PAG and Otter Trapping Licences


The granting of a Class Licence by Natural England to UKWOT to allow the humane trapping of otters within a fenced fishery, and release immediately outside that fishery, is seen as a breakthrough, principally because trapping is currently expressly forbidden under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. As the provisions of the granting of the licence aren’t immediately clear on first reading of the lengthy Natural England directive we are clarifying some of the more confusing, and less obvious, aspects. In his appended step-by-step guide Mark Walsingham has spelt out the steps to be taken to become a trained trapper, or to call one out if you don’t have a trained one attached to your fishery. At the time of writing there are of the order of 30 people waiting for trapping training, which is likely to increase rapidly on the back of this publicity. If you wish to become trained apply to Natural England, as directed by Mark. For the reasons we explain here such training is in your interests if you have a suitably fenced fishery, or fisheries, and otter predation is considered to be a threat.
There are some natural reservations being expressed about the Natural England Class Licence:


1) The narrowness of its scope.
2) The time scales involved in the trapping.
3) The time scale involved in any possible ongoing procedure if trapping fails within a reasonable period.
4) The admitted difficulty of trapping otters.
5) Cost of training.
6) Cost of call-outs.


Narrowness of Scope: the licence only applies to suitably fenced fisheries where financial loss would result from otter predation. ‘Financial loss’ may be a given, in the light of the value of carp, or it may have to be ‘significant’, as would be the case with some fisheries dependent on a couple of large carp being the main attraction for syndicate membership, or day ticket purchase. (The NGO ruling, which was a possible trigger for the negotiations leading to the issuing of this licence, was based on a threatened livelihood, not just financial loss. The important precedent it set was that public opinion could not be taken into account in applying the law.)
The time scales: The presence of an otter within a fenced fishery may not be immediately obvious. Natural England require five days’ notice of any intended trapping activity. Otters are said to be difficult creatures to trap. Even if the presence of the otter is detected quickly there is still likely to be a week’s delay in the start of trapping activity. Those who are familiar with the ways of otters tell us that they like to eat from fresh kill, and can even kill beyond their nutritional needs. A week of an otter within a fenced fishery may be very damaging to the livelihood of some fishery owners.
The time scale involved in any possible ongoing procedure if trapping fails: Trapping otters is said to be difficult, and currently untested in the envisaged scenario. The ‘failed trapping’ period is currently undefined, but represents at least a week at the start of the procedure. If you can’t trap it you have to kill it, either under the terms of another licence issued by Natural England, or at the discretion of an ‘authorised person’ under the existing provisions of the Wildlife & Countryside Act, 1981. The ‘authorised person’ proviso isn’t entirely clear, and may need testing at some point. The issuing of another licence would see a further delay in coping with the ongoing predation of the fishery. The NE directive does not appear to mention any time scale for the intended trapping period prior to further measures being taken.
The Natural England Directive includes this warning: ‘If the activity that you wish to undertake is not covered by this licence, or if you are unable to comply with any of the terms and conditions which apply to the use of this licence, then you will need to apply to Natural England for an individual licence.’
Cost of training: The training of a trapper will cost of the order of £400, plus travel and an overnight stay, although this may be significantly reduced if an UKWOT’s proposal for a training scheme is accepted by Natural England. Both the Predation Action Group and Embryo have offered to fund the training of suitable applicants to be trained as approved trappers. At present it isn’t known when the next training course will take place. There are currently six trained trappers covering the country whose details you can obtain from Natural England.
Cost of call-outs: The fee for a call-out, if you don’t have your own trapper, may be as high as £500 per day, plus travel expenses, and possibly plus subsistence. An untrained assistant can monitor the trap once it has been put in place by a trained operative, but if the trapping is successful the trapper would have to carry out the release of the otter outside the fishery fence. It would also be necessary to purchase the necessary traps to protect your fishery. 
For clarification a Class Licence means that trained trappers can trap without application, subject to the ‘at least five days’ notification required by Natural England. If your club or federation controls a number of waters it is clearly within your interests to have your own trapper trained. Natural England would then only require notification of a trapping procedure about to be initiated, not an application in each instance. We have compiled this summary, and appended the Bullet Point Procedure, to make the provisions of the lengthy Natural England directive re the Class Licence, which runs to 11 pages on the Natural England internet site, absolutely clear. It is in your interests to study the rules and understand them. We are moving into a peak time of year for still-water predation by cormorants and otters. It is also in your interests to have a suitable fence round your fisheries, and your own trained, approved operative to hand should the fence be breached by an otter.

Tim Paisley, Chairman, on behalf of the Predation Action Group.


Simplified Step-by-Step Process for the Trapping of Otters Under Class License WML – CL36

Pre-requisites for fishery owner/manager: • Ensure the fishery is appropriately fenced to the approved standard (see WML – CL36 Annex C) • Ensure evidence is available to confirm the fishery contains value stock that would result in financial loss if predated upon by otters. • Apply to Natural England (NE) for the necessary training and subsequent approval/registration under Class License WML – CL36 Otters: Live Capture and Transport 




for contact details of one of the current registered persons (under WML – CL36).


Contact details for Natural England 
For licensing enquiries: Telephone 020 802 61089
Postal address: Technical Services, Wildlife Licensing, Natural England, First Floor, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol, BS1 6DG


For other enquiries use the Enquiry Service: 
Telephone: 0300 060 3900 
Web: Natural England Contact


• Ensure landowners permission has been obtained for any trapping associated activity. Step-by-Step Otter Trapping/Release Process for Registered Persons Under Class License WML – CL36: 1. Ensure other legal and practical means of removing of otters from the fishery have been considered and have either failed or proved to be impractical prior to notification of intent to trap
2. Notify NE by e-mail using form found at WML – CL36 Annex D at least 5 days prior to any action taking place and forwarding to the e-mail address of the appropriate NE Area Team (see WML – CL36 Annex B).
3. Confirm appropriate landowner permissions have been obtained.
4. Inspect the fishery fencing prior to any trapping action. Ensure identification and rectification of any damage/breaches. 
5. Ensure traps are of the approved standard (see WML – CL36 Information and Advice).
6. Ensure all traps are set at locations above normal flood plain and in accordance to the license conditions and recommendations.
7. Once set, ensure traps are inspected at least twice in any 24hr period in accordance to the license conditions and recommendations. [Note: Traps may be visually checked by an un-registered person who may report the outcome to the registered trapper. It is only the registered trapper who may set or handle the trap and any animal caught within it]. 
8. Any trapped otter to be released at the earliest opportunity, outside of the fishery fencing, near the fishery and close to a body of water. 
9. Once trapping activity has completed, a “Report of action taken under license” (report form WML-LR-CL36) needs to be completed and sent to NE within 14 days.