Scottish Government publishes 5th annual wildlife crime report

The Scottish Government has today published its latest Annual Wildlife Crime Report – the 5th one since it became a statutory obligation under the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011. The current report is entitled the ‘2016’ report, but it actually refers to wildlife crimes recorded from April 2015 to March 2016.

Download the latest report here: Wildlife Crime in Scotland 2016 Report

In previous years we’ve been critical of the report’s findings, mainly due to the use of misleading headlines and Police Scotland’s on-going practice of withholding information about raptor persecution crimes (e.g. see here, here).

We haven’t had a chance to scrutinise this latest report but will probably have a closer look at it over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, here is the Scottish Government’s press statement about the 2016 report:

Offence numbers down on previous year.

Recorded wildlife crime has fallen by 8%, according to the latest official figures.

The annual wildlife crime report, published today, shows reported offences have dropped from 284 in 2014/15 to 261 the following year.

Fish poaching, which remains the most prolific wildlife crime, was down by 26% on the year before.

The report shows an increase in hunting with dogs offences to 44 – up 24 offences on the previous year and the highest number over the five-year recording period.

The report brings together data from the Scottish Government, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Police Scotland and other sources – all members of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland).

The data in the report refers to recorded wildlife crime. It does not, for example, include satellite-tagged tagged birds which may have disappeared in suspicious circumstances, as without a carcass or other hard evidence of criminal activity, Police Scotland are not able to record these incidents as crimes.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham said:

This fifth wildlife crime annual report provides useful data on the issues we face trying to protect Scotland’s wildlife from illegal activity.

It shows a decrease in overall recorded wildlife crime which is welcome.

However there is no room for complacency. We know from the report published earlier this year, that it is very likely that golden eagles and other raptors are being illegally killed every year, but where there is no body or tag to be found, these losses do not make it into the recorded crime figures.

I have set out some measures to tackle the issue of missing raptors, including setting up an independent group to examine grouse moor management practices and a new pilot scheme to use special constables to tackle wildlife crime in the Cairngorms Park. I am determined to put an end to raptor killing and all other types of wildlife crime”.

Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “Although we are pleased to see the 8% decrease in wildlife crime reports, wildlife crime continues to cause us great concern.

The increase in hunting with dogs is very worrying and we will work with Police Scotland in any way to tackle wildlife crime in Scotland.”


And here is RSPB Scotland’s press statement:

RSPB Scotland welcomes wildlife crime report

The Scottish Government has today released its annual wildlife crime report. In response, Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management for RSPB Scotland, said: “We welcome the publication of the Wildlife Crime in Scotland Report for 2016, and the continued scrutiny by the Scottish Government of this issue. Sadly, wildlife crime, including the illegal killing of our of native birds of prey, remains a blight on the international reputation of Scotland, and in our view stronger sanctions are urgently required to act as a deterrent.

At the end of May 2017, an official report into the fate of satellite tagged golden eagles showed that many of these birds were disappearing in suspicious circumstances, primarily on land managed for driven grouse shooting. As a result, an independent enquiry has now been launched by the Scottish Government into how grouse moors can be managed sustainably and within the law, including consideration of options for a licensing system.

We believe that an effective licensing system for driven grouse shooting, including sanctions to remove licences to operate where illegal activity is confirmed, could help tackle persistent criminality, and promote the required culture change in this sector. It would of course also provide safeguards for those land managers who operate responsibly. We look forward to giving evidence to this independent enquiry in due course.

The disappearing satellite tagged golden eagles, along with other similar occurrences to hen harriers, give a strong indication that the wildlife criminals have not stopped their activities, and instead may have changed their methods in order to avoid detection. This context needs to be taken into account when interpreting the data presented in the Wildlife Crime in Scotland Report.


6 Responses to “Scottish Government publishes 5th annual wildlife crime report”

  1. December 9, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    What about the continued mass culling of mountain hares? Since they are protected under EU law does this not rank as a wildlife crime? Plenty of hard evidence in piles of dead hares.

