Review of snaring for Scottish Government, prepared by Scottish Natural Heritage

Report from Scottish Natural Heritage on snaring legislation, as per the Wildlife & Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 (WANE).

Annex 3 - Technical Assessment Group - Snares & Snaring

The following report has been agreed by members of the Scottish Technical Assessment Group in October 2016. It summarises the content of three meetings, and suggests recommendations to be taken forward, either for further consideration, or for adoption prior to or after the Review of Snaring by SNH, scheduled for 31 st December 2016.

The following bodies were represented on the Scottish Technical Assessment Group during these discussions.

Borders College
British Association for Shooting and Country Sports ( BASC)
Elmwood College, Scottish Rural Colleges ( SRUC)
Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust ( GWCT)
Police Scotland / National Wildlife Crime Unit ( PS / NWCU)
Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture ( SASA)
Scottish Association for Country Sports ( SACS)
Scottish Gamekeepers Associated ( SGA)
Scottish Government Animal Health and Welfare Division ( SG)
Scottish Government Wildlife and Protected Areas Division ( SG)
Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ( SSPCA)





Further information


Use of breakaways

1. Welfare benefit by increasing the probability of humane escape by heavier species if a breakaway is an integral part of the noose part of the snare. For example, deer, badger and dog escape is more likely from fox snares; cat, dog, fox, badger and hare escape would increase from rabbit snares.

1. Industry is still refining the specifications that determine the optimal breaking strain for the retention of foxes, while allowing larger and heavier non-targets to escape.

2. Requires restricting the length of the snare wire (see further information).

3. Cannot use breakaway in conjunction with percussion springs (see below).

4. Due to metal fatigue, breakaways will get weaker with repeated use.

Force (required to open the breakaway device) = mass (~weight of animal) x acceleration (maximum speed the animal can obtain before the end of the snare wire is reached).

To reduce welfare risks, better to have a weaker breakaway and shorter wire length. Shorter wires will reduce max velocity that can be achieved, and reduce risk of injury if the breakaway holds.

Breakaways are easy to incorporate in rabbit snares, by using a looped wire for an eye, at minimal cost.

Several breakaway devices are now available commercially, either as an individual component or incorporated into a snare.

Code of Practice to state "All snares should incorporate a breakaway device into the snare noose. The breakaway must form the weakest part of the snare."

Re-examine developments in breakaway designs prior to the 2021 review, in order to determine:-

(a) If optimal breaking strains have been established for fox and rabbit snares;

(b) If it is possible to prescribe weight bearing loads that can be applied to breakaways to allow practitioners and enforcement officers to test breakaway devices;

(c) If so, to produce a method statement describing how to determine the breaking strain of a breakaway device.

Restrictions to the length of snare wires

1. Less risk of entanglement around objects or vegetation.

2. Less risk of suspension problems if set on steep incline or close to a vertical drop.

1. Will restrict the number of sites that can be used for snaring on stony hill ground.

Commercially available snares are an appropriate length, and current legislation provides incentives for reducing the risk of entanglement or suspension.

Defined limitations may be required if breakaway devices are refined to within a narrow range of loading.

Fox territory size very large in upland areas, therefore likely to be able to reposition a snare on ground that avoids stones. Research into rabbit snare lengths required.

No action.

Until breakaway breaking strains can be defined, it is not appropriate to define snare lengths (see recommendations in relation to breakaways above).

Increase the stop position on rabbit snares to enlarge the noose circumference to 15cm

1. Reduces risk of constriction injury where large specimens of the target species are caught.

2. Lessens welfare issues associated with accidental capture around body for target and non-target species.

1. May increase risk of rabbit escapes.

TAG members agreed that virtually all people snaring rabbits manufacture their own snares, and incorporating proposed changes will have little commercial impact. However, further information is required on snaring efficacy.

Ask practitioners for feedback on impacts and encourage trialled use of larger stop size.

May require separate consultation of snare users.

No direct action for 2016 review.

Alter design of eye

1. Minimise risk of becoming self-locking.

1. Cost of replacing current eye designs

No evidence from SSPCA or Police that locking eyes are currently a problem in snares.

No action. Maintain legislation & Code of Practice.

