POACHERS who set snares to catch deer in woods near Greenock could have killed a child, an inspector with the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals claimed yesterday.

Mr John Wilson, an inspector with the SSPCA, who is investigating the death of a farmer’s bullock which became caught in a wire trap, said: “This would have taken a kiddie’s head clean off.”

He said the bullock had caught its neck in a wire noose as it walked along a dirt track and, as it struggled, the animal lost its footing and slipped on the sloping embankment. The woods are near the Gibshill housing estate in Greenock.

“This illustrates completely why we want these snares banned altogether. I have seen horrors in the past where cats and dogs have been trapped in them but this latest incident is beyond belief. The bullock must have died a terrible death in very distressing circumstances.

“The snare was set about three to four feet off the ground, presumably for deer which are regularly seen in the area. But this whole hillside is used as a recreational spot for youngsters from the near-by housing scheme. We saw two young lads on a scrambling bike when we were up there. If they had run into this trap, or any others which might be out there, it would have decapitated them,” he said.

SSPCA officers hauled the animal’s carcass off the steep hillside using a four-wheel- drive vehicle and winching equipment. The animal would have been worth £600.

Constable Donald MacCuish, of Greenock police said the snare could have been set for “a long, long time” and that the bullock had been dead for a few days.

However, he added that he did not believe that children were in serious danger as the spot was very inaccessible and youngsters on scrambling bikes would have found it very difficult to reach.

He added that police had searched the woods thoroughly and were confident that no other snares had been left.