  2. 2 lizzybusy
    December 9, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Sometimes, yes …

    Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010,

    S43 Prohibition of certain methods of capturing or killing wild animals

    S43(1) This regulation applies in relation to the capturing or killing of a wild animal—

    (a) of any of the species listed in Schedule 4 (which lists those species listed in Annex V(a) to the Habitats Directive, and to which Article 15 of that Directive applies, which have a natural range which includes any area of Great Britain); or
    (b) of a European protected species listed in Schedule 2, where the capturing or killing of such animals is permitted in accordance with these Regulations.

    S43(2) It is an offence to use for the purpose of capturing or killing any such wild animal—

    (a) any of the means listed in paragraph (3) …;

    (3) The prohibited means of capturing or killing mammals are—

    (j) traps which are non-selective according to their principle or their conditions of use;

    (l) poisons and poisoned or anaesthetic bait;


    Bats, Horseshoe (all species) Rhinolophidae
    Bats, Typical (all species) Vespertilionidae
    Cat, Wild Felis silvestris
    Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius
    Otter, Common Lutra lutra


    Hare, Mountain Lepus timidus
    Marten, Pine Martes martes
    Polecat Mustela putorius (otherwise known as Putorius putorius)

  3. 3 J .Coogan
    December 9, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    On the mountain hare topic has anybody seen this piece of trash on you tube from the shooting mob – “The untold story – mountain hares”. I could barely watch it to the end but please watch it if you can , it is full of loads of gems.
    They major on grazing pressure especially in the winter when they remove the sheep .( presumably because there is nothing to eat ) and they state that the the hares would decimate the flora (would imagine that burning would do that just fine later) they managed to find a small area of juniper which they haven’t burned out and make it a cause celebre that they have saved it from the ravenous hares
    There are a few interesting quotes ” SNH have asked us to kill the hares”
    “some estates have been sent letters saying that their SSI’s are in an unfavourable state because of the hares obviously something must be done”
    “the only people who are doing anything about it (ticks) are grouse moors….privately funded …..a fight we are fighting ourselves”
    ” Tick management is beneficial to the hares”
    “culled only when their numbers warrant it”
    ” certainly wouldn’t be shooting them if we felt their numbers were low”
    ” by culling them we keep the worm burden to a minimum which give high populations so obviously we have to cull them to keep them down”?????
    “they are a human food source they all go to the game dealer…….and they go for food”
    This is a very slick production and comes up first on a you tube search , no shortage of money here , unbelievably it has favourable comments –so far. Surely their statements regarding SNH are not correct?
    Perhaps everybody has already seen this trash but I thought I would highlight it anyway. Going to stop now before I explode.

    • December 9, 2017 at 10:52 pm

      Keepers have a real problem when they try to argue.. they are simply unable to be consistent. They stack up an arguement about ticks and high densities of hare….but cant see the role that their creation of an artificial super abundance of grouse in a universal monoculture might be in causing the problem!
      The other day they spouting tosh in the press about the disgraceful stress/welfare issues caused by helecopter deer culls… yet never consider the stress caused to grouse and pheasants in the drive or the welfare arising from critical injured birds being allowed to flap about in agony for half-an hour until the pickers-up are allowed to move in and dispatch them.
      They are a wealth of ignorance and prejudice berefit of reason.

    • 5 Mike Haden
      December 10, 2017 at 10:54 am

      Surely having a healthy predator population would help to keep the hare population in check. This ‘plague’ of hare is entirely the gamekeepers own creation.

  4. 6 Macgee
    December 12, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Wildlife crime figures are down…..rubbish

    This is a tactic wildly used by Police and politicians who collude together to manipulate statics.

    Police reduce resources and effort into a particular area of crime and figures drop as a result.
    If police did not stop any cars over the festive period drink drive figures would be down. That obviously doesn’t mean that drink drinking is actually down.

    This is what is happening in Scotland with wildlife crime and also explains why police scotland are so unwilling to joint work with RSPB or SSPCA.

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