Recognise – what is a wildlife crime

What is a Wildlife Crime



Become ‘eyes in the field’! We can all learn to recognise a wildlife crime – it’s the first step towards prosecuting the criminals that attack and harm our wildlife..

With around 150 laws designed to protect wildlife in the UK alone, recognising a wildlife crime is more complex than it sounds. The temptation (and we know because we’ve been in the same position ourselves) is often just to walk away feeling frustrated and uncertain.

If we see any of the events or actions listed below, the chances are that we’re witnessing a wildlife crime or have found a wildlife crime scene. Remember, if we see something that doesn’t feel ‘right’, it probably isn’t!



What is a wildlife crime?

green tickWildlife crime is any action which contravenes current legislation governing the protection of wild animals and plants. In the UK this includes:

  • Killing/injuring/taking wild birds (for more see Birds)
  • Persecuting or harming ANY species of Bird of Prey – through poisoning, trapping, shooting, or the disturbance of any nest and/or theft of any chicks
  • Taking/possessing/destroying/trading wild birds eggs (for more see Nests and Eggs)
  • Intentionally or recklessly disturb any nesting Schedule 1 bird (for more see Photographing nesting Schedule 1 birds)
  • Damaging, destroying or otherwise interfering with any nest while it is in use or being built. In Scotland it is also an offence to obstruct or prevent any wild bird from using its nest (for more see Nests and Eggs)
  • Illegal trapping/snaring of wild animals (for more see Pole Traps, Live-catch Traps and Snares)
  • Hunting any mammal (with the exception of rabbits and rodents) with more than two dogs where the intent is for the dogs to catch the animal rather than flush/drive it towards persons so that it can be shot
  • Hare Coursing – chasing and/or killing hares with dogs. In Scotland it is also an offence to search for a hare to hunt, to attempt to hunt it or to possess items (including dogs) in circumstances where the items can be used for the purpose of hunting (for more see Hare Coursing)
  • Badger persecution – including baiting/snaring/shooting, and disturbance of setts (for more see Badgers)
  • Killing/injuring/taking/disturbing ANY species of wild bat or damaging or destroying a roost whether the roost is occupied or not (for more see Bats)
  • Freshwater Pearl Mussel poaching (Margaritifera margaritifera). This species is fully protected and it is an offence even to lift one off a river bed. (see Freshwater Pearl Mussels)
  • Disturbing or harrassing cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises, whales)
  • Intentionally or recklessly uproot wild plants without the landowner’s permission. It is also an offence intentionally or recklessly to pick, uproot or destroy any wild plant on Schedule 8. It is offence to sell, trade in or offer to sell wild bluebells (Hyacynthoides non-scripta)

red crossWildlife crime does NOT include:

  • Incidents involving domestic animals such as dogs (other than dogs being used to hunt mammals), cats, rabbits, budgies, etc
  • Wild animals that have been involved (killed or injured etc) in road traffic accidents. Road accidents with wild animals do not need to be reported to the police, but note that domestic animals (as well as goats, horses, cattle, asses, mules, sheep and pigs) come within the remit of the Road Traffic Act: if you have a road accident involving these animals you are required by law to report it to the police. If a wild animal is so badly injured in a road accident that it will never recover or can not be returned to the wild then it may be euthanaised, providing there is no appropriate long-term captive or semi-captive accommodation or treatment would involve undue suffering or distress.


Seen or know of a wildlife crime? Record and Report it as soon as possible.



Page updated May 2014.

Any comments, corrections, additions? Please let us know.

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