Tuesday 12 February 2019


A post yesterday (above) on Twitter showing images of legal predator control traps for stoats created a lot of heat. When the SGA reminded those in the comment thread, who had already started to talk about knowingly damaging these traps, that this was a criminal offence (which it is), this caused outrage.

By saying that the SGA would inform Police (which the organisation has a policy on due to the amount of vandalism to legal property which goes on today) this was viewed with further ire.

The SGA will never stop reporting damage to legal predator control traps to Police. They are legitimate tools used by trained operators as part of their employment. Not everyone is a fan of every industry but we would expect retribution if we walked into someone’s office, threw their computers out the window or wrecked them because we didn’t like what they did.

Rail trap in Angus damaged by the public and rendered inoperable.
Wildlife or species management is difficult for some. This is acknowledged. SNH reviews trapping and the General Licences which permit their deployment in the Scottish countryside are assessed annually. All snare operators in Scotland must be trained and personal ID numbers, obtained from Police Scotland, must be attached to every snare set legally in this country, as part of the Snare Training (Scotland) Order 2011.

The SGA was not attempting to intimidate Helen for having a view or wanting to spark debate on issues of trap setting. She is perfectly entitled to do so and hold those opinions. We asked, legitimately, whether she was reflecting the views of Environment Link, of whom her organisation (The Ramblers Association) is a member. She said she was not, which was accepted. We are sure Helen will air similar views again on other elements of legal management.

What the SGA did, for those who wanted to read the tweets (see all below), was remind that we should be mindful of social media posts and that the hills walkers enjoy are also people’s workplaces. We said to her that her comments had encouraged the type of activity that perhaps she had not intended. If this is deemed to be an act of intimidation or a ‘sinister’ warning off, as was suggested and shared elsewhere, then we will have to agree to differ. It does raise questions over whether free speech is afforded only to those on one side of a debate. 

It is the SGA’s responsibility, as a member organisation, to protect our trained members who are carrying out legitimate and legal work; work which they should be able to undertake without the fear of having their tools criminally damaged. It is well acknowledged that control of abundant predators, using humane traps and snares, benefits a range of ground-nesting species, not just game.

A 9 year experiment by GWCT at Otterburn in England showed that, on land managed by gamekeepers, where predator control of crows, stoats and weasels was carried out, wading birds had up to 3 times more chance of breeding success. If we want to maintain red-listed wildlife in our country, then there should be some acknowledgement of the benefits of predation control. Indeed, RSPB and SNH are to receive £6m to eradicate stoats from Orkney in order to conserve the wildlife there, by eliminating them.

Helen may not have been intending to encourage the comments about how to illegally disable, wreck traps or throw them in burns. In fact, we would like to put it on record that we do not believe this was her intention. It was, however, undeniably one of the consequences, with a number of posts in the thread, and other posts relating to the original, clearly alluding to this type of activity.

The SGA will not be reporting Helen, as this was never the intention or meaning. We dealt with that by pointing out, in her second tweet, that her post had had a different affect than she intended (see below). We will be reporting the comments about damaging legal tools to Police, as is our policy to do so.

*All members, please continue to report all damage, tampering, theft and vandalism of legal traps and snares to Police Scotland. Please ask for a crime number or, if applicable, incident number. Please also report this to the SGA office. 

UPDATE: Hours after this 'debate' on Twitter, 17 legal stoat traps were damaged on an estate in Grampian. Details have been passed to Police Scotland.