British Moorlands

Predator control

Better Predator Control with less labour cost using telematic systems

Predator control is well known as a key component of moor management benefiting several species of upland birds as well as grouse. The Otterburn Project has quantified this; likewise  the Loddington Project for lowland birds. There is nothing better than a keeper operated round of traps and snares but it is labour intensive and so expensive that such work has been restricted on many estates today.

Automatic Trap Checking (ATC) systems offer cost effective and efficient solutions. The basic unit is an “event logger” whose sensors record movement. This can be used in a pre-trapping mode to monitor a site and the latest version uses a miniature camera to record pictures and video clips with records of date and time. It is also useful for security purposes.

Remote Control

The main role of ATC is for remote checking traps and snares. Information is sent to the keeper by mobile phone call, SMS text messages or via radio links. The units can be interrogated remotely at any time or they can be  set to send a signal as soon as the trap catches, or is moved or touched.

ATC removes the need for daily visits which leave trails for vandals to follow and which can scare off target animals with human disturbance and residual traces of human scent.

Legal and Humane Aspects

Despite Scotland’s new Wildlife And Natural Environment Act much of  legislation’s letter of the law is still unclear or out of date.  This produces a need to abide by the spirit of the law so that predator control minimises the risk of catching protected or non-target species and maximises practical means of ensuring the welfare of captives until they are despatched or released.

The legality of using ATC is no problem where reliable checking is required  and it is now used by progressive wildlife managers and the main companies in the pest control industry, and also by Scottish Natural Heritage for its government funded mink trapping programme in the Outer Hebrides. Its use might be questioned where the law requires inspection, as with snares.  However,  failure to inspect is only an offence if it is failure “without good reason”. Today inspection can be done via British Moorlands’ remote camera system which sends colour pictures at preset times to your PC or Smartphone. Another good reason not to inspect is the use of British Moorlands’ failsafe digital systems which have been in use for over 12 years without any interference from any authority.

One important function of the daily check is to ensure that snares remain “free-running” and not “locking”.  Locking is caused by corrosion or kinking of the wire.  If the snare is handled daily to check this, it is unlikely to catch a fox ar, so the best solution is to rub paraffin wax onto the snare wire.  This will prevent corrosion for some weeks but it also prevents water droplets forming on the wire which can alert an approaching fox.  Kinking is caused by sharp movements of the wire as when it is disturbed by animals passing or caught temporarily eg leg of a deer before it pulls clear of a snare fitted with the mandatory stop.  ATC sensors on the snare detect unusual movements more accurately and reliably than attempts at manual inspection

Efficient predator control needs ATC, specially in areas of difficult access and today  automatic checking systems are used as standard in all other safety conscious industries such as  food hygiene,  medical care,  passenger transport and ground extraction of gas, oil and minerals.      In fact these systems are usually  mandatory now as they are considered more reliable than humans.  For example, in the past decade DEFRA has required automatic systems for monitoring temperature in fan ventilated intensive livestock buildings. Technical datasheets are available for the various protocols which British Moorlands insists upon to ensure failsafe operations.


ATC has many animal welfare advantages over manual systems :

.   Trap lines can be checked in a few minutes so this could be done more than once a day

.     Before he begins his rounds, the keeper will know which traps have caught and can visit these  earlier.

  • The system is failsafe. It relies on a signal from the trap indicating nothing is caught and all functions are normal. If there is a problem such as battery or technical failure, interference from antis or a snare being kicked over or moved so it could catch non targets, then no signal can be sent, thus prompting the keeper to visit that trap. It is impossible for an animal to be caught without the keeper’s knowledge. Even an anti could not make trouble for an estate by putting a dead animal into a trap. Any movement would activate this failsafe aspect and the trap cannot be reactivated and switched on to Normal Function without the keeper using an electronic access code number first.
  • Remote checking is no problem when floods, fallen trees and deep snow impede access for manual checking. With ATC now available,  such incidents would no longer be “good reason” for failing to check a trap or snare.
  • Where vicarious liability applies for landowners, tenants or factors a manual record of checking may not be good enough.  Only ATC systems can provide an independent log of dates and times which cannot be tampered with.
  •   Where live decoys are used e.g. in Larsen traps, these must be visited daily by the keeper. So British Moorlands offers other designs of corvid traps which do not need live decoys and can therefore be included in an estate’s ATC network.

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British Moorlands