Increase the stop position on fox snares to enlarge noose size to 26cm

1. Reduces risk of constriction injury where large specimens of the target species are caught.

2. Lessens welfare issues associated with accidental capture around body (target & non-target species).

3. Evidence of lower brown hare by-catch.

4. Consistent with Defra COPFS, which will aid manufacturers.

1. Identification of stop position proving difficult for some. Risk of adding to confusion by changing position.

2. May increase risk of fox escapes, although little evidence to support this.

Used snares are inevitably replaced at regular intervals. Once users & manufacturers are more familiar with calculating the stop position, any change should not represent a problem.

Stakeholders unaware of brown hare by-catch issue in Scotland.

Amend legislation and Code of Practice to increase stop size on fox snares to 26cm. Adjusting stop positions can damage the snare, so a phase-in period may be required to allow currently legal snares to be replaced.

Increase number of swivels on fox snare wire to a minimum of two

1. Reduces risk of entanglement, especially if a single swivel becomes locked, e.g. with vegetation.

1. Increases cost of snare but by a relatively small amount.

Two swivels now standard practice (one at anchor and one mid-snare wire) amongst many snare operators.

Twine between tealer & anchor acts as swivel on rabbit snares.

Amend legislation & Code of Practice to include two in-line swivels, one at anchor point, and one mid-way along the snare wire.

Maintain awareness of entanglement using rabbit snares, but no change at this time.

Require operators to use Approved snares

1. Consistent snare used by all operators will help prevent issues with poor or inadequate components.

2. May simplify field checks by enforcements agencies if Approved snares are easy to identify.

1. Will require a system of testing and routine quality assurance with all manufacturers that claim to be selling an Approved snare.

2. May be difficult to enforce if Defra offer a different system of snare regulation elsewhere in UK.

3. May be in breach of EU requirements under free movements of goods.

4. Likely to increase unit price of snare.

5. Increased costs may promote extended use of snare beyond a reasonable lifetime.

Further development of certain components such as the breakaway, still required.

No action.

May be considered as an option in the future if issues arise regarding inadequate quality of snare components.

Require operators to use snares that are compliant with the Code of Practice


Consistent snare construction, but source of components may vary.

2. Allows people to manufacture their own snares.

3. Promotes competition between manufacturers.

4. Helps to maintain a reasonable price for snares.

5. Maintaining lower costs may promote discard of snares when appropriate.

1. Risk that components are poorly manufactured and liable to failure.

2. Poor components may result in an increased risk of welfare issues developing for target and non-target animals.

Prosecutions can be pursued if operators fall short of the approved Code of Practice.

Amend Code of Practice to include options highlighted above.





Further information


Increase the minimum height of the bottom of snare loop above ground/soil level

1. May reduce risk of badger and brown hare by-catch in fox snares.

2. May increase snare efficiency when setting in longer vegetation.

1. Impossible to enforce since snare wires are regularly knocked and misaligned.

2. May increase risks of non-target by-catch, e.g. young foxes, in rabbit snares.

3. Complicated if setting snares on slopes.

GWCT field evidence suggest badger by-catch not influenced by minimum height of bottom of snare loop.

No action. Maintain current Code of Practice recommendations.

Minimise risk of entanglement with tealer by restricting strength of attachment of snare to tealer and degree to which tealer fixed into the ground

1. If loosely attached, snare will part from tealer when an animal is caught, and this will reduce entanglement risks.

2. If tealer pushed lightly into ground, it will be dislodged on capture of an animal and reduce risk of entanglement.

1. In extreme weather conditions, snare wire may break loose of the tealer if only loosely secured to it.

2. Difficult to regulate and enforce any requirement regarding depth of tealer since dependent upon substrate & conditions.

Training providers teach practitioners to adopt approach of minimising risk of tealer entanglement.

Amend Code of Practice wording to state "Tealers must be placed in the ground in such a way to prevent entanglement. To reduce risks of entanglement, fox snares should be attached to the tealer to allow detachment from it on capture of an animal."
Training providers asked to reinforce message with practitioners.

Restrict height of anchor above ground to minimise entanglement risks

1. Minimised when anchor stake flush with ground level.

2. Minimised now that drag anchors are prohibited.

1. For fox snares, the anchor/snare location may be reused on and off throughout the year, and relocating the anchor is harder if flush with the ground.

