Banning the use of snares would damage our rural environment and allow pests such as foxes and rabbits to destroy vegetation and p...
Some people may think that the job of a gamekeeper is simply about ensuring a plentiful supply for Scotland's rural sports enthusiasts. While game shooting is vital to the rural economy, a key part of the job is to maintain and improve an environment that is rich in biodiversity.
There is a growing population of foxes and rabbits in the UK. Both can be enormously destructive without control.
Foxes have an impact on a range of ground-nesting birds, from raptors such as merlins, to game birds, curlews, golden plover and farmland species such as lapwings. The last two are five times more common and curlews are twice as common on managed moors, compared with unmanaged ground. Foxes can also have significant impact on lambs, while rabbits may inflict serious damage on moorland, crops and trees.
Without snaring, rabbit and fox numbers will increase because other methods cannot make up the gap in control. Opponents of snaring claim it is an indiscriminate method of pest control that regularly catches non-target species. This is false. A well-designed snare, set correctly, is a highly effective and targeted method of restraining foxes and rabbits until they can be humanely dispatched.
Even so, as a profession we will go further to improve on the code of practice established by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and raise training and education standards. Perhaps it's not widely realised, but there are tight legal requirements on snaring and tough penalties for anyone who ignores them.
Snares used in Scotland have to be free-running and must have a stop, so they cannot tighten beyond a prescribed width for restraint only. New snare designs are also being developed that will allow any non-target animals to break away.
It is estimated that snaring accounts for 30 per cent of all foxes controlled by gamekeepers each year, and on some land where it would be difficult to use other methods, this figure is as high as 75 per cent. If snaring is banned, we will face a huge battle to prevent increased fox predation of ground-nesting birds and restrict rabbit damage. This will not only seriously damage our country's biodiversity, but also threaten thousands of livelihoods in rural Scotland.
Snares must be used humanely, but while we know that snaring is an emotive issue, we also need the public and politicians to understand any restriction on snaring would have major biodiversity and economic impacts.