PC Sharkey
PC Sharkey

An illegal snare set in a Highland estate failed to catch a wild animal but got a wildlife crime officer instead, a court has heard.

Constable Eric Sharkey said he was on Lochindorb Estate near Grantown-on-Spey investigating a complaint from the public when he got his foot caught in a snare.

The crime officer found 24 snares on the 9500-acre estate, spread between two locations, Inverness Sheriff Court heard yesterday.

Head keeper David Taylor, 64, and colleague Kevin Begg, 45, are on trial accused of setting illegal snares to catch mountain hares.

PC Sharkey said: “At the end of the day we were searching, I managed to get caught in one of the snares. I was watching planes fly overheard and carried on walking and went full length on to the ground.

“I had to free my boot from the snare because it had tightened so much.

“Generally gamekeepers set the snares and I believe the mountain hare was being targeted on this occasion because they were set on higher ground. The brown hare occupies lower territory.”

The snares are illegal because they are indiscriminate in the animals they catch.

The police officer told the court that Taylor told him during an interview: “Either I or Kevin had set the snares, for mountain hare.

“Following advice from our solicitors we believed we didn’t need a licence so long as we were not trying to eradicate or disrupt the population.”

He said around 200 snares had been set on the estate.

It is the first time such a case has been brought to a Scottish court under the Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations of 1994.

The trial before Sheriff Ian Abercrombie was adjourned until July