side of Widdale Fell near Hawes.

They made two of the traps safe and reported it to the RSPB.

Investigators installed covert cameras on two of the traps and the safety catch was put in place on the remaining set trap to prevent it catching anything.

pole trap setting

Images showing before and after a trap was set on Widdale Fell

On the evening of Monday 9 May, it was discovered that all three pole traps had been reset.

The covert footage showed someone earlier that day taking the safety catch off one trap and resetting another.

Investigators made the traps safe and reported the matter to police.

Wildlife crime officers attended the following day and recovered all three unset traps.

Two of the traps had small feathers on the jaws, suggesting that they may previously have caught birds.

A man was interviewed by police and given a caution after accepting responsibility for setting all three traps.

Bob Elliot, Head of RSPB Investigations, said: "These are dreadful barbaric devices and have no place in the 21st century. North Yorkshire has long held the unenviable reputation of the worst county in England for raptor persecution.

"The sighting of a hen harrier in the immediate area is of particular concern. This species is nearly extinct as a breeding species in England and it last bred successfully in North Yorkshire in 2007, despite huge areas of suitable habitat.

"Earlier this year, Defra launched its Hen Harrier Action Plan, which has been supported by shooting organisations. Yet again, we have seen that there appears to be little sign that birds of prey will be tolerated in our uplands.

"These crimes are extremely difficult to investigate. Whilst we are grateful for the excellent police response in attending this incident, we simply do not understand the decision to issue a caution for such a serious case. We will be writing to the police to ask for an explanation of this decision.

"The UK government has set raptor persecution as one of the national wildlife crime priorities. To create a meaningful deterrent, we believe there needs to be a zero tolerance approach to serious crimes of this nature."