A snare is a wire noose that is attached to a stake or heavy object that acts as an anchor to stop the animal escaping. Snares are usually set to catch foxes or rabbits, but their victims can often be badgers, cats or dogs.
Snares are indiscriminate
Snares cannot discriminate between species and any animal that moves through the noose is a potential victim. RSPCA inspectorate surveys show that only a third of the animals caught in snares were actually the species intended to be caught. Cats were trapped in the largest numbers, but many badgers and dogs were also caught. Other snare victims include deer, hedgehogs and squirrels.
The cruelty involved
The snared animal is usually caught by the neck but it may also be trapped by a leg or round the body. Once caught, the animal panics and struggles to free itself. The more it struggles, the tighter the noose becomes; the tighter the noose, the greater the animal's struggle and suffering. Victims of snares may die of strangulation or they may weaken, stop struggling and starve to death or be killed by predators. Sometimes an animal succeeds in pulling the snare away from the anchor. It escapes with the wire still firmly attached to it and then dies from its injuries or because it cannot fend for itself.
Snares and the law
There are some regulations governing the use of snares. It is illegal to set snares for birds, deer and badgers (but remember that snares cannot distinguish between animals and may trap the wrong one). In 1981, the Wildlife and Countryside Act outlawed the self-locking snare which, as a variation on the traditional noose, tightens with a ratchet-like mechanism. Under the Act, users of other forms of snare must take all reasonable precautions to prevent injury to protected animals, but precautions provide no guarantee against such an event. It is also a legal requirement that snares be checked at least once a day. Yet it would appear from the severity of the injuries caused to a lot of animals that many people do not follow even this minimal requirement.
Why aren't all snares illegal?
There are those who argue that for the purposes of pest control, especially control of foxes and rabbits, there is no practical alternative to a snare that has been well set up and regularly inspected by an experienced person. But all too often RSPCA inspectors have to deal with incidents in which snares have inflicted indiscriminate injury and extreme suffering to animals. Whilst the Society would like to see snares banned, the government has stated that they will not do this. The law regarding snares was tightened up in Scotland in 2004. The government consulted on some possible changes in England and Wales but has so far not implemented any change. Defra has promoted a ‘code of good practice’ on use of snares.