Possible to attach a marker to the anchor.

No evidence from SSPCA or Police that drags are still in use.

Amend legislation and/or Code of Practice to state "Anchors should be placed as close to flush with the ground as practical, so as not to pose an entanglement risk".

Dispatching non-target species when severely injured

1. Avoid risk of offence under section 19 of AH&W (S) Act 2006, by causing suffering by an act or omission.

2. Avoid risk of offence under section 11B of WCA (amended) 1981 regarding release or dispatch of snared animal at time of snare inspection.

1. Risk of offence under section 1 of Protection of Badgers Act (1992).

2. Risk of offence under section 10A of WCA (amended) to kill Schedule 5A (brown hare) during closed season.

Significant concerns by stakeholder groups, and differing advice offered by training organisations. Need for guidance for practitioners to ensure consist approach which is endorsed by authorities.

Amend Code of Practice to include method of releasing, assessing and if necessary, dispatching of non-target captures (see Appendix 1- 3 below).

Actual method of dispatch for target or non-target species should be remain flexible, but defined as "a humane method of dispatch". Examples of possible methods that may be used should be included (see Appendix 1).

Require disposal of snare if snare has caught an animal.

Note: Legislation already specifies that damaged snares must be discarded ( WCA, section 11B)

1. Minimises welfare risks if certain components fail, e.g. snare wire frays at capture.

1. Will increase costs of snares.

2. Target species may detect new snares more easily than old snares, which could affect capture rate, or even increase non-target capture rate if non-targets less sensitive to presence of snares.

Post-capture snares are sometimes without any apparent damage after catching an animal.

Can re-use some undamaged components without risk.

Amend Code of Practice to raise awareness of possible weaknesses, e.g to breakaway, if snares have previously caught an animal.

Compulsory requirement to mark field location of all rabbit snares.

Note: these tend to be set in large numbers, either as batches or individually along rabbit runs across fields, and may be difficult to locate.

1. Minimises risk of losing snares which may then trap target or non-target species after other snares have been lifted. This could lead to an extreme welfare risk if animal does not break away from snare.

2. Reduces risk of offence being committed should snares get left in field.

1. May draw attention to presence of snares by members of the public.

2. Markers may get dislodged and become far less visible.

3. May increase risk of human scent close to rabbit run.

4. Setting and uplifting snares will take more time.

Markers are available that are relatively subtle and cannot be seen except at close quarters, but that are more visible than snares themselves. Markers need not be set immediately adjacent to snare (re: scent risks), but operator will have to devise their own individual approach.

Amend legislation and/or Code of Practice to require visible markers to be used when setting rabbit snares.

Provide guidance to snare users on types of marker, e.g. wire pins and marker "flag" or mark scratched in soil. Markers may be used on individual snares or, when snares are set along single rabbit runs in batches, markers may be used to identify the first and last snare in each batch.

Minimise handling of snares & consider methods to reduce human scent on snare.

1. Maximises probability of target species capture, which may in turn minimise risk of non-target captures if fewer empty snares available.

1. Requires more effort to maintain and use snares, e.g. boiling snares.

2. May require change of established practice, e.g. using wire tealers with less surface area than wood based, e.g. hazel, tealers.

Will increase efficacy of snare operators.

Can be achieved via training courses.

No action: advisory only - see GWCT guidelines.

Impose requirement to place warning signs for public benefit, where snares are in use

1. Reduce risk of pet by-catch.

1. Increases risk of illegal interference with legitimately set snares.

2. Increases risk of conflict situations between individuals with differing views on snare use.

Should not be necessary since the training states that public access areas should be avoided where by-catch is an issue.

No action required.

TAG members to maintain awareness.





Further information


Requirement to report dispatch of non-target species to the police

1. May help to support collection of statistics on non-target casualties.

1. Police may be required to follow-up on all dispatch notifications and lack resources to support a compliance initiative.

Current practice recommends reporting such incidents to Police. As a recommendation, Police have option to follow-up.

No Action. Maintain Code of Practice to recommend reporting such incidents to the Police.

Requirement to report dispatch of domestic dog to the police within 48 hours

1. Brings outcome in line with legislation involving traffic accidents and dog fatalities.

1. May require legislative change for a very infrequent occurrence.

Amend legislation to maintain consistent approach to accidental dog fatalities.

