AN ancient tradition caused consternation amongst nature lovers, confronted by the sight of two fox pelts hung up at Barlow Common.

The pelts had been strung up on a gibbet line. The old gamekeeper’s technique has two aims – to keep other vermin away from the area and its livestock, whilst also pointing out to the landowner the gamekeeper is doing his or her job.

However Ann Clates, of Selby Badger Watch, who found the corpses and reported the incident to the police and RSPCA as she believed that the foxes may have been killed illegally, feels their open display is insensitive.

“I do think it was upsetting especially as they were hung so near the Common’s scout camp. The youngsters could easily have come across them, which would have been quite distressing.

“I have heard from the police, who thought at first the animals might have been shot but it turns out they were caught with a running snare.

“In understand that a local landowner has been having trouble with his hens and chickens being attacked by foxes which is why they chose to kill them and use the gibbet line.

Though what the landowner has done is quite legal, it was rather insensitive and they’ve promised not to use a gibbet line again.”

North Yorkshire Police wildlife crime officer Sarah Ward confirmed: “I have spoken to the person who has hung the foxes up.

“They have a small holding with lots of ducks, geese, turkeys, hens etc and are having problems with foxes taking birds.

“The dead foxes have been killed by snaring, he has used a free running snare and so has not committed any offence in killing the foxes.

“Hanging the foxes up on trees is known as a gibbet line and it is an old fashioned thing that gamekeepers used to do to show the lord of the manor how good they were at vermin control.

“It is not an offence to have a gibbet line.

“I have explained that some people are offended by the gibbet line and they have agreed to take the foxes down and not put any more up.”