Publication - Corporate report

Wildlife crime in Scotland: 2018 annual report

Published: 23 Dec 2019
Part of:
Environment and climate change
ISBN:
9781839604171

The seventh wildlife crime annual report, with new data from the financial year 2017 to 2018.

72 page PDF

1.9 MB

72 page PDF

1.9 MB

Contents
Wildlife crime in Scotland: 2018 annual report
4. Wildlife crime priority areas

72 page PDF

1.9 MB

4. Wildlife crime priority areas

Wildlife crime priorities are set at UK level by the Wildlife Crime Tasking and Co-ordinating Group. The group’s membership includes the Police, the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW), National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

The priorities remained unchanged in 2017-18:

  • Badger persecution;
  • Bat persecution;
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES);
  • Freshwater pearl mussels;
  • Poaching (including deer poaching, hare coursing, fish poaching);
  • Raptor persecution.

Priority groups on poaching and coursing, and freshwater pearl mussel crime, continue to operate in Scotland, as well as the PAW Scotland Raptor Group (formerly the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group).

The following sections provide more detail on each of these priority areas, along with the relevant data. The additional sections from the 2014 report on the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 and Trapping and Snaring continue to be included.

SNH have provided a ‘Health of Species’ appraisal in Appendix 4, for those priority species that fall within SNHs remit: badger, bats, freshwater pearl mussels, deer, brown hare and key raptors. This appraisal is intended to give an overview of current population trends, factors affecting the health of the species and the relative impact of wildlife crime on the conservation status and is in response to an Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform ­Committee request for this contextual information.

4.1 Police Scotland disaggregated data

The data shown in Figure 1, table 15 and table 16 has been presented by Police Scotland. Data in Table 1 is sourced from the Scottish Government Recorded Crime figures and care should be taken in comparing those figures with the disaggregated figures provided in this section.

Table 15: Police Scotland offence data from 2013-14 to 2017-18

Type of crime Number of offences
2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Badger persecution 7 4 7* 6 15
Bat persecution 3 - 2 - 1
CITES 20 10 5 6 2
Freshwater pearl mussels 2 5 1 2 1
Poaching and coursing 165 159 140 115 127
Raptor persecution 25 31 25 11 24
Not related to Priority Area 43 69 78 91 63
No crime recorded - - 3 - 2
Total 265 278 261 231 235
Additional breakdowns
Trapping/snaring (all species)* 19 27 15 15 15
Fox hunting - 2 4 2 6
Hunting with dogs (all Protection Wild Mammals Act offences) - - 44 22 41
Total 19 29 63 39 62

Source: Police Scotland

* All Offences involving badgers. These offences may be duplicated elsewhere, e.g. illegal killing of a badger by snaring would be recorded in ‘Badger persecution’ and ‘Trapping/snaring’

Table 16: Quarterly Police Scotland data for 2017-2018

Type of crime Number of offences
2017-18
Apr-Jun Jul-Sep Oct-Dec Jan-Mar
Badger persecution 7 1 5 2
Bat persecution -

-

1 -
CITES 2 - -

-

Freshwater pearl mussels -

-

- 1
Poaching and coursing 50 34 24 19
Raptor persecution 18 - 4 2
Not related to Priority Area 28 14 11 10
Total 105 49 45 34
Additional breakdowns
Trapping/snaring (all species)* 8 2 1 4
Fox hunting - 1 3 2
Hunting with dogs (all Protection Wild Mammals Act offences) 13 9 12 7
Total 21 12 16 13

Source: Police Scotland

Figure 1: Police Scotland disaggregated offence data from 2013-14 to 2017-18

Figure 1: Police Scotland disaggregated offence data from 2013-14 to 2017-18

Source: Police Scotland

4.2 Badger persecution

All badgers in Scotland are protected by law, but they are sometimes still illegally targeted by those who see them as a pest or for the purposes of illegal animal fights.

Reckless or intentional damage, destruction and interference to badger setts (including sett blocking) is an offence which may arise from unlicensed forestry,

agricultural or construction works.

Recorded crimes

Table 17 and figure 2 show that there were 15 offences relating to badger persecution recorded by Police Scotland in 2016-17, compared to six in 2016-17. Eight of these offences were in relation to damage to a badger sett. Table 18 provides a quarterly breakdown of offences.

