Wildlife and Animal Crime

Wildlife crime

This section provides overview of wildlife crime and advice on how to deal with it.

For further information, contact one of the Force wildlife officers:

Or visit the Partners Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) website (opens new window).

Endangered species and conservation

  • In the UK, legislation gives protection to wildlife and important habitats and sites.
  • Crimes against protected species include killing or taking them from the wild (eg birds of prey and plants), collecting their eggs or skins for personal collections, trading them and taxidermy offences. People destroying nests and breeding sites, bat roosts and other protected habitats can also be committing offences.
  • Members of the public can contact the police, Natural England (opens new window), or their local Wildlife Trust (opens new window) if they think an offence has been or is about to be committed.

Persecution of wildlife

  • Should anyone reporting an incident where an allegation of bat roost destruction or disturbance is made, these will be investigated by a wildlife crime officer in the first instance.
  • Some species have their own specific legislation such as deer and badgers and offences can be committed not only to the animal but also their habitats (badger setts).
  • Most hunts comply with the law but if a hunt pursues live animals, this should report this to the police.
  • It is an offence for a person to hunt with a dog unless exempt.
  • The exemptions are very closely defined. The Hunting Act 2004 makes it clear that a person will be hunting a wild mammal with a dog if he engages alone or participates with others in the pursuit of a wild mammal and a dog is employed in that pursuit, whether or not in their direct control.

Hare coursing

  • The Hunting Act 2004 made hare coursing illegal.
  • Hare coursing tends to start after harvest, around the end of August or start of September when large tracts of land are left without standing crops.
  • Coursing is more likely to take place at dawn or dusk.
  • The most obvious sign is a group of vehicles parked in a rural area, perhaps by a gateway to farmland, on a grass verge, on a farm track or bridle path.
  • There will usually be estate cars, four-wheel drives or vans. They may contain evidence of dogs inside, such as muddy paw prints and dog hair.
  • Hare coursers often travel in convoy with vans at the front and rear containing minders.

Poaching

Poaching (hunting or fishing) is illegal because:

  • The game or fish is not in season.
  • The poacher does not possess a license.
  • The hunter used an illegal weapon for that animal.
  • The animal or plant is on restricted land.
  • The right to hunt this animal is claimed by somebody.
  • The means used are illegal (eg baiting).
  • The animal or fish is protected by law or has been listed as an endangered animal.

Reporting a wildlife crime

When reporting a wildlife crime, consider these points:

  • Is the suspect alone or in a group?
  • Are they trespassing?
  • Do they have equipment with them?
  • Do they have dogs or firearms with them?
  • Where are they going?
  • Where have they been?
  • What do they look like?
  • Have they any vehicles?
  • What are the number plates and vehicle models?
  • Can you safely get a photograph?

Further information