Wildlife crime describes the illegal theft or harming of animals, plants and habitats, either in rural or urban areas.
We have a duty to protect Scotland’s environment and this includes tackling wildlife crime in all its forms.
Examples of wildlife crime include the persecution of birds of prey, badgers and bats; poaching of fish or deer; coursing hare with dogs; freshwater pearl mussel fishing; and the illegal trade in endangered species.
The 101 number should be used to contact the police when you don’t need an emergency response. In an emergency always dial 999 – when a life is in danger, a crime is in progress or a suspect is nearby. If you feel that you would rather remain anonymous, you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Through the Partnership for Action against Wildlife in Scotland (PAW Scotland) we work with partners including the police, land managers, conservation groups and other non-governmental organisations to address the problem of wildlife crime and habitat destruction throughout Scotland.
Crimes against birds of prey
Birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, kites, buzzards, harriers, falcons and owls are protected species in the UK. It is illegal to cause them harm, whether through poisoning, shooting, trapping, habitat destruction or nest disturbance.
Birds of prey are also known as raptors and criminal activity against them is called raptor persecution.
We recognise that raptor persecution is a serious problem in some parts of Scotland, particularly in areas linked to driven grouse shooting.
To tackle the problem, we:
- have set up the independent Grouse Moor Management Group to look at the environmental impacts of practices such as muirburn and to recommend options for regulation
- have increased resources for the detection and investigation of wildlife crime, and are working with Police Scotland to pilot the use of special constables in Cairngorms National Park
- are commissioning research into the costs and benefits of large shooting estates to Scotland’s economy and biodiversity
Poustie report on wildlife crime penalties
In 2015 we commissioned an independent review group to examine whether the penalties for wildlife crimes were adequate and a deterrent. The Wildlife Crime Penalties Review Group report made a number of recommendations that we accepted.
We are taking forward these recommendations where possible through actions including:
- legislating to increase available penalties in year four of the current parliament
- considering whether the use of ecological impact statements could be included in forthcoming wildlife crime legislation