Table 17: Badger offences 2017-18 by Police Scotland Division

Police Division Type of offence Number of offences
Argyll and West Dunbartonshire Killing 2
Dumfries and Galloway Digging, damage and obstruction to sett 1
Killing 1
Fife Digging, damage and obstruction to sett 1
Killing 1
Forth Valley Killing 1
Lanarkshire Digging, damage and obstruction to sett 1
Lothians and Scottish Borders Digging, damage and obstruction to sett 2
Killing 2
North East Digging, damage and obstruction to sett 2
Renfrewshire and Inverclyde Digging, damage and obstruction to sett 1
Total 15

Source: Police Scotland

Table 18: Badger offences 2017-18 by species and quarterly breakdown

Type of Crime Apr-Jun Jul-Sep Oct-Dec Jan-Mar Total
Digging, damage and obstruction to sett 1 1 4 2 8
Killing 6 - 1 - 7
Total 7 1 5 2 15

Source: Police Scotland

Figure 2: Police Scotland disaggregated offence data for badger persecution 2013-14 to 2017-18

Figure 2: Police Scotland disaggregated offence data for badger persecution 2013-14 to 2017-18

Source: Police Scotland

4.3 Bat persecution

Bats and their roosts are protected by the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994), which gives strict legal protection to all species listed under Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive – known as European Protected Species (EPS). Scotland’s bat population is relatively small compared to other parts of the UK.

Bats, their breeding sites and resting places are at particular risk from development works and evidencing the presence of bats in these cases can be very challenging. Police Scotland work closely with SNH bat specialists in the investigation of any alleged offences.

Recorded crimes

Table 19 and figure 3 show that there was one offence involving bat persecution recorded by Police Scotland in 2017-18.

Table 19: Bat offences 2017-18 by Police Scotland Division

Police Division Type of offence Number of offences
Highland and Islands Destruction of roost 1
Total 1

Source: Police Scotland

Figure 3: Police Scotland disaggregated offence data for bat persecution 2013-14 to 2017-18

Figure 3: Police Scotland disaggregated offence data for bat persecution 2013-14 to 2017-18

Source: Police Scotland

4.4 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It is an international agreement between governments, which aims to protect certain animal and plant species from over-exploitation by trade.

In Scotland and the rest of the UK, this agreement is given legal authority by the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997, known as COTES.

Recorded crimes

Table 19 and figure 4 show that two CITES-related offences were recorded by Police Scotland in 2017-18, compared to six in 2016-17.

Table 19: Summary of 2017-18 CITES offences

Police Division Type of Offence Date
Edinburgh Sale of endangered species June 2017
Highland and Islands Jaw/teeth removed from dead whale April 2017

Source: Police Scotland

Figure 4: Police Scotland disaggregated offence data for CITES 2013-14 to 2017-18

Figure 4: Police Scotland disaggregated offence data for CITES 2013-14 to 2017-18

Source: Police Scotland

4.5 Freshwater Pearl Mussels

Scotland supports several of the largest remaining populations of freshwater pearl mussels (FWPM) in the world some of which continue to be damaged by criminal activity. Pearl fishing continues in Scotland, almost uniquely within Europe. FWPM are also threatened by unlawful river engineering and pollution.

Recorded crimes

Police Scotland recorded one offence in relation to FWPM during 2017-18 following the discovery of historic taking of FWPM. This compares to two offences in 2016-17.

Table 20: Summary of 2017-18 FWPM offences

Police Division Type of Offence Date
Highland and Islands Discovery of historical kills of FWPM at locus Mar-18

Source: Police Scotland

Figure 5: Police Scotland Disaggregated Offence Data for freshwater pearl mussels for 2013-14 to 2017-18

Figure 5: Police Scotland Disaggregated Offence Data for freshwater pearl mussels for 2013-14 to 2017-18

Source: Police Scotland

4.6 Poaching and coursing

Poaching involves the taking of deer, fish or other game without permission, or using unlawful methods. Coursing is the hunting of animals with dogs. This section sets out the new Police Scotland disaggregated data in addition to providing an overview on the work of the Poaching & Coursing Priority Delivery Group.

Recorded crimes

During 2017-18, 127 poaching and coursing offences were recorded by Police Scotland, compared to 115 offences in 2016-17. Table 21 shows the North East Division has the highest number of recorded hare coursing offences at 25, while Highland and Islands has the highest number of recorded fish poaching offences at 17.

Table 22 shows that hare coursing offences are the most commonly recorded at 60 offences, while fish poaching accounted for a further 44 offences. Most fish poaching offences were in relation to salmon, and all poaching offences show a seasonal bias towards the months from April to September.

