What is poaching?
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.
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 means used are illegal.
- 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.
Most hunts comply with the law but if you become aware of hunts that pursue live animals you should report this to the police.
It is an offence for a person to hunt with a dog unless exempt. The exemptions are very closely defined.
The Hunting Act 2004 states that a person will be hunting a wild mammal with a dog if he engages alone or participates with others in the pursuit of a wild mammal, and a dog is employed in that pursuit, whether or not in their direct control.
Statement (18.1.2019): Our operational response to hunting
We hope that the following statement provides a clear and unequivocal expression, to all those who participate in, and protest against, hunting, of our independent and impartial operational stance.
Our operational response to Hunting is based on advice from the national Police Chief lead, which recognises that “hunting with hounds is an emotive subject, bringing with it support, opposition and commentary from a wide spectrum of society, amplified by social media in this modern policing world.”
We acknowledge the provisions of the Hunting Act 2004 which legitimise certain types of hunting.
We acknowledge, in equal measure, that those who are opposed to hunting have the right to protest.
Like all police forces in whose areas there are hunts, we tread a fine line between protecting these contrasting rights. We do not, and will not, take sides. We aim to facilitate lawful protest, to minimise disruption to our communities, and to provide an appropriate operational and investigative response to reports of unlawful activity, discharging our core policing responsibilities of preventing and detecting crime and preventing or stopping a breach of the peace.
We are fully committed to investigate and, where evidence exists, to bring to justice any person found breaking the law.
We will pursue with equal vigour those who engage in unlawful hunting and those who engage in illegal activity to prevent hunting.
In order to investigate, and in order to bring criminal charges against offenders, we rely on a number of things. They include:
- Witnesses who are willing to give signed statements and to attend court
- Those who filmed alleged criminality to provide a signed statement exhibiting that evidence in an un-edited form, and without delay
- The details of any potential witnesses present
- First-hand accounts from victims.
We have found that often people are reluctant to engage with our investigation. Without the co-operation of those reporting an allegation of criminality it is almost impossible to secure a successful prosecution.
Without statements and without evidence, it is incredibly difficult for action to be taken. Any video footage needs to be properly accounted for by the person who filmed it for it to be admissible in court.
For several years the force has worked hard to engage with those who hunt, and with those who seek to protest. We will continue to engage with all parties and will offer consultation events for parties to meet with us before the start of the season. This will provide an opportunity for us to listen to any concerns and to describe how our hunting operation will work this year.
We recognise that much discussion, comment and posting of digital material around hunting takes place on social media. Many comments are based on inaccurate information that do not reflect a balanced view of the matters discussed. As such, it is our intention not to respond to such social media discussions in the coming season. Instead, we offer all parties direct engagement with our staff throughout the season with any issue that they wish to raise. It is our clear view that social media platforms are not the places to air evidence to help prove or disprove guilt.
We are proud of our approach to hunting, and we remain committed to ensuring that we meet our duty to protect our communities and to keep the public safe throughout the season.
Endangered species and conservation
In the UK legislation gives protection to wildlife and important habitats and sites.
Crimes against protected species include:
- killing or taking them from the wild
- collecting their eggs or skins for personal collections,
- trading in them and taxidermy offences.
- people destroying nests and breeding sites, bat roosts and other protected habitats can also be considered offences.
Contact the Police, Natural England, your local wildlife trust if you think an offence has been or is about to be committed.
If you see or suspect illegal hunting or poaching is taking place, please report it to us. Call us on 101 or report it online. Call 999 in an emergency.
It may help us if you can answer any of the questions when reporting wildlife crime:
- Are the suspect/s alone or in a group?
- Are they trespassing?
- Do they have equipment with them?
- Do they have dogs or firearms with them?
- Where are they going?
- Where have they been?
- What do they look like?
- Have they any vehicles?
- What are the number plates and vehicle models?
- Can you safely get a photograph?
More help and support
Bat Conservation Trust
British Association for Shooting and Conservation
National Wildlife Crime Unit
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)
13 Aug 19 9:28 AM