Ring Ousels on the moors


This Ring Ousel was recently photographed having been killed by a fenn trap set on a pole over a ditch on Stanhope Moor in Durham.  The trap would have been set to catch stoats and weasels but of course it will catch anything that sets it off – this was an unlucky Ring Ousel. Although this isn’t the first such image I have been sent (see back here in August 2013).

I guess its collateral damage on a grouse moor, although this quote suggests perhaps not;

Birds of Huddersfield (1915) by Seth Lister Mosley (page 41)

Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquata)

This is the thrush of the moors, and formerly, no doubt, it bred all round our watershed, but by the breaking up of the moors its range is now more restricted. It is still found, however, wherever there is ling along the boundary ridge. When the late Alfred Beaumont had the shooting right (sic) over Slaithwaite Moor, it was very abundant there, and he shot a great many as they set the grouse up by their alarm note…


The list of species that are killed in the process of generating large numbers of Red Grouse (to be killed for fun) is very long: the grouse themselves, any natural predators of grouse such as foxes, stoats, crows that can be killed legally, Mountain Hares because they carry ticks that can spread diseases to Red Grouse, birds of prey such as Peregrines , eagles and Hen Harriers (illegally killed) because they eat red Grouse too, and anything else that gets in the way of a trap such as this poor Ring Ousel.

It’s a lot of killing of wildlife just because a few want to kill Red Grouse for fun!

Please sign here if you’d like to see this killing end – ban driven grouse shooting.

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  1. Audrey Turner says:

    You can add Dipper to that list, and I have the photo, seen dead in one of these traps on the Glenlivet Estate. Purely collateral damage, as I can't see any threat a Dipper would be to Red Grouse, but just as dead.

  2. Norman McCanch says:

    I learned to use Fenntraps for rats and other 'ground vermin' over 50 years ago and still use them in my garden to trap rats around my chicken run (rather than use poison). I was told, and always do, set the Fenn trap in a tunnel or a box, under cover and out of sight. There is no legal justification for setting one out in the open where such 'collateral damage' could occur. Disgraceful and blatant!

    • Melanie Beckford says:

      Disgusting behaviour

      Your traps can kill indiscriminately

      Vile, get back to the dark ages, 'your kind' serve no purpose on planet earth

      • John Cantelo says:

        I have the distinct advantage of actually knowing Norman McCanch and you'd be hard put to find a better combination of naturalist, a PhD scientist, talented water colourist and much else not to mention a highly valued and generous friend. I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'your kind' but he's neither vile and nor does he come from the 'Dark Ages'. Knowing him, I also very much doubt that the traps as he sets them are as "indiscriminate" as you suggest as, if they were, he wouldn't be using them. To assume somebody you don't know and have never met "serves no purpose on planet earth" because you disapprove of them is, frankly, appalling. I will embarrass him no further by enumerating what he has achieved and the purpose he has served, but if you've done a fraction as much then you're doing far better than most. Name calling and ad hominem attacks have no place in this, nor any, debate.

        • Ernest Moss says:

          Well said John.

        • Eco-worrier says:

          Well good for you John, your friendship may allow you to overlook the language used by Norman. I personally am saddened by the labelling of any animal that gets in the way as 'vermin'. The desensitization of so-called 'countrymen' leads to killing on a massive scale and is unacceptable.

  3. John Stone says:

    Is killing a Ring Ouzel in this way not itself an illegal and therefore prosecutable act? I've just ratcheted up another level of disgust for the grouse shooting industry.

    • Bob Berzins says:

      See Below for quote from League Against Cruel Sports "The Case Against Bird Shooting 2016". Fenn/Spring Traps were due to be banned in July 2016, because of the international fur trapping treaty below. The only way you would have found about about this was by reading Shooting Times - as might be expected there was no proper consultation or involvement with conservation bodies. My understanding is that the shooters have been given a 2 year extension for the use of these traps, but contact LACS for full info. Surely this is an opportunity for a proper debate on use of traps like this and a campaign to get them banned.

      Fenn traps
      Fenn traps are a type of spring-loaded body trap used by gamekeepers
      to kill stoats, weasels, grey squirrels and rats as all of these small mammals
      can prey on bird chicks or eggs. They are currently legal in the UK providing
      the operator attempts to make the trap species specific by setting it
      inside a manmade tunnel of the appropriate size for the target animal.
      These bone-crushing traps inflict such immense suffering that they are
      supposed to be made illegal in most Western countries in July 2016 under
      the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. However,
      shooting organisations have been pressuring the UK Government to delay
      the implementation of the ban on these cruel traps until the industry has
      identified a suitable alternative28. Should the Government cave in to this
      industry pressure, the UK would face financial penalties for violating the
      international agreement – paid for by the taxpayer.