Require that snaring records are updated at intervals of 48 hours or less unless there is a reasonable excuse not to do so

1. Reduces risk of errors and accidental mis-reporting.

2. Reduces risk of noncompliance with legislation where a failure to record catches become habitual.

1. While it imposes no greater overall burden on registered snare users, it will increase administrative burdens at busy times of year.

Only incentive for updating records occurs when police ask to see them. Operators may argue that they can trust to memory if they have a small number of permanently set snares, and can generate records if required to do so.

Amend legislation requiring registered snare users to update records every 48 hours or less unless they have a reasonable excuse not to do so.

Reduce time required to submit a snaring record to the police from 21 to 7 days or on demand as appropriate

1. Provides incentives for keeping up-to-date snaring records.

2. Allows Police to follow-up complaints within a shorter time interval of a possible offence.

1. May create difficulties for snare users in remote areas, where the nearest Police station is far away and is open during restricted hours.

Amend legislation requiring operators to submit records to the Police on demand if the Police arrive at the location where the records are kept, or within 7 days to a police station.

Clarify or amend requirements for who can check and set snares and dispatch target species or severely injured non-targets.

In relation to this, requirement to identify the person checking snares on the snaring record.

1. Reduce confusion over requirements when different individuals set and check the same snares ( e.g. due to holiday or sickness).

2. If the person checking snares is capable of humane dispatch or release of animals, the time spent ensnared by an animal is minimised, enhancing its welfare.

3. Allows Police to identify all individuals associated with snare use in the event of report of a possible offence.

4. Reduces risk of offence under section 11 of WCA (amended) 1981.

1. Requirement to be able to dispatch or release a snared animal restricts the availability of people to check set snares.

2. If a person checking a snare commits an offence, then the snare operator is responsible, even if they may have put into place adequate instruction.

SG confirmed that anyone can undertake the requirement to check the snare in every 24 hour period, whether or not they possess a snaring ID number.

However, the person who sets the snare must have a valid ID number, and is responsible for it when set, even if checked by another individual. Needs clarification in Code of Practice.

Suggested amendment that the person checking the snare must be capable of humanely dispatching or releasing any snared animal as appropriate.

Amend Code of Practice (and/or legislation) such that only individuals who can humanely dispatch target (and release non-target species) can check snares, whether or not they possess an ID number.

Amend Code of Practice (and/or legislation) to ensure that temporary responsibility for checking snares is recorded in the snare records, including the name of the person.

Requirement to record the fate of all animals caught in snares

1. Permits collection of data on fate of by-catch, in particular, the proportion accidentally killed in snares.

1. Non-target animals caught in snares may be injured due to reasons other than snaring event, but were subsequently caught in snare.

Amend legislation and/or Code of Practice for fate of all animals caught in snares to be recorded. If non-target is killed in snare, reason for death should also be recorded.

Requirement to update snaring ID details when circumstances change, e.g. operator moves or no longer using snares

1. Prevents snaring register becoming out of date & invalid where details no longer accurate.

2. Helps prevent illegal use of ID numbers no longer in use.

1. Increased administrative burden for registered snare operators.

To reduce administrative burden, updates could be undertaken in conjunction with the following amendment.

Amend legislation to require registered snare operator to update their personal information (a) as necessary or; (b) annually or (c) at time of data request (see below).

Requirement to submit all snaring records to Government on request

1. Allows compilation of snaring data to inform Ministers of role of snaring in terms of numbers of target and non-target animals killed and non-targets released.

2. May be used to support collection of data on all forms of wildlife management.

3. Data could be submitted electronically or using SAEs sent directly to snare operator on request, and therefore at no cost to operator.

1. Additional administrative burden for snare operators, although randomised sampling approach means that no individual should receive a request to submit data more than once every five years.

Suggested approach would be to use a randomised stratified sample, where 1/5 th of all registered operators are sent a request annually, with aim to collect data from all operators once every 5 years.

SASA would be willing to administer system, collect and compile statistics, but would need access to personal information of registered snare operator.

Amend legislation to require data submission on request, with possible penalties for non-compliance.

