Pensioner outfoxed and falling fowl of wildlife laws fined £865

William Stirling who was fined for snaring badger
William Stirling who was fined for snaring badger

A pensioner who accidentally snared a badger instead of the fox that was killing his prize chickens was fined £865 for wildlife crimes yesterday.

William Stirling (73) set the traps on a hillside behind his house in Torphichen after foxes repeatedly raided his chicken run.

Stirling believed his plan was foolproof.

The free running wire snares he bought were legal – but he staked the nooses too close to the ground for foxes and caught a badger instead.

Shona McJannet, prosecuting, said one of Stirling’s neighbours called the Scottish Society for the Protection of Animals on February 5 when she saw a badger that appeared trapped or injured behind her house.

SSPCA inspectors found the animal – a protected species – trapped around the waist by one of Stirling’s snares.

She said: “The snare was cut and the badger removed. It was distressed and the snare had causing skin trauma in multiple areas.”

She said there was a large active badger sett around 50 metres along the ridge and badger footprints from the sett entrances to where the snares were found.

Stirling pleaded guilty yesterday to trapping a badger by setting a snare likely to cause bodily injury to protected wild animals on a pathway used by badgers.

He also admitted setting snares without the landowner’s authority.

James Morrison, defending, said his client’s retirement hobby was keeping hens but foxes had been “creating havoc”.

He continued: “He decided to buy some snares for foxes and went about it responsibly, buying proper snares from a proper shop. He had some knowledge about snares but not enough.

“He thought wrongly he was setting them at the correct height to avoid anything like a badger getting into it. He accepts they were set too low and accepts that was ignorance on his part.

“He was completely surprised to receive a visit from the SSPCA and he fully co-operated with officers – even to the extent of installing an electric fence around his chickens which stops foxes entering.”

Passing sentence, Sheriff Donald Ferguson told Stirling: “I find it surprising given the difficulties you had that you hadn’t taken advice on the appropriate course of action to take.

“I think it’s an instance of a little knowledge being perhaps a dangerous thing because you set about this the wrong way, causing suffering to this particular creature and possibly other badgers in the area.”

Outside court, Stirling said he was staying at his holiday home in Menorca when his next door neighbour saw an injured badger on the hill.

“Quite rightly she phoned the SSPCA. I said: ‘Thanks very much for doing that’.

“If it had been left there I could have been in trouble if the beast had been killed. It was my saving grace that the beast got away.”

Stirling said he’d told the SSPCA inspectors that he regularly had badgers going through his garden.

But he added: “I don’t go out and hit them on the head or shoot them.

“I’ve now taken the SSPCA’s advice and put in an electric fence.”