A family’s happy outing to a National Trust stately home near Reading turned to outrage when their three-year-old son found a squirrel trap in the gardens.
Ana Legin, 36, her husband John and son Jim were visiting Basildon Park in Lower Basildon when they found the trap.
Mrs Legin said: “We were going for a walk in the grounds when my son Jim found it.
“We were very shocked because we were sure it must be illegal.
“It was inside a box and it was the kind of metal trap that springs shut and traps the animal by its leg.
“The kind that animals have been known to bite their own legs off to escape from.
“We put a stick in the trap to spring it so no animal could be hurt and went to report it.
“We were sure it must have been put there illegally by someone.”
Mrs Legin said when she reported it to staff they were at first shocked and told her it was not set by them.
However, a manager at Basildon Park then came out to explain to them it had been set by its warden “to catch squirrels or rabbits”.
Mrs Legin wrote to the National Trust head office describing what happened, saying: “As you can imagine we were absolutely disgusted.
“It is the most cruel and barbaric way to trap and kill an animal. This has definitely ruined our day out.
“We are current National Trust members. After this distressing and very unpleasant experience, we are seriously considering not to renew our membership.”
She went on: “If the National Trust needs to control wildlife on its grounds there are more humane ways to do it, rather than let poor animals endure a tortuous and very, very painful death.”
In response Lydia Murrell, community, learning and volunteering officer at Basildon Park, sent a letter apologising and explaining: “The trap was not a gin trap but a secured tunnel containing a Fenn trap which we believe is the most humane and effective means of controlling grey squirrels. We do not use gin traps or snares on our property.”
She went on: “As well as damaging young trees, bark stripping by grey squirrels can also induce decay into the branches of older trees raising the chance of these falling and increasing risk to visitors.
“If we don’t control the squirrel population, many of our future trees will not survive for future generations to enjoy.”
She said the traps were specifically designed to trap grey squirrels and not other animals.
Head of Forestry at the National Trust Ray Hawes said: “I know Basildon Park well and support what they are doing there.”
He explained the kind of damage a grey squirrel could do in stripping bark caused untold damage to parkland trees like those at Basildon Park – even trees more than 20 years old.
“The sort of damage that might be tolerated in woodland causes much more harm with specimen trees in parks and gardens, ” he said.
And he likened the “bark stripping habit” to teenage boys committing vandalism and said it was not clear why the squirrels did it.
He added the damage was much greater now their numbers were increasing.
Source : GetReading