'Stink pits' filled with rotting carcasses blamed for decline in Sheffield's mountain hares

A stink pit reportedly found on the Moscar estate in Sheffield (pic: Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust)
A stink pit reportedly found on the Moscar estate in Sheffield (pic: Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust)
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Rotting piles of animal carcasses known as 'stink pits' have been blamed for a dramatic decline in mountain hares in the countryside around Sheffield.

Thousands of people have backed a petition to ban the practice, used by gamekeepers to trap creatures preying on grouse and other game.

A stink pit reportedly found in the Strines area of Sheffield (pic: Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust)

A stink pit reportedly found in the Strines area of Sheffield (pic: Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust)

The holes are filled with the remains of discarded game birds and other animals to lure foxes and other predators to areas where snares have been laid.

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Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust says the traps are indiscriminate, killing many unintended victims including mountain hares and badgers.

It believes the pits - which have been spotted on the Moscar estate, near Wyming Brook, and at Strines, near Bradfield - are linked to a sharp drop in the population of mountain hares on moors around Sheffield.

The practice is legal but a petition launched by the trust to get it banned has been signed more than 3,000 times, with people condemning the pits as 'horrific and inhumane'.

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Ian Cracknell, the charity's advocacy officer, said: "This is legal but it's bad practice according to Defra's (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) code of practice and the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC), whose 'quality over quantity' guidance regarding trapping predators isn't being followed here.

"They're trying to get predators but there's an immense amount of snares and we've seen mountain hares and other birds and wildlife trapped there.

"We're particularly concerned about the impact on mountain hares, which is a very appreciated animal only found in the Peak District and Scotland, after recent surveys have shown a significant decline in sightings.

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"We're delighted by the response to the petition so far, which shows the strength of public feeling."

The petition, which the trust plans to present to environment secretary Michael Gove, is at you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/ban-the-use-of-stink-pits-in-england.

It is part of a wider drive by the charity to protect the Sheffield moors, which it says support important wildlife but are under threat due to what it describes as 'increasingly intensive moorland management' for grouse shooting.

The Star has contacted the Duke and Duchess of Rutland, who own the Moscar estate, and the BASC.