Types of snares and their legality


A free-running snare is a wire loop which loosens when the animal stops struggling. LEGAL (Depending on the position in which it is set and the animal it is intended for)

A self-locking snare is a wire loop which is tightened in a ratchet like movement as the animal continues to struggle. ILLEGAL

A drag snare is a snare attached to a log/lump of metal (drag-pole) and not anchored to the ground. UNDEFINED (Could be both legal and illegal depending on the position in which it is set and the animal it is intended for)

An AB snare is neither fully free-running nor totally self-locking. Opinions are divided regarding its legal categorisation. BOTH LEGAL AND ILLEGAL (The new model is legal, the old model is now prohibited. They are extremely difficult to tell apart)

A dual purpose snare can be used as either a self-locking or free-running snare depending upon how the wire is threaded through the end. BOTH LEGAL AND ILLEGAL (Depending on how it is set)


The use of self-locking snares is prohibited under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Snares must be positioned to catch the target animal only and are prohibited to catch certain specified animals including badgers, wild cats, hedgehogs, pine martens, otters and red squirrels. Snares must not be set in a manner calculated to cause bodily injury. Snares which are positioned so that the animal is likely to become suspended or drown are prohibited by both the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996.
Drag snares are contrary to DEFRAs code of practice as the snare cannot be checked every 24 hours. They may also be deemed as “calculated to cause bodily injury to any wild mammal” under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The Deer Act of 1991 makes it an offence to set in position any trap or snare for the purpose of killing or taking any deer.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to knowingly permit the setting and use of self-locking snares.

What to do if you find an animal in a snare


If you find a live animal in a snare –   Do Not Release It! Even if there are no visible injuries the flesh may start to break down several days later in a process called pressure necrosis. Any animal caught in a snare must be observed for at least seven days before being re-released. 

The first thing to do if you find a live animal in a snare is to call for assistance from a wildlife rescue centre. The next step, this applies to both live and dead animals, is to try and photograph the animal without causing further distress. If the snare is illegal or has caused injury to the animal, photographic evidence may help secure a prosecution.

If possible, without bringing danger upon yourself or the animal in the snare, try and cover the head of the animal with a towel or jumper. This should help to calm it down and stop it from thrashing around.


What to do if you find an empty snare


If you come across a legal snare on private property there is not very much that can be done. Snaring is, unfortunately, legal in the UK. If you tamper with it you may be committing an offence. If you are unsure whether or not it is legal then take a photograph of it and mark down the exact location for future reference.

If you find an illegal snare you can close the snare by placing a stick inside the wire loop and pulling it tight. Again, make sure you photograph it and mark down the exact location.


To report an illegal snare you can either contact your local Wildlife Crime Officer or inform SnareWatch who may contact the authorities on your behalf.


Setting a snare on land without the owners permission may be an offence depending on the circumstances. If you find a snare on your land contact the Wildlife Crime Officer for your area.