Friday, 31 July 2015

Friday morning at the Game Fair

Breakfast at the GWCT stand
The 2015 CLA Game Fair is now underway and the GWCT stand has already been a hive of activity with a busy breakfast service and press briefing having already taken place.

Our full English breakfast was a hit and if you're coming to the Game Fair this weekend you can get £2 off by downloading this FREE voucher.

The press gathered on our stand for the unveiling of our new guide to best practice use of medicated grit. You can download this new guide FREE here.

Countryfile team preparing to interview us - Photo by JP Foto
The Game Fair is to be featured on Countryfile on Sunday night and we're pleased to have their team visiting us for an interview on the important conservation work our team of scientists conduct.

The weather's good so far and you can check the latest forecast for Harewood House right here.

We'd love to see you so please pay us a visit at stand A44 by the main arena. Check out what else is going on at our stand here.

Our stand first thing Friday morning
The GWCT full English breakfast - Photo by Andy Poynter
Gathering on our stand ahead of the press briefing - Photo by JP Foto

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Misled about snaring?

GWCT fox snare with 'breakaway' device
In an article in the Veterinary Times, June 2015, Professor Ranald Munro exhorted the veterinary profession to speak out against the use of snares.  Jonathan Reynolds BSc, PhD, Head of Predation Control Studies at the GWCT, submitted a response arguing that Munro had given a very misleading synopsis of the subject.

There has been a lot of scientific research on snares lately.  Jonathan’s article summarises how the subject has developed, and indicates where to find the evidence. It was first published in Veterinary Times 45 issue 30.

Non-lethal intent

Fox snares are not intended to be lethal devices.  Since 1981, when self-locking snares were banned by the Wildlife & Countryside Act, the intended function of fox snares has been to hold the animal alive until it can be humanely dispatched.  Perhaps surprisingly, the captured fox is at little risk (less than 1%).

Wildlife scientists like myself rely on this when we use snares to catch foxes (and other canids) for radio-tagging studies.  For this purpose snares are uniquely effective, injuries are rare, and behaviour after release appears to be normal.  You might argue that this view is biased because we are motivated to ensure the welfare of our study animals and take unusual care.

The veterinary experience of snares, in contrast, typically consists of animals brought for treatment which have been injured in snares.  This brings a different bias, towards snares used unwisely close to housing, captures of domestic pets, and cases involving very poor welfare in wild animals.

In 2004, the Independent Working Group on Snares (IWGS)1 brought together expertise from snare users, animal welfarists, veterinary practice and scientists.  The consensus view was that while snares were an effective tool, they could also cause immense suffering in some circumstances.

From experience, the group felt it could identify aspects of snare design and working practice that led to bad outcomes.  They encapsulated this knowledge in a Code of Practice (CoP),2 which Defra published as its own.  In essence the message was ‘Limit your use of snares and use them with great care’.

Message not received

The Defra study3 referred to by Ranald Munro sought to estimate the extent of snare use across England and Wales, by telephone survey across a random sample of landholdings.  This uncovered the important fact that almost half of snare users were not gamekeepers as expected, but farmers.

As a group, gamekeepers were more familiar with best practice recommendations than were farmers, reflecting where educational effort had been directed.

Nevertheless, it was clear that poor working practices persisted in both groups, and at the date of the study (2009-10) no UK snare manufacturers had yet produced snares that met CoP recommendations.  Why had the message not got through?   I suggest two main reasons.

First, organisations associated with game management or shooting promoted this Code to gamekeepers through training courses and other material; but neither Defra, nor animal welfare organisations, nor farmer organisations did anything to promote the Code.

Second, the CoP was based on expert views, but many snare users also considered themselves experts and were unconvinced that a change in practice was necessary.  To persuade them, the CoP needed to be evidence-based.

How good could it be?

In a second section, the Defra study tested the humaneness of fox snares when used by an experienced technician in a field situation; injuries were independently assessed post mortem by veterinary pathologists, and compared against international humaneness standards for restraining traps.

Best practice was followed.  Provided a CoP–compliant snare was used, humaneness standards for restraining traps were met for foxes.  (For non-target species, the numbers caught were insufficient to judge).

Much more extensive field evidence came from a contemporaneous study by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)4, in which a thoughtfully re-designed snare was trialled by 34 gamekeepers in a 2-stage, 18-month study, in comparison with whatever snare design they previously used.  No attempt was made to influence their working practices.

The study showed that the risk of injury or death greatly increased if the captured animal could entangle the snare with nearby objects.  For foxes, the risk was 40% when old-style snares were used and entanglement occurred, but less than 1% when entanglement did not occur and improved snares were used.  Entanglement can be entirely avoided by following the working practices recommended in the CoP.

Snares are certainly not ‘totally indiscriminate’ – it is amazing how such a sketchy device can be made to outline where in the landscape a fox will put its head – but there is an attendant, lower risk of catching certain other species.

