I was recently scrolling through my phone (in desperate need to delete some pictures for storage) when I came across the picture above. Last year I visited Northumberland, and whilst out on my daily nature exploration, came across a hedgehog, dead in a gin trap.
The trap was covered over by a wooden fixture, which sat incorporated at the end of a cobbled wall. It was strategically placed to guarantee that any animal scurrying along the pathway of the wall would most certainly be met with a grizzly end. If I’m honest, when I came across the wooden box, curiosity naively intrigued me with my inner child excited at the find. Never did I expect to pull out a gin trap clamped around a hedgehog. I was horrified.
After spending time with and interviewing Joan (the lady who runs the West Midlands Hedgehog Rescue) a few years prior, my eyes were opened to enormous amount of challenges our hedgehog populations face daily, and the tiresome battle she has devoted herself to in order to save them. Hedgehogs are listed on schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it illegal to kill or capture wild hedgehogs by way of trapping, snare, net, stunning with an electrical device and so on. To come across one so cruelly snatched from our wild world was both disheartening and overwhelmingly frustrating.
I tried to figure out the need for such a device. It was located in an area which of an evening we would watch a pair of barn owls hunt the field like ghostly figures, gliding just above the long grass. We also watched Short-eared owls, kestrels and foxes roaming the fields. My point is, with such a healthy population of natural ‘pest’ control (if that is what the trap was intended for)I fail to see why any trap would be necessary… not to mention an ILLEGAL gin trap.
Due to how the trap was fused into the wall, removing it wasn’t an option. If the trap had of been closer to home, tools to assist in doing so would have been more accessible. I decided to leave the hedgehog in the trap, in the hopes that it would buy any other animals some time to avoid being snapped up in the same way.
I decided to share my find on social media and got quite the response. Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of people who expressed their sadness and frustration, but there was one comment in particular that proved to be most valuable. Tania from @wattswildlifeblog suggested that I report the trap to try and get it removed. She informed me that Northumbria police have wildlife department, the contact details for which could be found on their website. So that’s exactly what I did. I wasn’t aware prior to her comment that this was an option, so I have listed below exactly what to do if you come across a wildlife crime for anyone else who may be non the wiser.
Take pictures of the crime you have witnessed. It’s not pleasant, however will help massively when you come to report it.
Use the What Three Words app to accurately record the crimes location. What Three Words is a free app that provides a simple way to navigate locations without co-ordinates. Every 3-metre square of the world has been given a unique combination of three words. It’s a brilliant tool that is utilised by the emergency services and makes identifying exact locations very easy. Take note of the unique three-word combination as this will make locating your crime, such a hidden trap, much easier and saves a lot of time.
Head over to google and find the applicable areas wildlife department. I simply googled Northumbria police wildlife crime department and the search results took me straight to the page for reporting wildlife crimes.
When reporting your crime, be sure to add a thorough description, including your 3-word combination for its location. You may or may not be able to add pictures to the online reporting form. If you can’t, be sure to mention that you have pictures that you would be happy to send across at their request.
24 hours after I had reported the trap, I received a phone call from a member of the wildlife department team who asked for the images I had taken. Once I had emailed them over, he promptly replied informing me that someone would be heading out to get the trap removed.
Whilst I didn’t receive any photographic proof of this happening, I’d like to think that anyone working in such a department holds high regard for wildlife and therefore is good on their word. I dread to think how many lives it’s taken since its placing, but hopefully that’s the end of the unnecessarily illegal entrapment of future wildlife.
Also, it’s worth noting that there may be species specific groups established that would also benefit from being made aware of such crimes. For instance, the Badger Trust are appreciative of being informed of crimes against badgers, as well as your local wildlife crime officers.
Let’s fight wildlife crime together!