The responsibility for the enforcement of the laws protecting our wildlife rests with the police service. Wildlife crime takes many forms, some of which involve extreme cruelty.
The main wildlife issues we are actively involved in combating include:
- Destruction of wildlife habitats
- Illegal trapping, shooting, snaring or poisoning of birds or animals
- Badger digging/baiting
- Poaching of deer, game or fish
- Collecting wild birds' eggs
- Theft of wild plants
- Illegal international trade in wildlife.
Cheshire Police sends officers on Wildlife Foundation courses to train them to become Police Wildlife Crime Officers. The officers who complete the course continue to work as regular PCs, but are also specialists in their field who can advise colleagues on wildlife policing.
As a matter of course, all calls received by Cheshire Police’s call handlers on rural issues are passed directly to the trained Police Wildlife Crime Officers.
Cheshire’s specialist wildlife officers also work in conjunction with the National Wildlife Crime Unit to share intelligence with other police forces and agencies. The NWCU provides support for wildlife officers and investigations into wildlife crime around the country.
If you suspect a crime has occurred:
- Do not disturb the scene by moving items or by walking about unnecessarily
- Do not touch dead animals or birds if you suspect they may be poisoned baits or victims as most of the substances used are extremely dangerous and you may put yourself at risk
- If possible, video or photograph the scene, or make a rough sketch
- Write down any vehicle registration numbers. Don't trust them to memory.
- Contact the police as soon as possible
- Remember that some animals and birds can be legally shot or controlled. Do not interfere with legally set traps or snares or damage hides, high seats or shooting butts.
- Do not put yourself at risk: contact the police.
Cheshire Police investigate crimes involving badger digging, illegal trapping, snaring or poisoning. All badgers and their setts are protected in law by the Protections of Badgers Act, 1992. Anyone who takes, kills, or injures a badger or interferes with a badger sett, can be jailed for six months or fined up to £5,000.
Under The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 it is an offence for a person to inflictany unnecessary suffering on a wild animal by acts including crushing, kicking and beating.
Police officers can deal with incidents relating to animal cruelty. Although we often liaise with the RSPCA and RSPB, we can prosecute for animal and bird offences.
Hunting remains a very emotive issue, but Cheshire Police treats it no differently to other public order situations. Our priority is always to minimise the impact of any disorder that does occur, and to reassure the communities involved.
The continuation of hunt meetings is not illegal, unless the Hunting Act 2004 is breached.
A person can be committing an offence if they hunt a wild mammal with a dog. However the hunting of rabbits and rats is not illegal if it takes place on land owned by the hunter or the hunters have the landowner’s permission. There are also various activities that may appear to be hunting, which are in fact not breaching the Hunting Act 2004. These include trail hunting, hound exercising and flushing to guns.
It is not a police matter to determine what is or is not hunting. This can only be determined in court. The role of the police is to investigate alleged or apparent breaches of the Hunting Act, to gather evidence, and to pass that evidence to the appropriate authority to consider prosecution.
We encourage hunts to continue to inform the police of the intended times, dates and venues of legal meetings. In addition, we rely on members of the public to provide community intelligence about meetings where disorder may occur or where the Hunting Act may be breached.
For more information visit The Hunting Act Website.
For information on poaching read about Project Trespass.
All British birds, their nests and eggs are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, although there are a number of 'pest species' that can be controlled under certain conditions by authorised people. Offenders may be liable to a fine of up to £5,000 for each bird involved or up to six months imprisonment.
Certain rare animals, such as the water vole and otter, are also protected by this Act. Bats and great crested newt receive special protection under European legislation. Offenders may be liable to a fine of up to £5,000 for each animal involved or up to six months imprisonment.
Apart from their aesthetic value, wild plants are an essential part of the environment. They provide food and shelter and without them, insects, birds and other animals would be unable to survive.
All wild plants found in this country, are given protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it illegal to uproot them without permission of the landowner.
Illegal trade in endangered species
Endangered species, such as some parrots and tortoises, are protected under The Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997. They can only be sold legally if the seller is in possession of a licence issued by the Animal Health Agency. If you are considering buying a tortoise or any other endangered animal, you should only do so from a reputable breeder and you should ask for a copy of the licence.