AIHTS – Stoat Trapping in the UK

20th July 2018

UPDATE: DEFRA have now published the results of their consultation on AIHTS which can be read HERE

The Headlines are:
“The government will implement AIHTS as soon as possible in 2019 but include a transitional provision for stoat trapping which delays implementation for stoat by a year. The government has listened to the concerns of trap manufacturers and users and allowed a period of time to change to new equipment.”

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AIHTS is an International agreement, which the UK has signed up to, and which has a target implementation date of July 2016.  It came about originally through restrictions placed on EU imports of fur from the USA, Canada and Russia. The agreement lists 19 fur bearing species and has specific timed ‘unconsciousness and insensibility’ tests which a trap must meet in order to comply with the standard. All this would have little impact on vermin control in the UK, if it wasn’t for the stoat. In the fur industry the stoat is trapped for its pelt, as ‘ermine’ rather than as ‘vermin’, which means it has found its way onto the AIHTS list. As a result any trap which is still approved for stoat in the UK by the AIHTS implementation date must meet the AIHTS tests.

DEFRA have a tough task ahead to comply with the legislation, while protecting the existing investment in traps in the UK and retaining cost effective methods for controlling vermin. They have already been widely consulting with the gamekeeping and pest industry on the impact of different options.

Likely impact on current Traps
Most of our traditional vermin traps, like the FENN style and even the bodygrips have already failed the new stoat test.  It is expected that in ENGLAND where a trap does fall short of the new AIHTS standard on stoat, DEFRA will simply remove the stoat from the species list for that trap.   This would mean that traps like the FENN, BMI Magnum and even old traps like the IMBRA would still be legal to use for other species. There is also some discussion about exactly when AIHTS might come into force in ENGLAND.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have devolved responsibility for trap approval and may not all follow the same route. It has been suggested that Wales and Scotland at least will be looking for July 2016 compliance and may take a different view on legacy traps.

What is the test ?
The details of the AIHTS standards can be found here and they cover a range of species. Almost all are either not native to the UK or have no spring trap approved for use on them anyway. The test for kill traps is that an animal must be ‘dead’ within a certain time limit. This is defined as ‘loss of corneal and palpebral reflexes’ and the time for stoats is 45 seconds.
The default time for any unlisted species is 300 seconds and DEFRA are now testing all new traps against that standard as a minimum.

Future Traps
The challenge to find a complaint all purpose stoat and vermin trap remains. The only traps on the ENGLAND STAO which are AIHTS compliant for stoat are the DOC traps and the GoodNature trap – all from New Zealand. These are very powerful traps designed specifically for stoats which meet the humane standard. While these traps clearly have benefits they are also very expensive compared to traditional spring traps, a serious issues when running a trap line of over 100 traps.

One thing which is certain though is that we will see more and more traps approved for use in the UK on the basis of what I call ‘borrowed testing’. If another country has tested a trap and found it compliant with the AIHTS standard there is an argument that UK testing would be reduced.

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