Policy actions  2 of 4

Wildlife crime

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.

To report a wildlife crime you can phone the non-emergency 101 number.
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.

PAW Scotland

Through the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime 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.

Find more information on PAW 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

Bird of prey hotspot maps

The bird of prey hotspot maps show incidents where birds of prey have been confirmed as:

  • victims of poisoning
  • shooting
  • illegal trapping
  • nest destruction
  • disturbance or other types of crime 

Where several incidents have been reported for the same area, the number of incidents has been aggregated to show ‘hotspots’. The greater the number of incidents the larger the ‘spot’. This publication project has been led by Scottish Land and Estates, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), in Scotland.

See the bird of prey crime hotspot maps for 2014 to 2018.

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

Wildlife crime annual reports

The wildlife crime annual report is a requirement of Section 20 of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, which inserted a new Section 26B into the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It prescribes that Ministers must lay a report every calendar year on offences which relate to wildlife, to include information on incidences and prosecutions during the year to which the report relates, and on research and advice relevant to those offences. We have produced the following annual reports: 

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