According to reports, Owen Paterson uses the Kania 2000 trap to cull grey squirrels that have been damaging his trees.

A spokesman for Mr Paterson said: “Programmes for the humane control of grey squirrels have been in place in the UK for more than 40 years. These programmes protect our woodland and wildlife.”

The Country Land & Business Association (CLA) defended the minister, saying that he was right to protect woodland by culling squirrels.

CLA president Harry Cotterell said: “We support the environment secretary in his efforts to protect his trees.”

“At a time when ash trees, one of the native species that squirrels leave alone, are under enormous pressure from ash dieback, it is vital that woodland managers control squirrels to save other tree species.”

Mr Paterson is reported to have shown visitors to his house a photograph of squirrels caught in the Kania 2000 trap, saying: “Look at this — these traps are the real deal. No squirrel is going to get out of that.”

For more information on Mr Paterson’s preferred trap, visit www.kania2000.co.uk

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Environment secretary criticised for trapping squirrels