Gamekeeper used traps illegally on Swinton Estate

13 February 2014

A gamekeeper has been convicted of using an illegal trap on a shooting estate on two occasions.

At Harrogate Magistrate’s Court today (13 February 2014) Ryan Waite, employed as a gamekeeper on the Swinton Estate in North Yorkshire was sentenced on two charges of illegally setting a spring trap between May and June 2013.

Waite had pleaded guilty to the charges at an earlier hearing on December 10, 2013.

However, he had denied that the trap was intended for birds of prey, as alleged by the prosecution, claiming rather that it was for catching squirrels.

The court today ruled that his conduct had been reckless.


He was fined £250 with an additional £105 costs and victim surcharge.

Following an initial report from the League Against Cruel Sports, on the 2nd June, RSPB Investigations visited Ox Close plantation on the Swinton Estate, North Yorkshire, and discovered a spring trap that had been placed on top of a two-metre high tree stump. These are commonly known as pole traps and have been banned since 1904.

Birds of prey are usually the target of such devices as they use the elevated position as a vantage point and the traps are strategically placed where they will hunt.

RSPB Investigations disabled the trap and then set up covert surveillance of the site to monitor who was responsible and two days later, on 4th June, Waite was filmed re-setting the trap on top of the stump.

As a result of this footage, North Yorkshire Police executed a search warrant, assisted by the RSPB. Although the spring trap had been removed from the pole trap site, it was later found and seized at Waite’s property. Waite was also caught on camera removing the trap.

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: It is a disappointing reality that the use of pole traps still occurs in 2013 and that some gamekeepers are continuing to adopt these Victorian techniques. The device was deemed outdated and barbaric in 1904, yet a century on we are still finding these illegal traps being set in the countryside. Sentencing needs to get tougher to ensure people are deterred from operating such devices in the future.

We welcome today’s result as it shows that such barbaric practices will not be tolerated in today’s society.


  1. The gamekeeper said it was for catching squirrels. So that would have made it okay? Squirrels are sentient mammals capable of feeling pain and fear. To be caught in a trap like that would have caused unimaginable pain and terror and just because some humans label squirrels as vermin, doesn’t mean we have a right to torture them. As a species we are a strange group. Protecting some animals over others. Not sure how we acquired the divine right to decide which animals we want to preserve against those who must die. Most animals and birds on the red lists are there because of mans interference with nature, not animal predators. The RSPB do a great job protecting birds, but how many foxes, squirrels etc equal one curlew? We are up in arms because a trap is set to catch birds. Other animals matter too, let’s not forget their suffering at the hands of the Bloodsports brigade

  2. Really how many foxes and squirrels killed equals a curlew? If it was up to people like you there wouldn’t be such a thing a curlew after all the foxes would have eaten them. You and the anti bloodsports brigade should stay living in the town and keep your nose out of countryside business. Most gamekeepers do a fantastic job for conservation of many rare species by keeping predator numbers down. You need to get your facts right.

    • I lived in the Swinton Parrish from 1995 -200. I was familiar with the local viallages and moors like the back of my hand as i do not drive. Firstly was the way the pheasant population was catered for. The biggest killer in the area is cars. This is because the game keepers cannot be bothered to go to the feed stations and dump the feed by the side of the roads. Most birds of birds (including rare species) have been shot as have weasels and stoats and even for some bizarre reason, herons. The fox population was so decimated by the game keepers the local hunt did not catch a fox for five years. They are also responsible for shooting domestic cats which is against the law despite it being written into your tenancy agreement that you are allowed to keep domestic cats. The result is the local rabbit population has exploded. One summer my young son and i cut through the local covert to visit the river. The nearly full grown pheasants were still packed into hutches crammed full traumatised and featherless. They were also starving. As we were feeding them handfulls of grain i noticed a strange phenomenon. It was a very hot dry day and the ground cover was sparse. I also realised, it was moving. There literally must have been thousands of rats just moving slowly through the cover towards the seed we were feeding. I have never seen so manyrats in my life, it was an epidemic. Dead and half rotten corpses of birds littered the ground, the ones alive were featherless and almost unable to move. We reported it to the estate and they, with a shrug said, yes well its always been a bit like that up there. Later poor draining and headge maintenance caused the 2000 flood into a river 3 feet deep to flow down our road. We couldnt leave the house, the children couldnt attend school. Good gamekeeping. Good land maintenance?

  3. Swinton estate during the 1990s shot so many birds of prey, weasles, stoats and other predators of pheasants, plus so many foxes that in three years the fox hunt did not catch one single fox. As a result the local rabbit population exploded. The estate was so mismanaged the grouse population simply disapeared. How do i know i lived there for five years and knew the local territory like the back of my hand. Incidentally, they also shot domestic cats which is illegal

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