Table 21: Poaching and coursing offences 2017-18 by Police Scotland Division

Police Division Target Species Number of offences
Argyll and West Dunbartonshire Deer 1
Fish 3
Dumfries and Galloway Deer 3
Unknown 1
Edinburgh Deer 1
Fife Hare 11
Forth Valley Fish 4
Hare 3
Highland and Islands Deer 8
Fish 17
Lanarkshire Deer 4
Fish 10
North East Fish 5
Hare 25
Renfrewshire and Inverclyde Fish 2
Tayside Deer 2
Fish 1
Hare 11
The Lothians and Scottish Borders Deer 3
Fish 2
Hare 10
Total 127

Source: Police Scotland

Table 22: Poaching offences 2017-18 by species and quarterly breakdown

Target Species Apr-Jun Jul-Sep Oct-Dec Jan-Mar Total
Deer 5 5 6 6 22
Fish 20 17 4 3 44
Hare 25 12 14 9 60
Unknown - - - 1 1
Total 50 34 24 19 127

Source: Police Scotland

Figure 6: Police Scotland disaggregated offence data for poaching and coursing 2013-14 to 2017-18

Figure 6: Police Scotland disaggregated offence data for poaching and coursing 2013-14 to 2017-18

Source: Police Scotland

4.7 Raptor persecution

The persecution of raptors, or birds of prey, is the most high-profile type of wildlife crime in Scotland and it can have a serious impact on the populations of some raptor species at local, regional or (if carried out more widely) national level.

This section presents Police Scotland disaggregated data and SASA poisoning figures in relation to raptor offences.

Poisonings and other recorded crimes

Table 23 and figure 7 show the numbers of birds of prey confirmed by SASA as illegally poisoned between 2013-14 and 2017-18, alongside the number of incidents which resulted in these poisonings. The figures show that buzzards (21) remain the most commonly recorded victim of illegal poisoning over the five year period, followed by red kites (18) and Peregrine falcons (3).

Table 23: Bird of prey poisonings, Scotland, 2013-14 to 2017-18

Year Number of birds of prey poisoned (by species) Number of Incidents*
Buzzard Red kite Golden eagle Peregrine falcon All
2013-14 7 12 1 1 21 6
2014-15 3 3 - 1 7 6
2015-16 5 1 - - 6 5
2016-17 3 1 - - 4 3
2017-18 3 1 - - 4 4
Total 21 18 1 2 42 24

Source: Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA)

*One incident may involve more than one bird

The number of poisoning incidents over the last five years has remained relatively low, however, illegal poisoning still has the capacity to kill high numbers of birds. For example, the large discrepancy in 2013-14 between the numbers of birds poisoned (21) and the number of incidents (6) was due to a single mass poisoning incident in Ross-shire, where 12 red kites and four buzzards were confirmed to have been killed with an illegal pesticide.

Figure 7: Bird of prey poisonings 2013-14 to 2017-18

Figure 7: Bird of prey poisonings 2013-14 to 2017-18

Source: SASA

Recorded crimes

Recorded raptor persecution offences more than doubled in 2017-18, with 24 offenses recorded compared to 11 in 2016-17.

Figure 8, table 24 and table 25 show a summary of bird of prey incidents recorded by Police Scotland from 2013-18 and offences recorded in 2013-18. A direct comparison between the datasets is not possible as incidents may involve multiple offences. However the tables do demonstrate general trends. As with the SASA poisoning data, these figures show that the buzzard (involved in 31 of the 98 cases) was the species most commonly affected over the five year period.

Shooting remains the highest recorded crime type for the period (31), followed by poisoning (23). It should be noted that one incident in this period in The Lothians and Scottish Borders involved the persecution of 10 raptors.

Financial year data for wider bird of prey crime has only been available from 2013-14 onwards. Subsequent reports will use this data to enable direct comparisons between datasets.

