Wildlife Crime

Wildlife Crime


What is wildlife crime?

Many species of wildlife are found in the UK and are specifically protected by law. In many cases, simply disturbing a nest or taking a wild plant is illegal. Even where a species is not protected cruelty and causing unnecessary suffering is against the law. We work closely with a number of other organisations to protect wildlife.

Advice and support

  • The full list of protected species is managed by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. It includes red squirrels, water voles, sand lizards, Natterjack toads and many flowers and plants. It is an offence to recklessly damage their habitat or shelter, even innocently. Always treat the natural surroundings with respect and caution.
  • All wild birds, even pigeons, are protected from persecution and taking the eggs of wild birds is always illegal. Trapping songbirds is also against the law.
  • Bats are specifically protected. They live mostly in trees and buildings, and it is a serious offence to disturb their habitat.
  • There are strict regulations covering the keeping of dangerous exotic animals as pets, and licences are required for many species including several native to the UK.
  • Hunting mammals with dogs is illegal except in special circumstances. The law protects all species, from rats and rabbits to badgers and foxes. We have the power to seize any dogs or vehicles that are being used in illegal hunting.
  • People caught poaching on private land can legally be arrested by the landowner or gamekeeper as well as by the police. Anyone poaching with a gun is likely to be met with a full armed police response unit, and the penalties will be severe.
  • Buying and selling endangered species is a direct and serious threat to the survival of animals and plants already threatened with extinction. Never buy an animal without checking that it has been legally acquired, and ensuring that you are capable of caring for it properly throughout its lifetime.
  • Never buy animals or plants as souvenirs, and be very wary of animal products. Items made of ivory, coral, reptile skin or similar products will be seized by Customs, and you could face an unlimited fine or imprisonment.
  • The use of traps, snares and poisons is strictly controlled. If you find a trap or poisoned bait that you think may be illegal, photograph it and tell us its location. If you believe it is a danger to non-target species, you may spring the trap to make it safe, but please remember that it's an offence to tamper with legally set traps.

How to report wildlife crime

If you have any information about wildlife crime, call us on 101.

If you see someone destroying a habitat, persecuting any wild animal or collecting eggs, or if you find a trap or poison that has been set dangerously or irresponsibly, dial 999.

Talk to Crimestoppers, a national charity, if you would prefer to remain anonymous. You can also report wildlife crime to the RSPCA.

Some useful information:

  • Bats are in serious decline in the UK. If you want to carry out any building or gardening work that might affect a bat colony, you must ask Natural England for advice, and follow the guidance they give you. Visit their website via the link in More Information.
  • There are strict regulations covering the keeping of dangerous exotic animals as pets, and licences are required for all big cats, many mammals, reptiles and insects. Licenses are only granted if inspectors are satisfied that the animal will be property and safely cared for. The full list can be found on Defra's website via the link in More Information.
  • As well as the general laws against poaching, there are additional laws specifically covering deer and fisheries.
  • People buying endangered animals or plants pay large sums of money to contribute to the annihilation of the very thing they claim to value. The trade is not limited to animals from abroad. Birds taken from the Scottish Highlands can command large prices. We, and the courts, take this trade very seriously. The RSPCA will be happy to provide detailed advice.
  • Never set a trap without seeking expert guidance and making sure that its legal.