Wildlife and the Law- some Q and A

A fox snare set on a fence where an animal captured can jump over the fence and be suspended on the other side

A fox snare set on a fence where an animal captured can jump over the fence and be suspended on the other side

A Fenn trap set with an entrance far too large and which has caught a mountain hare

A Fenn trap set with an entrance far too large and which has caught a mountain hare  

If I find an illegal snare or trap should I leave it set?

If an illegal trap or snare has been set, leaving it in that state could well result in a bird or mammal being caught. Birds will invariably be caught during daylight while mammals will mostly be caught at night. This should be taken into consideration if the witness has to leave the scene before the police arrive. If the trap is a live-catch trap, the bird can be released by the police when they attend. Bear in mind that if the trap is removed or sprung by a lone witness, then there is no corroboration that it was ever set, though this should not over-ride the welfare of wildlife.

What should I do if I find a dead animal or bird in the countryside and I think it has been poisoned?

Most pesticides used to kill wildlife are extremely toxic to humans as well as to animals or birds, and anything suspected to be bait or the victim of poisoned bait should not be touched. The police should be contacted as soon as possible and ask, if possible, to speak to a wildlife crime officer. If the bait or victim has to be left, covering it with branches or some other material may prevent any further birds – though not animals, which could find it through their sense of smell – being put in danger until the police can retrieve it. Though pesticide abuse still occurs, it must be borne in mind that many animals or birds die of natural causes or as the result of accidents.

Is it legal to chase hares with dogs?

It is completely illegal not only to deliberately chase hares with a dog or dogs but to attempt to do so, search for them for this purpose or even to be in possession of anything capable of being used to commit the offence, which could be a lurcher-type dog. It is important to report this type of incident to the police as soon as possible since anyone involved is normally away from the area within a short time. If a vehicle registration number can also be obtained, and also the type and colour of the dogs that is a good start to an investigation. In Scotland, one witness to this offence is sufficient to convict.

Is it an offence to keep a collection of wild birds’ eggs?

In Scotland if the eggs were taken before 1954 (before 1981 in the rest of the UK) – and it is up to the person having the eggs to show that this is the case – no offence is committed in keeping the collection. It is, of course, an offence to take the eggs of any wild bird, or to sell any wild bird’s egg, no matter when the egg was collected.

I have found a dead barn owl by the roadside and would like to have it stuffed for my own use. Can I legally do this? I may wish to sell it later. Is this OK?

If you want to have this specimen mounted by a taxidermist you can simply commission a taxidermist to do this for you. Providing that you only use the specimen for your personal use, no paperwork is required for this transaction. If you later wish to sell the stuffed bird or use it in any way commercially, you will need an Article 10 Certificate from Animal Health, Defra. In order to obtain this you will need to prove details of legal acquisition from the wild and cause of death. This would include where and when the bird was found, who found it, the cause of death of the bird and which taxidermist mounted the bird. If you were not the finder of the bird you would require a signed letter from the finder stating that he or she gave it to you free of charge.

A friend gave me a buzzard that he recently shot by accident. Can I have it stuffed?

The fact it was shot, whether accidentally or otherwise, makes its possession illegal. You should either contact the police or get rid of the bird.

I recently bought a stuffed golden eagle at a local auction. The auctioneer said the bird had been obtained before 1947 and I wouldn’t need what he called an Article 10 certificate. Is this right?

If that is the case that is correct. If it turns out not to have been the case then the person selling the specimen has broken the law.

I have a young Hermann’s tortoise that I no longer want and my friend would like to buy it. Can I sell it?

The Hermann’s tortoise is on Annex A. If the plastron (the bony plate on the underside) exceeds 100 mm in length then the tortoise requires to be microchipped before sale. In any case you will need to apply to Animal Health, Defra, for an Article 10 certificate before sale. This is likely to be a transaction-specific certificate if the tortoise is under 100 mm, which you must show to the buyer or pass on a photocopy. With a microchipped tortoise you are likely to receive a specimen-specific certificate which you must pass on to the buyer, as this is the tortoise’s ‘passport’.


An excerpt from Wildlife and the Law. See this and other books on this blog. If you would like a signed copy contact me on alanstewart164@btinternet.com

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