The Larsen trap is a cage made of wire mesh and a wooden or metal frame in which a live bird is used to lure in other birds (this works at the times of the year when corvids are territorial, between spring and autumn. The distressed prisoner in the Larsen will attract the resident birds who will land on top of the cage, which has a false floor that falls open, trapping them inside. They normally target magpies but sometimes crows or jays. The “call” bird – named because of its terrified squawks which call in the local birds to check out the interloper in their “patch” – is fated to watch as its fellow birds are killed in front of it by the gamekeepers. Even the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) guidelines suggest when the gamekeeper kills the captured birds, they do it out of sight of the trapped call bird. A clear admission that it is, at the very least, traumatic for the imprisoned watcher. Countless of the captured birds’ chicks will also be left to slowly starve by this horrendous contraption.
These are used as either standalone or alongside Larsens (fastened onto them sometimes) They can be used by a gamekeeper when corvids are wary of a normal Larsen trap and are also used to catch a call bird, seeing as no call bird is needed. The trap is activated when a bird perches on or walks into the wooden split-perch in the middle of the clam trap. They will easily catch any bird at all, including raptors.
Larsens were designed by and named after a Danish gamekeeper in the 1950s and have been used in Britain since the late 80’s. Interestingly, they are now banned in Denmark as being inhumane! Because they use captive wild birds -which is contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 – they have to be used under a general licence issued by Natural England.
Food, water, a suitable perch, and some protection from the elements on the cage are also required by law but in practice are frequently missing. Also, trapped birds are at floor level where predators can sniff and nose around the cage, especially at night. Imagine how terrifying this must be for these highly intelligent and sensitive birds.
More Illegality – Cut Wings And Missing Legs
It is illegal to cut the wings or otherwise mutilate the call birds, however, sadly but not surprisingly, Larsens are often found with birds in agony from these injuries inside. In May this year, East Coast Hunt Saboteurs discovered a Larsen with a magpie call bird inside who had half a leg missing. This poor bird was extremely lucky as it was rescued and taken to a rescue centre for treatment.
Shown below is a poor crow from June 2020 which was found with a cut wing in a Larsen on the notorious Moscar Estate in Derbyshire. This estate is owned by the 11th Duke and Duchess of Rutland who also own the Belvoir Hunt, based in Leicestershire.
Sometimes eggs or raw meat are used. (Raw meat will entice birds of prey too and other animals).
Walking In The Countryside
These cages are likely to be found around pheasant estates and the edges of grouse moors, but they can also be hidden in undergrowth – the noise of the trapped bird is enough for the trap to still work.
Remember if you discover one of these traps with birds inside that the call bird, normally on its own in the centre of the trap, is unlikely to be local and risks being attacked by other birds if just released. Also, call birds will often be weak and malnourished and if released will only flutter weakly to the nearest bit of cover (under the nearest bush, for example) where the gamekeeper will just scoop them up and retrap them.
If you believe the trap to have been illegally set it is better to take the call bird to a rescue centre where it can be kept safely till the breeding season is over. Birds that have been caught in the trap however will be local and won’t have been in there long, so it should be safe to release them and being intelligent birds, they are less likely to be caught again.
Contact your local sab or monitor group if you find one of these torture boxes – either on their Facebook or tip off phone or contact the Hunt Saboteurs Association directly on our tip off number – 07443148426.