Hunt uses eagle owl in bid to cull foxes

THE Suffolk Hunt has enlisted the services of an eagle owl in its bid to continue culling the fox population.Master of the foxhounds James Aldous confirmed that a Eurasian eagle owl is currently being trained to kill foxes after they have been flushed from cover by hounds.

THE Suffolk Hunt has enlisted the services of an eagle owl in its bid to continue culling the fox population.

Master of the foxhounds James Aldous confirmed that a Eurasian eagle owl is currently being trained to kill foxes after they have been flushed from cover by hounds.

He said: “There are lots of hunts up and down the country using eagle owls, these are no ordinary owls, they are huge beasts, easily able to despatch a fox.

“It is not an ideal situation, but it is one way we can work within the hunting laws to continue a centuries old tradition, which we feel it is our right to do.”


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Despite opposition from the League Against Cruel Sports(LACS), the employment of owls in a hunting capacity is within the law, according to a Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) spokeswoman.

She said: “Flushing a wild mammal from cover is exempt hunting if undertaken for the purpose of enabling a bird of prey to hunt an animal.”

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The spokeswoman said the hunting law prevented the use of dogs to hunt prey but if they were not actively pursuing the prey, and instead being used to drive it from cover whereupon a bird of prey hunted it down, that was perfectly legal.

A LACS spokeswoman agreed there was no breach of the ban, but said if the hounds were not called off, having flushed the prey, an illegal act would have taken place.

Mr Aldous said the Suffolk's owl, which has been with the hunt since October, was undergoing a period of training, and was looked after by a special handler, rather than an ordinary hunt member.

He said the bird, named Maggie, and the hounds were comfortable in each others' presence, and although it had not yet killed any foxes it was out with the hunt at Whepstead last Saturday as part of its training.

It is estimated there are more than 20 owls used by hunts around the country in the first season since the ban was imposed.

The Eurasian eagle owl is one of the largest birds of prey, common in northern Europe and Scandinavia, and is capable of preying on mammals as large as small deer.

benedict.o'connor@eadt.co.uk

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