In an ideal snare, those non-targets would quickly self-release if caught; or, if held until the snare is inspected, would be un-injured and fit for release.  The GWCT study showed that non-target captures could be substantially reduced through hardware design, and that if experimental snares and good working practices had been used exclusively, the underlying risks of injury or death would have passed trap humaneness standards for non-targets as well as for foxes.

The actual incidence of poor welfare will obviously reflect both the density of non-targets and the intensity of snare use: it’s a balance judgement to be made for each situation.

It’s ironic that the non-target species most at risk in terms of numbers caught and injuries sustained was the brown hare; and that a significant cause of injury or death for hares held in the snare was predation by foxes.

It grimly illustrates the difficulty of finding wholly satisfactory solutions to wildlife issues.  The brown hare is a Priority Species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan because of a long-term decline in abundance.

In population terms hares benefit dramatically from fox control, even when that included the use of old-style snares5.  The GWCT’s experimental snare allowed 68% of captured hares to self-release, and a further 24% were judged fit for release when found in the snare.

It is during the breeding season (for hares and other prey), when fox control by shooting is limited by tall vegetative cover, that snares come into their own.  Despite their shortcomings, snares have a role in wildlife management that we cannot yet replace.

GWCT took a constructive approach to an evident problem, and as a result we now have a greatly improved snare design which meets trap-testing standards, and sound best practice guidelines backed with persuasive evidence.

One might have expected all interest groups to embrace these developments, and to join in a renewed educational campaign to drive down the incidence of poor welfare.

Regrettably, animal welfare groups have not done so, nor have they contributed in other ways to constructive progress.  Perhaps the real difference there is idealism versus pragmatism.

Support our predator control team

Please donate so that our dedicated team of scientists can continue their vital work.

£67 – covers the cost of attending a meeting with Defra or other bodies, to present our evidence and help shape policy

£176 – buys a trail camera which can be used for several years to monitor traps and other sites

£480 – pays for a day’s labour and equipment for our three person predation team, producing the science that can influence policy and practice for years to come

Please click here to donate >


1.    Defra (2005) Report of the Independent Working Group on Snares.
2.    Defra (2005) Defra Code of Practice on the Use of Snares in Fox and Rabbit Control.
3.    Defra (2012) Determining the extent of use and humaneness of snares in England and Wales.
4.    Short, M.J., Weldon, A.W., Richardson, S.M., Reynolds, J.C. (2012) Selectivity and injury risk in an improved neck snare for live‐capture of foxes.  Wildlife Society Bulletin 36(2): 208-219
5.    Reynolds, J.C., Stoate, C., Brockless, M.H., Aebischer, N.J., & Tapper, S.C. (2010)  The consequences of predator control for brown hares (Lepus europaeus) on UK farmland.  European Journal of Wildlife Research 56: 541-549

Jonathan Reynolds BSc, PhD is a scientist at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) with more than 30 years post-doctoral experience.  He leads research on how mammalian predators and pests are managed in the conservation of game and other wildlife.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Guest blog on Rural Broadband

by Stephen Roberts
Marketing and Sales Director, C&R Technologies Ltd

C&R Technologies Ltd are extremely pleased to have been asked again to provide the GWCT stand at the 2015 Game Fair at Harewood House with one of our fast, reliable satellite broadband systems and associated FREE Wi-Fi for it’s members and guests.

We will be on hand during the event to answer all your questions about Rural Broadband.

If you can’t make the event, please feel free to email your questions to us via

Or call us Free on 0800 2989368 or Follow us on Twitter - @RuralBROADband1

We’ve been in the telecommunications satellite and antenna business since 2007 and there are now over 4,000 sites benefiting from satellite broadband (no phone line required) across the UK.

Testimonial from one of our rural clients

"We now have fast broadband at the farm! Thanks to C&R @RuralBroadband1"
Fast Rural Broadband Testimonial via Twitter from @wodehill, Farm, Bedfordshire - Oliver Hudson

Satellite Broadband - How it Works

Traditional "wired" internet services connect you to the internet using copper phone lines, or if you are really very lucky, fibre optic cables. This works well if you live near an exchange or street cabinet, but less so if you live more remotely, or even if the cables between you and your exchange/cabinet take a tortuous route.

Satellite Broadband uses a dish on your building allowing the signal to be bounced from your computer, via a modem / router off a satellite and connect with the internet. As Broadband via Satellite doesn't rely on miles of cables to connect you to the internet, it can deliver fast reliable, quality connections practically anywhere in the UK and most of Europe.

Our systems are proven to support the following:-

  • VoIP telephones (no BT line req’d)
  • Web browsing
  • Email
  • VPNs
  • Live Streaming (YouTube, on-line training videos etc)
  • Video conferencing
  • Catch up TV
  • Remote desk top access
  • Cloud based systems such as Microsoft365
*System speeds - 22MBps (max headline rate download and 6MBps upload)

With many years experience providing broadband without a phone line to businesses both large and small, please feel free to visit our website.

Or just give us a call on 0800 298 9368 to discuss your requirements and the technology options available to you.