      • Marian says:

        I totally agree, Bob.

        My group would certainly support a campaign to get these appalling devices banned - whoever uses them.

      • Mark says:

        Bob - welcome to this blog and thank you for your comment

      • Paul Tillsley says:

        I use a Mark IV Fenn Trap to demonstrate just how unpleasant these traps are. The way it snaps a pencil or biro when triggered is the same way it shatters the legs of a bird of prey. If it wasn't for the shooting lobby these cruel devices would be banned now.

        • Les Wallace says:

          I've often thought that showing these traps and snares to the public would be a big help in showing what gamekeeping is really about inspite of their protestations about being conservationists. Good on you!

  4. Alfred King says:

    Not forgetting Short Eared Owls.

  5. Random22 says:

    Question here. How much damage would one of these traps do to a person's hands? We talking nasty bruise, broken fingers, severed fingers? I mean if you find one, is it worth shoving your hand in it and then calling mountain rescue and a personal injury claims lawyer?

    • Andy Holden says:

      It would hurt a lot! The springs on a fenn trap are incredibly strong; need to be if they are to kill a stoat or a large rat.

    • Jonathan Wallace says:

      I'd imagine that it would be fairly easy for lawyers to get a personal injury claim kicked out by arguing that such an injury could only have resulted from illegal and reckless interference with the trap. If this were to happen the likes of Ian Botham, the Daily Mail, the Moorland Association, et al would make hay with claims about made up evidence, thereby undermining the whole case against driven grouse shooting and the grisly 'management' methods that go with it. I think that you'd be better off pursuing less painful but probably more effective lines of protest.

    • A new one would probably take your fingers off, at the very least they would be very broken indeed.

      • Random22 says:

        I'll give that one a miss then. Broken fingers I could live with, wouldn't be the first time (the first time was when a constable of our fine filth force decide to stamp on both my hands at an anti-Trident protest) I've had broken fingers. Severed is a bit too permanent.

  6. Andy Holden says:

    Quite sickening to see that photo. The Ring Ouzel is one of my favourite birds.
    A bird would be less likely to enter a solid tunnel rather than, in this case, a wire mesh tunnel, which, I suspect, is used so that the keeper can check the trap without getting off his quad bike.
    Another debit mark for driven grouse shooting.

  7. Nimby says:

    These are from estates / areas where land owners are known, one therefore assumes that such detail could be published?

    No-one is suggesting that the owner per se is the individual who set the trap, goodness we can't expect vicarious liability for acts under such jurisdiction - it doesn't happen in politics and that has to be the standard by which all else is measured? Accountability for what happens on your watch, pah come on that's just not the way we do things (yet)?

    My concern for Random22 would be that he might be prosecuted or threatened with prosecution for interfering with the land owners lawful business interests.

    Seriously, as there is a portfolio of evidence, can this be used in seeking that these indiscriminate traps are outlawed? If they can't be used properly then there is no place for them in today's land management regimes, IMHO that is, or at least ones where public funds are involved? Although I'd guess that the establishment can get their PR merchants to spin us / the public some yarn ....

    • "If they can't be used properly then there is no place for them in today's land management regimes".

      It's not about proper usage, why should predators like Stoats suffer just because someone wants to shoot a game bird? There's no place for any of these barbaric devices including snares, cage and Larson traps.

      What irks me is the levels of protection these estates get. A gamekeeper can be let off for setting illegal pole traps to catch raptors and yet I got raided early on Sunday morning, had my property removed (PC, phone etc) and spent the day in a police cell for allegedly destroying loads of traps on another estate (full story here:https://morethanjustbadgers.net/2015/05/25/return-to-the-woodland-of-death/).

      Something isn't right that's for sure.

  8. Norman McCanch says:

    Aaah! In fifty odd years I have caught several fingers and the odd thumb in them while setting them; bruises, black finger nail, but never a broken bone (so far)!

  9. Anon says:

    @ Random22 - broken fingers for certain, and quite possibly possibly severed. I've disarmed these traps with long twigs and they have a very powerful kick, and are triggered by a very gentle prod of the twig. Interesting suggestion, but not one I'd recommend.

