A MORAY gamekeeper has been fined a total of £1,500 after being convicted of setting illegal snares in a manner likely to cause animals unnecessary suffering.

Brian Petrie, 66, of Woodhead, Dunphail, near Forres, appeared at Elgin Sheriff Court today when he pled guilty to three charges including setting snares likely to cause unnecessary suffering by partially or wholly suspending animals, and failing to release or remove an animal from a snare, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

His appearance in court followed a lengthy investigation by the Scottish SPCA.

An SSPCA spokeswoman explained: “Inspectors from the Scottish SPCA’s Special Investigations Unit found a badger and several foxes dead in Petrie’s snares which had been set around a number of middens constructed of trees and baited with animal carcasses.”

Mike Flynn, the charity’s Chief Superintendent, said: “Petrie is a gamekeeper with over 50 years experience and he had sat his snaring course one year prior to the offences taking place.

“As he was well aware of the regulations regarding snaring it is our opinion that his intention was to capture, cause serious injury and kill animals.”

Mr Flynn continued: “The snares were set in an area inhabited by sensitive native species such as the Scottish wildcat, pine marten, deer, otter and badger so there was a high risk of this type of animal being caught, maimed and killed and indeed one badger was found dead at the scene.

“This case highlights, yet again, that snaring is cruel, indiscriminate and unnecessary and the only way to stop animals from suffering in snares is an outright ban.”

The leading animal welfare charity launched a renewed call for an outright ban on snares last month after a cat, trapped in an illegal snare, suffered a “prolonged and horrendous” death.The body of the male tabby cat was found trapped by the neck in the snare in the Buckie area of Moray.

At the beginning of April the Scottish Government brought in strict new regulation governing the use of snares in Scotland’s countryside. All legal snares now set in Scotland must carry a tag giving a unique identification number that identifies the operator to the police. And only those accredited to have completed a proper training course will be allowed to use snares.