HUGO STRAKER says: Your question is very timely as the Game Conservancy Trust in Scotland has just responded to the Scottish Executive’s consultation on amendments to the annual General Licences.
When operating corvid traps (Larsens and large cages alike) you must provide fresh food, water, shelter and a perch (or two) to ensure your decoy bird(s) are kept healthy. Not only is this an animal welfare requirement, but a healthy decoy is usually more vocal and thus more efficient at calling in free-living corvids.
Remember it is illegal to use any other species of bird other than a corvid for a decoy.
Current trap inspection periods are different in Scotland and England. In England, traps need to be inspected once in a 24 hour period, while in Scotland traps should be visited daily. The Scottish Executive’s recent consultation proposes traps be inspected within each 24 hours, which should remove any cross-border ambiguity.
When you check your traps, please remove old rabbit carcases as these are unsightly. The presence of fresh food shows that the trap operator is caring for his or her decoy bird. I often use soaked dog food in my Larsen traps as a clean and efficient foodstuff. Do not use fallen farmstock or diseased animals as this would contravene the Animal By-Products Order.
When any cage trap is not in use, it must be immobilised and rendered incapable of use. For Larsen traps, I believe the only reliable way to prevent someone from re-setting the trap without your knowledge is to take the trap home and shut it away. In the case of static multi-catch cages on the hill, I advise operators to remove and take away the cage door. Simply tying or wiring the door open can result in the action being easily reversed.
As fresh caught birds need to be removed at each inspection, I suggest that some means of marking your decoy(s) be adopted, such as leg rings.
Although not a legal requirement, I recommend that multi-catch crow cages be constructed with 50mm wire mesh to let out ‘non-target’ songbird species whilst ensuring corvids remain inside.
Finally, don’t be tempted to keep your Larsen traps operating beyond the key spring-trapping period as I believe you will only help educate the crow population. Keep them keen!
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