NEWS AND COMMENT: One of the UK’s top grouse shooting estates say that they legally kill cats which stray onto their estate. The also kill foxes. The estate is the 13,500 acre Bolton Abbey Estate near Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales. The photograph on this page was taken by a visitor and fell runner, Paul Carman, to the estate who appears to have come across them by chance. It is a photo of a dead fox and black cat. The area contains snares. Mr Carman’s girlfriend became entangled in one of the snares. Comment: How can the estate be sure that they have killed a feral cat and not someone’s wandering pet?
I am told that ‘pits’ (holes full of rotting carcasses around which are snares) are legal in the UK provided they are used to catch vermin and that any protected species are released unharmed. It seems that the traps were for foxes but a cat was also killed.
Carman had diverted from the main route, a public access route, in order to avoid burning heather. He made the discovery on February 12th.
The estate’s management claim the cat was feral with no identification and was, therefore, classified as vermin. They claim that the area has a cat problem with many living in the wild. They did not confirm if the cat had been scanned for a microchip which would have helped to confirm if the cat was a domestic pet and not feral. No one has come forward to state that the cat belongs to them.
The police have been informed. Foxes prey on game birds reared to be shot. The foxes are lured to the snares by pits in which are placed rotting carcasses.
Carman said that he was distressed at what he saw. He said that it was not what he expected to see when out in a popular beauty spot. He is a regular visitor.
He emailed the estate about his encounter with the dead animals but has not received a response. He said that there has been ‘strong public opposition to this practice’. He wants grouse shooting to stop to prevent this sort of thing happening again.
When the police arrived to investigate the cat and fox had been removed.
A campaign group Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors are using the incident to highlight their campaign. They want shooting to be banned at Bolton Abbey. There appears to be public support.
Group spokesman, Luke Steele, said: “Visitors to Bolton Abbey will no doubt be shocked to learn that the popular beauty spot is littered with snares and traps, aimed at boosting numbers of red grouse for shooting by killing off native predators.”
The estate said that, “A key aim of the SPA is to restrict the predation of and disturbance to breeding birds caused by native and non-native predators. To support this aim, we legally control foxes and feral cats within the SPA”. SPA stands for ‘special protection area’. The North Pennine Moors Special Protection Area is one such zone.