Design proforma record book (see appendix 4)

1. Avoid risk of offence under section 11E of WCA (amended) 1981 regarding record keeping.

1. Users may feel obliged to use proforma, reducing flexibility of approach to record keeping.

2. May restrict level of detail provided by those who would otherwise use a more extensive log.

Need for BASC and GWCT apps to keep abreast of record keeping requirements.

Code of Practice to append record book, with statement affirming that registered snare users may adopt any appropriate approach to record keeping suitable for their needs.





Further information


Introduce penalties in relation to snaring when convicted of a wildlife offence

1. Prevents anyone convicted of a serious snaring/wildlife offence from using snares to continue offending.

2. More consistent approach with General Licence and firearms restrictions.

1. Will require advice to Wildlife Procurator Fiscals on types of restrictions that may be imposed according to the severity of the crime, e.g. temporary or permanent removal of snaring ID number.

Police powers to not issue a snaring ID number to a person convicted of a wildlife crime also required.

Amend legislation to permit temporary or permanent removal or acquisition of a snaring ID number according to the severity of the wildlife crime conviction. PAW Legislation sub-group to advise Fiscals.

Depending upon the outcome of the Ministerial Review of Snaring, SG/ SASA should write to all commercial retailers and manufacturers of snares describing relevant changes to Scottish legislation and/or changes to the Scottish Code of Practice. This opportunity should be used to clarify how to measure the stop distance.

The revised Code of Practice needs to be made available at a larger print size, and in a downloadable and printable A4 format.

Appendix 1: Scottish Code of Practice for Snare Users: Preferred Methods of Dispatching Target Animals Caught in Snares

The chosen method of dispatch must be swift and humane. The following methods are considered appropriate and are the most commonly used, although other humane methods could be used by individuals with appropriate experience.

Foxes: Aim to kill a captured fox swiftly without alarming it unduly (from downwind if possible) to prevent both undue stress, and also to avoid it from breaking free; it's efforts to escape are likely to increase once it is aware of your presence.

Where it is safe to do so, use a rifle and scope. Alternatively, use a shotgun at a distance of no more than 20 metres, aiming at the head or chest. Always load two cartridges, in case a follow-up shot is necessary.

Rabbits and Hares: Dislocation of the neck is a swift and humane method for both rabbits and hares. Some operators may prefer to use a shotgun for large hares.

(Adapted from GWCT guidance)

Appendix 2: Scottish Code of Practice for Snare Users: Suggestions for Release of Non-target Animals Accidentally Caught in Snares

Equipment: Hook stick; garden fork or forked stick; wire cutters that will cut through snare wire with ease. Optional: animal handling/restraining pole.

Unless the animal is injured and unlikely to survive, you should release it immediately. Use the snare wire itself to restrict the animal's movements, then if possible, open the noose with a hook stick, or else to snip the wire at the noose with wire cutters. A hook-stick is simply a length of broom handle or other pole with an offset hook fastened into the end. You can form the offset hook out of a twisted nail, after fixing it in the stick, or by distorting a stout screw eye sideways in a vice.

If you need to release a badger, and you have other snares set in the area, we suggest that you remove any nearby snares on the same run, in case others are using it. You don't want to have to repeat the release procedure!

Badgers: A badger caught by the neck is relatively easy to handle. In most circumstances all you need to do is insert your hook into the noose and pull the running eye towards you, thereby opening the noose. As the noose is being opened the badger will typically shake its head aiding release. If this does not work drop the tines of your garden fork/forked stick over the snare wire and run it out along the wire until you come up close to the animal, then push the fork down into the ground. (Don't use your foot to stamp it in, as that will bring your foot too close to the badger's teeth! Also be careful to avoid the badger's feet with the fork tines.) Use the fork to pin the snare still; but avoid tightening it, which will cause the cable to tighten and be lost from sight in the animal's fur. The badger is now pinned down by the neck and will usually keep its head down. It's often possible to slip the hook between the noose and the badger's neck as described above. This is obviously easier if the snare is properly free-running and the stop position has been set such that the noose is not tight. If the hook stick cannot be used, snip the NOOSE of the snare with wire rope cutters. NEVER cut the snare anywhere else in the hope that 'the noose will fall off later'. Do not underestimate a badger's power, or the damage it can do to your hands. The same principle holds with all other similar sized non-target species caught by the neck. A badger, dog, or cat caught by the middle is harder to handle, because the distressed animal may be able and eager to bite you. Offering the animal a stick to bite will often keep it occupied long enough to release it. Again, restrict the movement of the snare, then pull the loop open, or cut the cable of the loop itself. An animal handling pole is especially useful for dealing with badgers caught around the middle. Loop the open noose (which should be about one foot in diameter) over the captive's head, and pull the draw-cord tight, which closes the noose. You can now pin the badger to the ground, by putting weight on the pole. Once you have restricted its head movements, loosen the snare cable from around its middle, and snip as described earlier. Animal handling poles are used by vets and RSPCA staff, and are available commercially.

