A gruesome discovery of traps containing the corpses of a fox and a pet cat in Stroud, Gloucester has revealed the illegal practice of setting snares.

Animal-lovers have been angered by incidents where traps were set and not checked in Penn Woods, near Selsley Common. Badger expert Tony Dean, who hopes to inspect the snares to establish what type of trap they are, said a number of snares had been found in the last few months.

It is legal to set free-running snares, which loosen as an animal relaxes, but self-locking snares that do not loosen are illegal.

However, whichever snare is being used in the woods, the process in place is illegal because the traps are not being checked regularly.

“Whether they are after foxes or badgers, it is illegal to set snares that are not regularly checked,” said Mr Dean.

“A fox and cat were both found in traps in the woods and they were in a decomposed state.

“People can set certain snares. You can set free-running snares if they are checked daily, but these clearly haven’t been checked regularly for the animals to decompose.

“Someone is setting these snares, possibly for badgers or rabbits, but we don’t really know what they’ve been set for. But they need to check them.”

He also said that the nature of the traps meant that any animal could be caught.

“It could be any animal in the woods,” he said.

“It could be a someone’s prized poodle or, as in this case, a well-loved pet cat.”

Jeremy Evans, from the Woodland Trust which is responsible for the wood, said that the organisation did not condone the use of snares.

“First and foremost, we don’t use snares or wires in woods that we control,” he said.

“They’re not good for the animals in any circumstances and this is awful news that someone has lost a cat.

“It’s obviously someone unbeknown to us who has laid the snares and I will investigate and see if we can get to the bottom of this.”

Mr Evans plans to inform other landowners in the area of the problem.

“We do control other woods in the area and will be notifying other landowners,” he said.

“The woods are open to the public and 99% of people simply like to visit the woods. I just hope that this is just an old remnant of a snare.”

An RSPCA spokeswoman also condemned the use of snares.

“We are opposed to the manufacture, sale and use of all snares and any trap which causes suffering,” she said.

“The RSPCA believes it is time the use of all snares was prohibited in the UK, which is one of a minority of European countries which still permits their use.”

Anyone with information about who may be responsible for putting down snares should contact the RSPCA National Cruelty and Advice Line on 0300 1234 999.