Figure 8: Recorded Bird of prey incidents 2013-14 to 2017-18

Figure 8: Recorded Bird of prey incidents 2013-14 to 2017-18

Source: Police Scotland

Table 24: Recorded bird of prey cases in Scotland, 2013-14 to 2017-18 by species involved

Number of Cases (by species involved)
Buzzard Hen Harrier Peregrine Red Kite Eagle Sea Eagle Golden Eagle Goshawk Merlin Osprey Red Kite & Buzzard Barn Owl Short Eared Owl Tawny Owl Unknown Total
2013-14 8 2 2 2 - - 1 1 - 1 1 - - 1 - 19
2014-15 6 1 3 4 - - 1 1 - - - - - 1 1 18
2015-16 12 2 1 4 - - 1 1 - 2 1 - - - 1 25
2016-17 4 - 1 - - - 1 1 - 3 1 - - - - 11
2017-18 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 - 1 1 - 1 1 - 12 24
Total 31 7 8 11 1 1 5 4 1 7 3 1 1 2 14 97

Source: Police Scotland

Figures from 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 relates to incident data, which may include multiple offences and victims. Figures from 2015-16 and 2016-17 relates to offence data, which relates to individual offences.

Table 25: Recorded bird of prey cases in Scotland, 2013-14 to 2017-18 by type of crime

Number of Cases (by type of crime)
Disturbance Egg theft Other Poisoning Shooting Trapping Total
2013-14 2 - - 6 8 3 19
2014-15 1 - 2 6 8 1 18
2015-16 3 - 3 6* 8 6* 25
2016-17 4 1 - 3 2 1 11
2017-18 3 1 11 2 5 2 24
Total 13 2 16 23* 31 13* 97

Source: Police Scotland

* one incident involved both trapping and poisoning

Figures from 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 relates to incident data, which may include multiple offences. Figures from 2015-16 and 2016-17 relates to offence data, which relates to individual offences.

Table 26 shows that The Lothians and Scottish Borders Division recorded the highest number of offences in relation to birds of prey with 13 offences of the 24 total.

Table 26: Summary of recorded bird of prey offences in Scotland 2017-18 by Police Scotland Division

Police Division Target Species Number of offences
Argyll and West Dunbartonshire Hen Harrier 1
Dumfries and Galloway Red Kite 1
Fife Sea Eagle 1
Highland and Islands Golden Eagle 1
Osprey 1
Raptor 1
Lanarkshire Hen Harrier 1
Peregrine 1
Short eared owl 1
North East Eagle 1
Tayside Buzzard 1
The Lothians and Scottish Borders Merlin 1
Raptor 10
Barn Owl 1
unknown 1
Total 24

Source: Police Scotland

Table 27 and Figure 9 shows a majority of recorded bird of prey offences occurring during April to June, with 18 of the 24 total offences.

Table 27: Bird of prey offences 2017-18 by species and quarterly breakdown

Target species Apr-Jun Jul-Sep Oct-Dec Jan-Mar Total
Buzzard - - 1 - 1
Eagle 1 - - - 1
Golden Eagle 1 - - - 1
Hen Harrier 1 - 1 - 2
Merlin 1 - - - 1
Raptor 10 - 1 - 11
Peregrine 1 - - - 1
Osprey 1 - - - 1
Barn Owl - - - 1 1
Red Kite - - - 1 1
Sea Eagle 1 - - - 1
Short eared owl 1 - - - 1
unknown - - 1 - 1
Total 18 0 4 2 24

Source: Police Scotland

Figure 9: Bird of prey offences quarterly breakdown 2013-14 to 2017-18

Figure 9: Bird of prey offences quarterly breakdown 2013-14 to 2017-18

Source: Police Scotland

Table 28 provides a detailed breakdown of bird of prey incidents for the financial year 2017-18. One incident may involve more than one bird, for example, the raptor incidents recorded in The Lothians and Scottish Borders in June 2017.

Table 28: Details of recorded bird of prey incidents in Scotland 2017-18

Species Targeted Police Division Type of offence Month and year
Buzzard Tayside Poisoning October 17
North East Disturbance April 17
Highlands and Islands Egg Stealing May 17
Hen Harrier Argyll and West Dunbartonshire Shooting October 17
Lanarkshire Shooting May 17
Merlin The Lothians and Scottish Borders Shooting June 17
Osprey Highlands and Islands Disturbance June 17
Peregrine Lanarkshire Disturbance April 17
Raptor Highlands and Islands Trapping June 17
The Lothians and Scottish Borders Other December 17
The Lothians and Scottish Borders* Other* June 17*
The Lothians and Scottish Borders Shooting June 17
Barn Owl The Lothians and Scottish Borders Trapping January 18
Red Kite Dumfries and Galloway Poisoning March 18
Sea Eagle Fife Disturbance May 17
Short Eared Owl Lanarkshire Shooting June 17
Unknown The Lothians and Scottish Borders Other December 17

source: Police Scotland

*This incident involved eight raptors and multiple types of offence

4.8 Fox Hunting and the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002

This section highlights offences under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. Section 1 of the 2002 Act prohibits the deliberate hunting of a wild mammal with a dog (subject to certain exceptions). The Act is most commonly used in connection with hare coursing, although it has also been used for incidents relating to foxes, deer and badgers. It does not prohibit the hunting of rabbits or rats by dogs.

