How to Report a Wildlife Crime

Priorities at any crime scene are:

  • Your safety and the safety of those with you.

  • The welfare of any injured animals

  • The preservation of the scene for subsequent investigation

ALL crimes or suspected crimes should be reported by using the 101 or 999 number as appropriate. When this is done an incident number should be obtained and carefully noted.

If the incident is historical: Contact Police Scotland on 101.  Ask to speak with a Wildlife Crime Liason Officer.  If a WCLO is not available give details to the Service Centre Advisor.  Ask for and record the incident number.

If the incident is ongoing and there is a threat to health or property: Contact Police Scotland on 999.  Give details to the Service Centre Advisor.  The nearest unit will attend at the scene. Ask for and record the incident number.

If the incident involves an injured animal that is suffering: Contact the SSPCA on 03000 999 999 and then follow the above steps for contacting Police Scotland.

Once you have contacted the police and/or the SSPCA please send brief details of the incident, including the incident number, to our Operations Co-ordinator on 07866 844232 or email as soon as possible.

If police officers attend then note their time of arrival, names and numbers. Also note the time of departure. You should not remain at the scene when the officers depart, nor should you return there without specific notification from the police that the matter is concluded.

If you discover what you believe may be a scene of crime do not interfere with anything. Retreat as carefully as you can and take photographs if possible. It is worth remembering when approaching a sett, whether previously unknown or regularly visited, that you may be walking into a crime scene. This is sadly very common in some parts of the country. Try to make a brief but careful assessment of the sett first before moving on to it This can avoid trampling over the scene and obliterating any evidence that may be there.

Whilst the public have the right to roam for the purposes of surveying and monitoring setts they have no powers whatsoever to enter or remain on land to investigate crime. If you believe a crime has been committed then you MUST NOT visit the site unless in the company of a serving police constable and at their request.

Badger crime comes in many forms from badger baiting - the practice of digging out a sett and then setting dogs on the badgers - to careless or unlicensed activities by persons engaged in otherwise legal activities such as development, forestry or agricultural operations. The manner in which badgers are killed is often extremely cruel and can include being ripped apart by dogs or entombed underground when sett entrances are blocked. In other incidents badgers have been  gassed, shot or drowned by slurry pumped into their setts.

There are a number of signs of crime that members of the public may come across when surveying for and visiting badger setts. If you encounter these they should be reported as detailed above.

Sett Gassing: This illegal and highly dangerous practise still occurs. Cyanide crystals are placed in the sett entrances which are then blocked with plastic sacks containing earth. These are then covered with loose earth to blend in with the surroundings. The plastic sacks act as a seal and if removed it is likely that cyanide gas will be released and will poison anyone in the immediate vicinity. If you find a sett that you suspect has been treated in this way then police need to be informed immediately using the 999 number as this can be a serious threat to life.

Blocked entrance


Sack being exposed


Sett Digging: Badger baiting often involves digging into a sett to recover a terrier dog and/or extract a badger. Sometimes these “crowning down holes” are left open and sometimes they are back filled. The open holes are fairly obvious and can be huge. Back filled holes can be identified by the square shape of the disturbed earth which is usually at least 30cm square. The bigger the back filled square the deeper the crowning down hole went. Signs of badger baiting like this should be reported to the police using the 101 number and also to Don't forget to get an incident number.

Large Crowning down hole


Back filled crowning down hole


Snaring: It is not legal to snare badgers. When they are caught in a snare they tend to fight hard against it. The energy that they expend desperately trying to escape causes them to create a circle known as a “doughnut”. This is characteristic of badgers being snared and is sometimes found in the landscape long after the dead badger and the snare have been removed. Where the snare has been set near an obstruction, such as a fence, the doughnut may be partial. If you find a doughnut you should report it to the police using the 101 number and also inform Don't forget to get an incident number.



Partial doughnut

SSPCA have no powers to investigate a snare unless an animal is caught in it. This means that    any snares which are believed to be illegal per-se or illegally set, and do not contain an animal, alive or dead, should be reported to the police. If you are unsure whether a snare is illegal or illegally set then please note as much detail as you can, taking photographs if possible, and seek advice from us. A picture showing the details to note and include in photographs is below. Please refer to the snaring leaflet for more details.

1) The lock on the snare
2) The way the snare is connected to the anchor line
3) The way the snare is connected to the tealer
4) The tealer itself (height and construction)
5) The distance between the bottom of the loop and the ground
6) The stop on the loop that prevents complete closure

Please be aware that, whatever your views on snaring, it is illegal to remove or interfere with a snare unless you are the operator. In recent snaring cases there have been frequent allegations that the snares in question were set by the complainers. Take photographs and leave discretely if possible.

Copies of the above advice can be downloaded using the links below.

Download advice with pictures

Download advice without pictures



Operation Badger

Operation Badger (previously know as Operation Meles) is a UK wide targeted wildlife crime initiative. The UK Crime Prevention Lead for this is our Species Protection Officer Ian Hutchison. There are links below to the annual UK Badger Crime Report and the Operation Meles Newsletters.

UK Badger Crime Reports

UK Badger Crime 2009-2010

UK Badger Crime 2011-2012

UK Badger Crime 2013

UK Badger Crime 2014-2015


Operation Meles Newsletters

Operation Meles News Issue 1

Operation Meles News Issue 2

Operation Meles News Issue 3


Badger Crime

The links below will take you to useful resources on badger crime. It is important to note that whilst these documents have been prepared with the greatest care Scottish Badgers can accept no liability for any loss, injury or misunderstanding arrising from their use.

Protection of Badgers Act 1992 (as amended Scottish Version)

The Law in Scotland Relating to Snares

Badger Persecution Leaflet


Wildlife Crime in Scotland

Below are links reports concerning the investigation of wildlife crime in Scotland.

Natural Injustice 1

Natural Injustice 2

Scottish Enviroment Link Response to Scottish Government Wildlife Crime Report 2015-16 and
subsequent evidence given to the Scottish Parliament Environment,
Climate Change and Land Reform Committee


Wildlife Poisonings

If you suspect a wild or domestic animal may have been poisoned you can report the incident to The Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme on FREEPHONE 0800 321600

Available 24 hours a day, answerphone service in operation out of office hours.


For issues related to badger problems, legislation, planning, mitigation, data searches and to log badger records:

Available Monday to Friday

Operations Co-ordinator

T: 07866 844232


For matters relating to our Earn Your Stripes - Building Skills to Champion Wildlife project:

Project Officer

T: 07565 813401


For training and web presence:


Scottish Badgers (SCIO) Charity Number SCO34297.