Hares: Using snares with stop positions or 26cm or greater, will allow many hares to escape by allowing them to 'back out'. Although snares are a legal method of catching brown hares, they are subject to close seasons and are a non-target species in fox and rabbit snares, and should be released unharmed.

Both brown and mountain hares are highly athletic animals with massive power in their hind legs (hence their ability to occasionally pop a breakaway that would hold a fox). If you choose to release a hare, you must accomplish it quickly because once alarmed by your close presence the hare can do itself a lot of damage by jumping around. Shorten the snare cable using a fork as described above, or by treading along the cable with your foot. Now restrain the hare, by pinning it down (not by picking it up), to prevent it from kicking out with its back legs. Quickly decide whether the hare is fit for release. If it is obviously injured in some way, you may decide to dispatch it now, by dislocating its neck. If the hare appears fit and well, snip the noose, release the hare and watch it away, guiding it away from other snares in the vicinity.

(Adapted from GWCT guidance)

Appendix 3: Scottish Code of Practice for Snare Users: Dealing with Injured Non-target Animals Accidentally Caught in Snares

On discovery of a live non-target wild animal in a snare:-

1. If the animal is obviously severely injured while in the snare, dispatch it humanely. The likely cause of the injury should be identified where possible and recorded by the snare operator.

2. If the animal is not obviously severely injured, release the animal from the snare and observe its behaviour. If the snare has been set according to official guidance, under the vast majority of circumstances, the animal will not be injured and will run away on release. If it walks or limps away, do not attempt to interfere with it unless it becomes obvious that it has a severe injury, when humane dispatch, or seeking veterinary help (such as from the SSPCA) should then be considered. Wild animals are often capable of surviving significant injuries, although they may suffer prolonged pain in the process. Do not at any time chase an animal with a loaded weapon.

3. If on releasing the animal from the snare, it does not move away, observe it from a distance for approximately two minutes. It may well walk away once you are out of the immediate area. If not, you may be able to see there is a problem. If the animal still has not moved but appears uninjured, leave the site altogether, but return within 10 to 30 minutes. If the animal is still present at the site, and cannot be encouraged to move away, e.g. by nudging it gently with a stick, either dispatch it humanely and record the incident, or seek veterinary help.

Under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, a failure to prevent suffering to a protected animal by the person responsible for it, is an offence, while humane destruction is not. An animal in a snare falls under the definition of a protected animal within the terms of the Act. The SSPCA accepts current legal use of snares, and would be willing to assist snare operators under the circumstances described above at no cost to the caller.

SSPCA animal helpline number (injured or distressed animals): 03000 999 999. This helpline is open 7am to 11pm, and calls are in strict confidence.

Whenever non-target wild animals are dispatched, it is recommended that you notify the police within 24 hours of taking action, and record your actions in your snaring records.

Appendix 4: Scottish Code of Practice for Snare Users: Template Record Keeping Book

The documents 'FOX Snaring Record Book-template.xls' and 'RABBIT Snaring Record Book-template.xls' can be downloaded and used as a template for keeping snaring records. Snare operators are not obliged to use these templates, although they will ensure that sufficient details are kept on snare use and catch.

Mobile telephone apps are also available at the following web address.


Please note that mobile telephone coverage is not required for this 'app' to work. Data will be retained on the mobile phone memory card until phone coverage is acquired, at which point, the data will be uploaded onto a secure remote server, which can later be accessed from the internet by the individual trapper.


Email: John Gray

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