A STOAT has been killed by an illegal snare which was discovered at a site in Teesdale following a change in the law.

A member of the public got in touch with the League Against Cruel Sports via its Animal Crimewatch service after finding the dead stoat in a Fenn trap on the site.

The league then built a case to give to Durham Police, who spoke to the landowner and had the illegal trap removed.

Gamekeepers use traps to control mammals that would naturally predate stocks of grouse or pheasant, protecting the birds only for them to be shot out of the sky once the season begins.

Martin Sims, the league’s director of investigations, said: “This distinction will mean nothing to the many stoats that will inevitably be killed in these indiscriminate devices.

“At the end of the day, the real problem is that these and many other animals are killed on a huge scale to ensure that there are more birds to be shot for entertainment.”

The landowner was given advice by Durham Police and the trap was removed.

Since April 1, it has been illegal to use Fenn traps to catch stoats, but they can still be used legally to control squirrel and rat populations.

The deadline for the change in the law was announced by Defra in July 2018, which included a 12-month period for gamekeepers to phase out the Fenn traps from the land they manage.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Durham Constabulary said: “We received reports of a suspected illegal Fenn trap in the Teesdale area and on investigation, found it was illegal and the trap subsequently removed by the landowner.

“We would like to remind all those concerned that following new legislation that came into effect on April 1, 2020, the use of Fenn traps and all copycat designs have now been made illegal to trap stoats.

“We would encourage landowners to comply and remove any traps that are illegal if they have not already done so.

“If members of the public should see any traps which they think are illegal they can contact us by calling 101.”

The League’s Animal Crimewatch Service is still providing a service during the current Covid-19 crisis.

To report an animal cruelty sport crime in the name of sport, call 01483 361108 or email crimewatch@league.org.uk