Reports of wildlife crime doubled during lockdown, says Police Scotland Chief

Press release from Police Scotland:

Operation Wingspan, a year-long campaign to tackle wildlife crime, working with partners, including the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, has seen considerable success and is now entering its final phase.

This involves officers working on the persecution of fresh water pearl mussels and tackling all aspects of poaching, including hare coursing. As with previous phases, it will involve a combination of enforcement action and education.

Overall, the campaign has involved officers engaging with a number of organisations, including the agricultural community, ranger services, land managers and game keepers with the aim of educating the wider public and encouraging them to report wildlife crime to the police.

Detective Sergeant Billy Telford, