Wildlife crime

Bird GMP's Wildlife Mission Statement

To provide a professional, effective and timely response to wildlife crime

  • To raise awareness of wildlife crime and environmental issues
  • To develop and maintain active partnerships with a view to working together on issues of enforcement, reduction and prevention of wildlife persecution.

The force area covers some 500 square miles, which comprises of city conurbations, historical mill towns, rural villages and communities, extensive moorland, Special Sites of Scientific Interest,Water Parks and Wildlife Reserves.

With large populations of wild birds, animals, and plants, many of which are protected by law, we need to protect species from persecution and hold those individuals accountable for their misguided actions when they break the law.

What is a wildlife crime?

There are around 150 laws designed to protect wildlife in the UK and many more global controls that we have adopted. So there is no definition of wildlife crime but it could include:

  • Disturbing or killing wild birds
  • Taking birds eggs
  • Poaching
  • Stealing wild plants
  • Badger persecution
  • Destroying bat roosts
  • Ill-treating wild animals
  • Trapping wildlife illegally
  • Poisoning wildlife illegally
  • Illegally importing, exporting or trading in endangered species
  • Use of endangered species or body parts in Traditional Medicines

More Information

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Every year my neighbour knocks down House Martins' nests from under her eaves while the birds are trying to build them. Is this against the law?

A. Yes. All wild birds' nests are fully protected and it is an offence to destroy or damage them when they are being built or used. House Martins, Swallows and Swifts use their nests throughout the summer months until they leave for the autumn migration, which is usually towards the end of October. This is the time when your neighbour can legally remove the nest.

Q. I live near a canal where I regularly see a gang of youths with air rifles shooting at swans and ducks. What can I do?

A. The youths are committing a serious offence by using air weapons in a public place. You should make a note of their identities (if known), their description, the clothes they are wearing, the location of the youths and the number of weapons they have. Do not make any approach but report the incident to the police as soon as possible on 0161 872 5050.

Q. I know a person who traps wild birds. Is this an offence?

A. Yes. It is an offence to trap any British wild bird.

Q. Is it against the law to collect wild bird eggs?

A. Yes, unless you are a landowner when you are may be authorised to take the eggs of specifically named species under the terms of a licence. The maximum penalty for taking the egg of a wild bird or disturbing a nesting bird, its eggs or chicks is a five thousand pound fine and/or six months imprisonment. 

Q. Is it illegal to have an egg collection?

A. If the eggs were taken after 28th September 1982, which was the date that the Wildlife & Countryside Act came into force - Yes.

Q. I have an old collection of birds' eggs. Can I sell it?

A. No. The sale or swapping of birds' eggs is illegal. If you no longer want the collection you could consider donating it to a museum or surrender it to your local police.

Q. A local farmer permits a group of men to dig out badger setts on his land. Is this lawful?A. No. Badgers are protected by law. It is a crime to kill or injure a badger or interfere with any place where a badger is or appears to be living.

Q. Can I pick wild flowers?

A. Wild flowers should not normally be picked. The flowers are an essential part of the reproductive cycle and picking flowers may prevent the plant from setting seed and surviving into the future. It is an offence to uproot any plant, bulb or flower or to pick any of the special protected species. Technically, wild flowers belong to the owner of the land and taking them may also be theft.

Q. A local builder has just purchased a derelict barn, which he intends to convert into three dwellings. Many of the local residents are worried what will happen to the bats which have been roosting there over the last year.

A. The law relating to the disturbance of bats is stricter than for other animals. It is a crime to disturb bats wherever they are unless they are in the living area of a house for example a bedroom or dining room. Therefore if bats are found in a loft, roof space or within cavity walls or sheds, they must not be disturbed nor must their resting or roosting place be disturbed. If any work is planned that might affect bats, Natural England must be told in advance and given time to advise on whether and how work can be carried out.

Q. Can my children collect common frogspawn?
A. It is not illegal to collect frogspawn nor is it an offence to put frogs or toads back into the wild.

Q. Can I pick wild mushrooms?

A. Fungi. Including wild mushrooms and toadstools are not strictly plants but are classed as such under the law. Picking mushrooms does not constitute an offence but if you subsequently sell or offer them for sale this may be against the law. You should always seek permission from whoever owns the land.

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