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Non-Emergency Enquiries: 101

Wildlife Crime

European Law and Domestic law exists to protect wildlife in all its forms.

All you need to know about Wildlife Crime.

Staffordshire Police works alongside statuary bodies such as Natural England, Environment Agency, Local Authorities and DEFRA, also charities such as the RSPCA and RSPB to enforce the European Law and Domestic law in existence to protect wildlife in all its forms.

(Wildlife photos courtesy of The Wildlife Trust - photos individually credited).


Badger (copyright Jon Hawkins)Badger baiting was made illegal in 1835 but still exists today. This has become common again over the last 20 years. Badger diggers use dogs (often wearing collars with electronic transmitters for tracking underground) and digging equipment to take badgers from their setts. Captured badgers are then attacked by dogs for the sport with spectators gambling on the outcome.

Top offences against badgers:

  • taking, injuring or killing badgers
  • cruelty
  • interfering with badger setts
  • selling and possession of live badgers

Frequently Asked Questions


Natterers Bat (copyright Tom Marshall)In Britain as well as Europe bats are in decline. It is believed that 17 species of bat are left in the UK. As a result of the threat to bats, they, their breeding sites and resting places are all specially protected by the The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

  • Anyone convicted of offences against bats could be fined £5000 or imprisoned for up to six months.
  • Publishing or causing items to be published indicating the purchase or sale of bats is also an offence.
  • Making a false statement in order to obtain a licence to work with bats is an offence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Fox Hunting

Fox in daylight (©Don Sutherland)Most hunts comply with the law but if you become aware of hunts that pursue live animals you should report this to the police.

Whilst fox hunting is illegal it is not illegal to:

  • Conduct 'trail hunting' or 'drag hunting' (the use of an artificial scent).
  • Exercise hounds with landowners consent.
  • Conduct 'flushing' - two hounds can be used to flush the quarry from cover so it can be shot dead by a 'competent' person.

Offences are as follows:

  • Allowing land to be entered or used in the commission of the offence of hunting.
  • Participating in, attending or facilitating a hare coursing event or permitting land to be used for such an event.
  • Hunting mammals with dogs.
  • Farmers whose land is used against their will, or people - including those involved in drag hunting, whose dogs chase and kill a fox against their wishes - will not be guilty of a crime.

For further details on all hunting matters visit the Government website on hunting game and wildlife.

Frequently Asked Questions


Poaching is the illegal hunting of wild animals. It applies to the hunting of any wild animal but often deer, badger and fish are targeted.

Red Deer (copyright Amy Lewis)Hunting or fishing may be illegal because:

  • The game or fish is not in season.
  • The poacher does not possess a licence.
  • 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 animal or fish is protected by law or has been listed as an endangered animal.

Often, other related offences occur whilst poaching such as trespassing.

Some legislation protects particular species such as badgers and deer, by making it an offence to cause them unnecessary suffering by certain acts.

Chub Fish (copyright Jack Perks)Poaching in its various forms is dealt with under several pieces of legislation, some of it old but still in use today.

Note: The criminal use of firearms in poaching and illegal hunting is also dealt with by the Firearms Act 1968 and, given the current climate of concern in relation to gun crime, is likely to attract armed response from the police and severe penalties from the courts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Wild Birds

Kestrel in daylight (copyright Andy Morffew)Birds are shot, poisoned, unlawfully trapped and have their nests disturbed or destroyed and eggs are stolen. As a result, this is having a major impact on our country's wild bird population and many species are seriously in decline; it is likely that if this continues certain species will suffer extinction.

The primary legislation which offers protection to wild birds is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, also the Animal Welfare Act 2006 does provide some protection against unnecessary suffering.

Under this legislation a wild bird is described as any bird of a species which is ordinarily resident in, or is a visitor to the European Territory of any Member State, in a wild state but does not include poultry or, any game bird unless it is carried out under licence or for prohibitive measures.

Game birds mean any pheasant, partridge, grouse (or moor game), black (or heath) game or ptarmigan. However it must be noted that game birds can only be shot at certain times and are protected during the closed seasons under the Gaming Acts.

The dead game bird may only be sold during the open season or up to 10 days after the season has closed.

Furthermore it does not including any bird which is shown to have been bred in captivity unless it has been lawfully released into the wild as part of a re-population or re-introduction programme.

Information on general protection for wild birds

Wild Plants

Bluebells Edit (©Lara Howe)Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to intentionally uproot any wild plant without the permission of the owner of the land where it grows. Uprooting is defined as "digging up or otherwise removing the plant from the land on which it is actually growing".

In the case of some rare species listed in Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, it is also an offence to pick the plants or sell them. Under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 there are criminal offences concerning the picking, uprooting and selling of rare plants that are classified as European Protected Species.

It is also an offence to introduce seeds or mature plants of a species not native to this country. These plants are listed under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and can be invasive.

The top five targets are:

  • Bluebells
  • Mosses
  • Snowdrops
  • Algae
  • Lichens

Frequently Asked Questions

Wildlife Officers

BootsAll of these officers have or will attend the National Wildlife Crime Officers Course. Between them they have many years of experience in dealing with wildlife and countryside matters.

If you wish to contact a Wildlife Crime Officer for advice or to report an incident please ring 101.

If you have information which may assist us in the prevention or detection of wildlife crime and you do not wish to reveal your identity you can contact the independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through their Anonymous Online Form.

No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

Click here to contact the Rural and Wildlife Crime Unit.

Please do not report ongoing incidents via this form.

Rural and Wildlife Crime Unit [543KB]