Promote your business with the GWCT

A GWCT Trade Membership entitles you to a FREE guest blog spot which will be promoted to thousands of GWCT members and non-members alike. Find out more >

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Guest blog by Ros and Simon from Smugglers Catering

We are Ros and Simon who own and run Smugglers Catering - an established family run business based in East Anglia and our passion is for great locally sourced food, lovingly prepared and cooked.

Smugglers Catering are extremely pleased to have been selected as the preferred caterer for the GWCT at the 2015 Game Fair at Harewood House and will be offering members and guests:-

Breakfast Menu
  • Full English Breakfast
  • Bacon or Sausage Baps

Lunch Menu
  • Hand carved honey roast gammon
  • Coronation chicken
  • Whole roast salmon
  • Roast beef
  • Sausage and cheese pie
  • Vegetarian Tart

A selection of salads including,
  • Our famous coleslaw
  • Tomato and olive salad
  • Sweet and bitter leaves
  • Fruity Waldorf Salad
  • Pasta salad
  • Salad Niçoise
  • Hot local buttered potatoes
  • Local bread

Home made desserts
  • Meringues with fruit compote using British sugar and Williamson’s fruit whipped Marybelle cream
  • Home made Chocolate torte
  • Home made Lemon cheesecake
  • Apple & Blackberry Crumble
  • All served with cream

Afternoon Tea
  • with cakes Scones and fresh strawberries and cream

All locally sourced and freshly prepared on site

Ros, Simon and team
When we aren’t at the Game Fair Smugglers Catering can offer you:-

Hog Roast - we breed our own pigs we know a thing or two about hog roasting. Why not ask us about our fantastic Hog roast? Perfect for alfresco dining for large numbers or even for smaller gatherings.

Spit roasting any meat gives it that slow roasted succulent flavour with the added advantage of the hint of smokiness that comes from flame roasting. Remember you are not restricted to pork.

We are able to spit roast most meats and they can all benefit from a fragrant marinade which we will baste the meat with as it cooks.

Paella - For something different we will cook on site the largest paella you have ever seen! Full of giant gamba prawns, Chorizo Sausage, Mussels, and chicken or more traditionally rabbit.

Our paella pan can feed up to 120 people for a main course lunch or up to 200 people for tapas style.

Cooked with Spanish rice and saffron this is great party food or perfect to satisfy your wedding guests after a full day of partying. Or for a summer garden party. Or it is perfect for cooking large quantities of prawns or fragrant Moules marinière.

Parties - whatever the occasion we can cater for you, we can make your celebration special and worry free, leaving you to relax and enjoy your party with your guests.

Our menus are suitable for Christenings, Anniversary and Birthday parties are all interchangeable and can be tailored to suit your requirements, please call us for a no obligation chat.

Events Catering – shows, fairs, product launches we can make your event memorable with a menu to suit your needs.

We have a passion for great food and believe that outdoor catering should offer delicious food and excellent service.

We use locally sourced, top quality fresh produce and make sure all of our ingredients are cooked to perfection to give every customer something that is extra special.

Our specially designed and regulation compliant kitchen means we are able to produce your food safely. And specially designed temperature controlled transport so we can transport your food to where ever you need it to take place.

For large events and shows we will prepare and cook on site.

And with a team of experienced service staff over seen by both Ros and Simon you will be made to feel like royalty for the day.

As caterers of long standing we have the experience and ingenuity to make your day unique.

We have beautiful crockery and extravagant glassware that will compliment any style of table lay up. And With linen cloths and napkins we will ensure your function will be the talk of the town.

With many years experience catering for groups of people both large and small. Visit our website or just give us a call on 01473 828885 – and then leave it to us!

Promote your business with the GWCT

A GWCT Trade Membership entitles you to a FREE guest blog spot which will be promoted to thousands of GWCT members and non-members alike. Find out more >

Monday, 6 July 2015

Thursday, 2 July 2015

What wild bird cover mix should you plant for grey partridges?

Keeping seed mixtures simple is often best as it can help prevent drilling and establishment problems.

By using carefully planned wild bird cover a tailor-made partridge habitat can be created and this can offer an insect-rich brood rearing environment with safe canopy, good winter cover and useful nesting cover.

Spring mix

A spring mix is usually kale based which helps to provide good over winter cover and supplementary feed in year one as well as useful brood rearing habitat in the spring.

A good spring mix is made up mostly of kale, a small amount of mustard, sweet blossom clover and a food crop such as linseed, millet, quinoa or a cereal. If kale proves difficult to establish, spring sown triticale and linseed would offer good brood rearing in year one.

Autumn mix

The role of the autumn mix is to provide good cover for foraging broods during the following year.

Our research indicates a triticale based mixture is best, including a small amount of winter oil seed rape and winter vetch.

Our Rotherfield Game Restoration Project

We are working to bring back a viable population of grey partridges to an area where they had gone extinct. We want to demonstrate how modern farming and legal predator management can increase gamebird numbers and lead to significant biodiversity benefits.