Sardinia: Snares for thrushes and robins
The forests in the south of the Italian Mediterranean island of Sardinia are crammed full of nets and horsehair snares to catch birds in winter. The strawberry tree, a Mediterranean shrub, is fertile during this period and provides plenty of food for wintering thrushes and other songbirds.
Horsehair snares are made from the horse-tail hair and placed next to fresh rowan berries in bushes or on the ground. If a bird attempts to take the bait, the noose falls around its neck and the frightened bird tries to fly away. The noose is tightened and the bird is strangled. The species which are most commonly affected are thrushes such as blackbirds, song thrushes and redwing; many tits, robins and warblers also die in the brutal traps. Nets are mainly set up on mountain ridges to catch thrushes. In reed areas of the plains, nets are used to catch starlings who come to roost overnight.
Unlike in many other parts of Italy, bird-trapping in Sardinia is mainly a organised business of poacher gangs and not a simple pastime. Caught birds are sold on the black market to private buyers or to butchers and restaurants. The perpetrators are persistent and know the confusing forest terrain like the back of their hand. Once we have found and cleared a catch, it is usually relocated, which means a new search every year.
The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and our partner associations have conducted annual bird protection camps on Sardinia since 1995. With success: While in the first years we typically collected more than 10,000 snares (in 2004 we had a "record" of 22,130); whereas nowadays it is rarely more than 500 during one operation! The use of nets, on the other hand, remains a major problem.
The use of wire snares to catch mammals is relatively widespread in Europe. Set up over a "game crossing", the animals get into the loop with their heads and slowly strangle themselves. In Sardinia, these particularly brutal traps are mainly used to catch wild boar and Sardinian deer (a subspecies of the red deer).