snare-with-stopCurrently legal to set, a snare is an anchored noose of steel cable (for foxes and hares) or stranded brass wire (for rabbits). It is positioned so that when the animal runs into it, it becomes caught around the neck, although capture round the leg, ribs or abdomen also occurs. The noose tightens so that the animal cannot escape from it, either by going backwards or forwards.

The snare itself should not kill, just restrain an animal until it can be killed humanely.

While it is not illegal to use a snare, use is subject to restrictions designed to ensure that unnecessary suffering is not caused and non-target species are not caught: however of the roughly 750,000 animals caught in snares every year, a proportion are protected species like Badgers, Pine Martens and Hedgehogs or domestic cats.

A DEFRA report published in March 2012 showed that there was a lack of compliance with current codes of practice on snare use and that, despite best practices, the level of non target captures were still high. It also demonstrated that welfare problems with snare use could not be eliminated by best practice. (A code of practice for snare users in England and Wales can be found at Defra code of practice on the use of snares in fox and rabbit control (Oct 2005).)


Again, please remember that snaring is legal in the UK. Please do not trespass in order to look for snares and if you tamper with, damage, or remove a legally-set snare you may be committing an offence.

(For more on the legal use of snares in Scotland see


An illegal snare: the SSPCA said this fox died in an ‘unimaginable amount of pain.’

Copyright SSPCA



Let’s help tackle the illegal use of snares


Only so-called ‘target species’ can legally be snared (and then only with the correct licence and with the landowner’s permission): Foxes, Brown Hares, Rabbits, Grey Squirrels, and Mink.

The use of snares in England and Wales is regulated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which says that the use of a ‘self-locking’ (or ratcheting) snare is unlawful; only free-running snares (ie a snare that will slacken off when a trapped animal stops pulling on the noose) can lawfully be set.

The Snares (Scotland) Order 2010 also makes clear that snares must be fitted with a safety stop (which should stop the noose from closing) that is appropriate for the target species and made free-running.

In brief the use of self-locking snares, the setting of any type of snare in places where they are likely to catch badgers, failure to inspect snares on a daily basis, and setting snares on land without permission, are all offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

In more detail:

  • It is illegal to set a self-locking snare in such a way as to be calculated to cause bodily injury to any wild animal
  • It is illegal to kill or take any wild animal using a self-locking snare
  • It is illegal to set a snare in such a way as to be calculated to cause bodily injury to any animal listed in Schedule 6 of the Act (e.g. Badger, Wildcat, Pine Marten etc)
  • It is illegal to kill or take any animal listed in Schedule 6 of the Act (e.g. Badger, Wildcat, Pine Marten, Red Squirrel, Polecat etc) using a snare
  • It is illegal to set a snare where the animal caught is likely to be fully or partially suspended or drowned.
  • It is illegal to set a snare and fail to inspect it (or have someone else inspect it). (According to Defra’s Code Of Practice (which is not legally binding) snares should be inspected as soon after sunrise as is practicable, and should again be inspected near dusk. During the summer months snares should be inspected before 0900am, and a further inspection carried out in the evening.)
  • It is illegal to set any type of snare if not an ‘authorised person’ under the Act (that is, the owner or occupier of the land on which the snare is set, any person authorised by the owner or occupier of the land, or a person authorised in writing by the Local Authority for the area)
  • It is illegal to possess a snare for the purpose of committing any of the above offences.
  • It is illegal under The Deer Act 1991 to use any trap or snare for the purpose of killing or taking any deer.
  • It is illegal to set a snare on a badger path or where it is likely to catch a badger (eg near a sett)
  • All non-target species caught by snares must be released unless the animal is so badly injured that it has to be killed on humane grounds
  • It has been illegal in Scotland since April 2013 to set any snare without an ID number and without having been accredited on a training course


Remember, it is legal to use snares – but if we find a snare which is being used illegally and want to disable it, the advice is to obtain evidence by first photographing or videoing it then to make it safe by closing the noose with a stick.

In more detail:

  • Make a note of the date and time and take photographs or video of the scene using a mobile phone or camera etc (or make as accurate a sketch as possible).
  • Photograph/record any tag or identification numbers.
  • If photographing an empty snare try to use eg a coin or a notebook/field guide for scale – providing it won’t disturb the crime scene.
  • Note the location as accurately as possible, preferably using a grid reference (free smartphone apps are widely available).
  • Do not interfere with the dead victim of a snare. Leave the body exactly as you found it so that the evidence can be fully recorded.
  • If you see someone using or setting a snare illegally – and if it is safe to do so – take as many photographs as you can. Recording the offender’s face is important of course, but their clothing, the bags they’re carrying, the equipment they’re using are all important too. Do NOT try to get too close – taking some long-distance images is better than having a camera smashed or being attacked and hurt.



Illegal snares should be reported to a Police Wildlife Crime Officer on 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

  • England and Wales – RSPCA Cruelty line 0300 1234 999
  • Scotland – Scottish SPCA Animal Helpline 03000 999 999
  • Northern Ireland – USPCA Animal Information Line 028 3025 1000, caller ID required

If you find a live badger caught in a snare please call The Badger Trust on 08458 287878


If you find a live animal trapped in a snare do nothing that might frighten it as it could hurt itself trying to escape you. Also bear in mind that if you attempt to release it, a trapped wild mammal will be very frightened and will not understand that you are trying to release it. You may suffer bites or severe injuries.


A number of other groups and wildlife charities are recording all instances of illegal snare use:



Page updated April 2014.

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