Recorded crime

Table 29 and figure 10 shows that from the now disaggregated data from Police Scotland, Six of the 41 hunting with dogs cases related to fox hunting offences, rather than activities such as hare coursing. The total number of “hunting with dogs offences” recorded in 2017-18 (41) has almost doubled compared to 2016-17 (22). Hare coursing makes up the majority of these offences (32).

Figure 10: Police Scotland offence data for fox hunting 2013-14 to 2017-18

Figure 10: Police Scotland offence data for fox hunting 2013-14 to 2017-18

Source: Police Scotland

Table 29*: Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 ‘hunting with dogs’ offences 2017-18 by Police Scotland Division

Police Division Target species Number of offences
Dumfries and Galloway Unknown 1
Fife Fox 3
Hare 6
Lanarkshire Roe deer 1
North East Hare 12
Tayside Deer 1
Hare 6
The Lothians and Scottish Borders Fox 3
Hare 8
Total 41

Source: Police Scotland

*The table does not show offences under Section 18(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act for attempts to commit an offence in relation to killing or taking a wild mammal.

Table 30: Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 ‘hunting with dogs’ offences 2017-18 by species and quarterly breakdown

Target Species Apr-Jun Jul-Sep Oct-Dec Jan-Mar Total
Deer 1 1 2
Fox 2 1 3 6
Hare 3 13 8 8 32
Roe Deer 1 1
Unknown 1 1
Grand Total 7 13 9 12 41

Source: Police Scotland

Prosecutions

For the period 2010-2018, fewer than 5 cases relating to fox hunting were reported to COPFS.

4.9 Trapping and Snaring

Trapping and snaring are methods which can be legitimately used for the control of some types of wildlife such as corvids, rodents or foxes. This may be for conservation purposes, to protect agricultural or sporting interests or for human health and safety reasons. However, the use of traps and snares is subject to legal restrictions designed to prevent harm to non-target species or unnecessary cruelty.

Recorded crimes

Trapping and snaring figures are not shown as part of the recorded crime statistics in Table 1 as the offence data cannot be broken down to that level.

The Police Scotland disaggregated offence data in Table 15 shows that 15 offences were recorded for 2017-18. This remains unchanged from the previous two years with 15 offences recorded each for 2015-16 and 2016-17 but is also a decrease from the 27 offences recorded for 2014-15.

The Scottish SPCA identified four incidents relating to trapping or snaring offences which were investigated solely by its SIU inspectors.

In 2017-18, fewer than 5 cases related to trapping and snaring were reported to COPFS.

Table 31 shows that there is no spatial bias to recorded trapping and snaring offences in 2017-18.

Table 31: Trapping and snaring offences 2017-18 by Police Scotland Division

Police Division Type of offence Target Species Number of offences
Argyll and West Dunbartonshire Snare Badger 2
Snare Unknown 2
Dumfries and Galloway Snare Badger 1
Fife Snare Unknown 2
Highlands and Islands Larson Trap Unknown 1
Otter Trap Otter 1
Snare Unknown 1
North East Gin trap cat 1
Renfrew and Inverclyde Snare Roe Deer 1
Snare Unknown 1
The Lothian and Borders Snare Unknown 1
Multiple offences Unknown 1
Total 15

Source: Police Scotland

Table 32 shows a slight bias towards offences occurring from April to September. This may be associated with an increase in trapping and snaring activity during these months and/or an increase in detection due to increased recreational use of the countryside during this time.

Table 32: Trapping and snaring offences 2017-18 by quarterly breakdown

Type of Crime Apr-Jun Jul-Sep Oct-Dec Jan-Mar Total
Gin trap - 1

-

- 1
Larson Trap - 1 - - 1
Multiple offences - - - 1 1
Otter Trap -

-

1 - 1
Snare 4 6 1 - 11
Total 4 8 2 1 15

Source: Police Scotland


Contact

Email: leia.fitzgerald@gov.scot