  10. Andrew Cannon says:

    When I walked down from Cross Fell to Garrigill the other week there must have been twenty of these traps set every fifty yards or so across a ditch in full view alongside the Pennine Way public footpath. Signs said 'interfering with legally set traps is a criminal offence'. I was amazed not only at the high density of traps, especially considering how any other small creatures entering the tunnel would be collateral damage, but at the total disregard for public sensitivities.

    • Jonathan Wallace says:

      "Signs said 'interfering with legally set traps is a criminal offence'"

      And we all know that respect for the law is of paramount importance for these people!

    • Random22 says:

      What law is that breaking, I wonder? Can any of the bloodsport bunch enlighten us?

  11. Dave says:

    Yes Alfred they don't spare short-eared owls, nor Kestrel, nor red kites. You can add badgers & pine martens too. They don't restrict their crimes to moorland either, goshawks & buzzards nesting some distance way will be dealt with by men dressed like para-militaries & wearing hoods. Seriously sinister villains.

  12. Les Wallace says:

    Funnily enough the estates like to use the ring ouzel as an example of a species that does well on grouse moors and Robin Page quoted a piece of research he claimed proved raptors were responsible for their decline - I read the paper and it did no such thing, but showed that without shelter ring ouzels fresh from the nest were susceptible to bad weather if little shelter was available. As the study was conducted on a grouse moor isn't it likely that the unnaturally sparse/non existent cover contributed to excess chick loss? He never mentioned that. I've also heard that prior to migration ouzels eat a lot of rowan berries to bulk themselves up for migration, well how many rowan or any other berry bearing species do you see on grouse moors? The RSPB has done some excellent research on ring ouzels which among other things shows they've been getting popped off illegally by shooters in south west France no doubt by those conservation minded hunters. Just prior to the RSPB having an article about the research in the latest Nature's Home a wildlife artist in the Angus Glens who seems to very pally with the estates (lucrative commissions?) comprehensively and ludicrously slagged off research that had been done in the local area re ouzels, the usual 'bird botherers' crap. Almost certain this was a dig at the RSPB, and what a particularly pathetic attempt it was in the light of their useful findings. A commentator on Raptor Persecution Scotland said they knew of an estate where the very last male capercaillie died in a snare. I find it very hard to believe that pine martens and wildcats are not dying in these traps and snares and hesitate to say they are unintended target. How disgusting that in 2016 this is still going on.

  13. Sandra Padfield says:

    It seems to me, that all things considered, the British countryside and its wildlife would be better off without the game shooting industry altogether. I am not opposed to humane culling where necessary, (and it is sometimes necessary) but indiscriminate methods need to be banned. Even legally allowed rodenticides, used widely by pheasant shoots, can have a detrimental effect on owl populations by causing secondary poisoning.

  14. Paul V Irving says:

    Yes these traps are less than pleasant and the way they are used on many game estates in these wire "tunnels " means that they do catch birds on occasion ring ouzels, dippers and even grouse chicks have all been seen in them. however these traps are also used in very controlled situations to target mink and grey squirrels, both animals I'd be happy to see gone from our countryside. It is the open to light wire tunnel that at least in part is the problem and that should certainly be banned.

    • Marian says:

      'these traps are less than pleasant...' - that's one way of putting it.

      However it rather trivialises the appalling suffering these poor animals - ring ouzels, dippers, grey squirrels and mink - experience.

      We can't leave any creatures alone, can we?

    • Les Wallace says:

      I know that in my local area they use live traps for mink - if it's a mink it's humanely dispatched, if not released. If the trap closes a signal is immediately sent to a mobile phone alerting the trapper that an animal has been caught. I've seen a mink hunt with dogs and it was an utter farce, far better if otters re-establish and suppress mink numbers, but I think live trapping helps and is a useful tool at least in the short term. In the past two years I've spoken to someone in Fife and another in Doune who've noticed that as soon as pine marten came back into the area there were a lot more red squirrels and a lot fewer greys. Of course return of predators isn't something most keepers are keen on and it's quite enjoyable bringing up the increasingly incontrovertible observation that martens are a great boon for red squirrel conservation, they really, really don't like it.

      • Random22 says:

        I wonder if one of the reasons keepers fear the return of predators is that if The Lords and Ladies in The Big House noticed that natural regulation of animals by predators worked, then there would be a lot less demand for gamekeepers? Is this whole fear of predators just an attempt by gamekeepers to ensure they don't have to get real jobs?

  15. David Armitage says:

    There is no defence for traps- they are by definition indiscriminating and almost exclusively used by those who need to satisfy their bloodlust by slaughtering wildlife.


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