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Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe  
© 2007

The Release

The spell of good weather that heralded the start of February continues and I take a short trip out to research an essay about the Bannockburn. Having unlocked the puzzle of its source I set off back through the heather.

Just ahead in a tiny clearing I saw a white shape, a hare crouching on the ground resplendent in his winter coat. I crept closer to take a picture and got within a few yards of him when a thought struck me – why is he not bolting? The answer came quickly as he began to take flight but was soon halted by the noose round his neck. The piercing scream cut straight to my heart as I realised that he was in a snare.

Photography was abandoned as I worked out what to do – he ran round in circles as the wire tightened emitting more yells of pain. I just couldn’t catch him. We both stood still for a moment then I grabbed the wire at its stake and worked my way out to the struggling animal – the closer I got the more he pulled and hurt himself but eventually I was able to press down gently on his back and calm him.

His heart was racing as his eye made contact with mine. A few words seemed necessary but pointless. I slowly followed the cruel noose and found its slip joint. It eased immediately and I was pleased to see that there was no laceration of his neck. The loop opened wider and wider until it was big enough for his whole body to get through.

Arctic Hare

He was away and quickly too. Clearly he was relatively unaffected by his experience as he gracefully bounded across the heather into oblivion. His body was by no means thin so I concluded that he not been trapped long. The area was well used to captives as the circular clearing in the heather revealed. I tried to pull the stake but it was deeply frozen into the ground so I did my best to tie it up and prevent it from repeating its murderous action. I was quite upset and walked away without photographing either the victim or the trap.

Why do this thing to such a beautiful creature? I am sure that no-one nowadays needs to capture food that way – if so I apologise for depriving you of your supper. To die screaming in a wire noose is no way for an animal to perish, I hope he lives on after his ordeal.

© Keith Ratcliffe

February 2007

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