Watering cans, swimming pools, hollow posts: “cavity traps”, a nightmare for small animals

You come across them in public spaces, when you hike, and there are probably some in your garden. The “trap cavities” are present throughout the territory, in the city as well as in the countryside. These vertical holes with smooth and slippery walls, whether high up or at ground level, unintentionally cause the death of countless small animals.

“The most telling example are telephone or electric poles, describes Étienne Colliat-Dangus, project manager within the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. When they are hollow and not plugged at the top, some birds enter to nest and unfortunately find themselves trapped inside. To, in most cases, die there of hunger, thirst or exhaustion.

All wildlife is concerned

The cavities located in height are especially victims among the cave-dwelling birds, which seek hollows to make their nest or to take shelter. Those located at ground level are more of a threat to insects and small mammals, amphibians and reptiles. But the problem of trap cavities arises for all animals, not just wild animals: “We can very well imagine cats falling into these cavities”, warns Étienne Colliat-Dangus.

On a different scale but following the same principle, livestock watering troughs, swimming pools, old washhouses and settling basins, when they do not have an escape system, condemn to drowning animals that have fallen while they were coming. to drink. In a report published in 2010, the General Council of Isère reports on this subject some sinister observations: “You can imagine the impact of such traps when you look at the innumerable claw marks on the perimeter of the 300 meters of a basin in edge of the water, and when we find rodents whose knuckles are planed by the desperate attempts to get out of this hell. » Anti-drowning kits, which function as exit ramps for fallen animals, can easily be bought or made. They are still little used.

There is currently no estimate of the number of animals killed each year in France by these unintentional traps. “Do we need more data? Of course, recognizes Anne-Laure Dugué, national head of wildlife meditation at the LPO. This would be useful, even if it were on the scale of a municipality or a certain type of site, for example sports facilities. »

Actions that save

The good news is that these traps are easy to spot and neutralize. “As soon as we understand that any cavity with vertical walls, whether high up or on the ground, can be dangerous if it is open at the top, then we can act alone,” encourages Anne-Laure Dugué. LPO France provides a solutions sheet on its website, summarizing the main types of trap cavities and the best ways to defuse them. Be careful, however, not to block the cavity when live animals are there, especially broods during the breeding season. That would be tantamount to condemning the cavity… and the animals with it.

If you spot a trap but you do not have access to it, the LPO recommends contacting the owner (individual, community or company), to inform him of the problem and propose a lasting solution. “I intervened several times with EDF and Storengy, says Anne-Laure Dugué. The LPO also organizes days in the field with local authorities, to raise awareness of the green spaces department or the architecture department. These technical services are required to work on buildings and supervise construction sites, but we know that construction sites are potentially places with many cavities. »

In support of these individual gestures and local mobilizations, a few regulatory victories have made it possible to prevent the formation of these cavities and other pitfalls. Since 2016, the law prohibits the installation of telephone poles and poles of hollow and unplugged avalanche and anti-slide nets. In 2008, the mobilization of several associations, including the Association for the Protection of Wild Animals (ASPAS) and the Hedgehog Sanctuary, led to the modification of the lids of McDonald’s ice cream tubs. The hedgehogs, attracted by the sweet smell of the remnants of ice cream at the bottom of the pot, rushed inside it, without being able to extract themselves.

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