Using a Crow and Magpie Larsen Trap
Larsen traps are an efficient way of controlling crows and magpies, but every user should be aware of the various laws which apply to their operation. Legislation surrounding Larsen traps was not passed with the intention of “catching you out”, and if you follow some simple guidelines, you will be able to operate the traps efficiently, legally and humanely.
With the exception of ravens, all members of the crow family can be killed under a General Licence which allows landowners or people authorised by landowners to protect their livestock and crops, as well as to conserve vulnerable wild bird species.
Updated General Licences are issued every year for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and minute variations spring up now and again between their issue. Care of call birds falls largely under the Animal Welfare Act (2006), and although this is a commonsense piece of legislation for anyone with an interest in wildlife and animals, it may be a good idea to familiarise yourself with its contents. The whole text can be found on the HMSO website.
You do not need to apply for a General Licence, but it is a good idea to keep an eye on the current Licence for your home country, so that when changes come in, you are up to speed and do not risk getting it wrong. This guide was written in 2011, but legislation in Scotland, England and Wales changes on the 1st of January every year, and on the 11th September in Northern Ireland.
Solway Feeders sells a variety of different Larsen traps, and the dimensions of these cages conforms to basic guidelines to ensure that call birds and trapped birds have sufficient space to move around and make themselves comfortable. It is worth remembering that the larger the call bird’s containment area is, the more likely it is to move around and be spotted by other target birds.
It is a legal requirement that all traps should have a solid panel above the call bird compartment to provide shelter from the prevailing wind and rain, and these are built in to our traps. The importance of these panels should not be forgotten when building homemade Larsen traps.
Call birds should also be provided with a perch, which should protect their feet from irritation and discomfort.
DIY traps can be extremely effective, and we supply Springs for anyone who wants to experiment with their own designs. The GWCT have published helpful plans for the home construction of Larsen traps, and any variation in design should be at least as large as what they state to be minimum dimensions.
All call birds must have their food and water topped up at least once every twenty four hours and any birds caught in the catch compartments should be despatched quickly and humanely. Ideally, this should be done after dark, since walking or driving directly over to check your Larsen trap during the day will soon arouse suspicion amongst local birds.
Crows are astonishingly observant creatures, and you should not make the mistake of assuming that, since you cannot see them, they cannot see you. A little careful planning should mean that you can operate your traps effectively without ever approaching them during daylight.
Two different types of larsen are currently for sale on this site, the Multi Larsen, which is a side entry trap, and the Solway Larsen, which is a top entry. The two traps use different mechanisms to catch crows, and it may be that side entry traps are more effective at catching crows in open areas, where there are no trees or fences nearby. By comparison, the top-entry traps appear to work best in open woods and in areas where wild birds will approach from above.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, any member of the crow family can be used in a Larsen trap, but Scottish Larsen traps may only contain carrion crows, hooded crows or magpies. Scottish traps must also be registered with the local police constabulary and display a registration number on the outside of the trap.
When not in use, all traps must be rendered incapable of catching birds. Top entry traps should be turned upside down, and side entry traps should be stored indoors.
Aside from your legal and ethical responsibility to provide good care to your call bird, you should remember that they will work best when they are fit and healthy, and the presence of ample quantities of food and water will bring about terrific pangs of jealousy from local crows. You should also be aware that the sight of a dead or ailing call bird in a cage can be very damaging to the reputation of these important traps, and you have a responsibility to preserve their use by operating your Larsen trap responsibly.