The squirrel-killing Minister for Wildlife, Owen Paterson shows his photo proudly holding dead greys hanging from traps - and then boasts: 'They won't get out of that'
- Tory colleagues have been shocked to see him showing off the photo
- He is thought to have installed a number of the traps in his grounds
As Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson has already upset animal rights activists with his strong support for a badger cull to halt the spread of TB to cattle.
Now the Tory MP – whose role includes responsibility for wildlife – is set to provoke controversy after being photographed proudly holding specialist traps containing the bodies of dead grey squirrels that were damaging trees on his estate in Shropshire.
Tory colleagues who have visited the Cabinet Minister’s mansion near Shrewsbury have been shocked to see him showing off a photograph of himself holding a squirrel trap in each hand.
Controversy: Owen Paterson has been photographed holding specialist traps containing the bodies of dead grey squirrels
The dead animals’ heads are inside the devices, while their bodies and bushy tails hang limply below.
‘I’m not sure what was more shocking – the dead squirrels or the smile on Owen’s face,’ said one Conservative who has seen the picture.
‘If the animal rights mob saw it they would have a fit. Owen insisted that we look at the photo and then he said, “Look at this – these traps are the real deal. No squirrel is going to get out of that.”
‘Everyone laughed but I felt embarrassed. Owen said the squirrels had inflicted terrible damage to his trees.’
Right-winger Paterson, 56, who is married to aristocrat’s daughter Rose Ridley and has been tipped as a future Tory Party leader, is thought to have installed a number of the Kania 2000 traps in the grounds of his home.
They cost about £60 each and are, according to the manufacturers, ‘by far the most powerful spring trap available in the UK’. They can be attached to trees, placed in lofts or left on the ground.
The makers recommend using peanuts or peanut butter as bait to lure the squirrels inside. The animals are then crushed in an instant.
Lethal: The Kania 2000 traps, pictured in action, are described as 'by far the most powerful spring trap available in the UK'
There is no suggestion that Mr Paterson has done anything illegal.
Unlike the endangered red squirrel – which is extinct in most parts of the UK – grey squirrels are officially classed as vermin.
They are known to damage trees and gardens, and also roofs as they try to gain access to attics.
The Kania 2000 was originally developed in Canada for the fur trade. It was made legal in the UK in 1993 for use against grey squirrels, mink, stoats, weasels, mice and rats.
Vermin: Grey squirrels are officially classed as vermin and cause damage to trees and gardens
Kania’s UK website says it is ‘one of the safest and most humane traps in the world – perfect for the grey squirrel.
Although a little on the expensive side it is well worth having a few in the armoury.
‘It is suitable for people wanting to trap squirrels in their gardens but do not want to have to dispatch the squirrel themselves.’
The website advises: ‘For the best results pre-bait for up to a week before actually setting the trap.
'This gets all the local squirrels used to eating at the trap and they lose all fear of it, even if they see another of their kind dead in it.’
Kania’s Canadian website also features an article by a farmer in California who describes how installing the traps stopped squirrels destroying his fruit crop.
The man, who insisted on remaining anonymous because he is ‘not sure this method of trapping is legal’, says: ‘Folks, the Kania trap works as advertised. Period. I have been plagued by “fuzzy tails” for years. Then the Gardener’s God of the Backyard smiled upon me.
'I spotted an advert for the Kania 2000. Since then I have sent about 70 fuzzy tails to that great walnut tree in the sky. It is humane and efficient – I’ve never had a miss.’
A spokesman for Mr Paterson said: ‘Programmes for the humane control of grey squirrels have been in place in the UK for more than 40 years. These programmes protect our woodland and wildlife.’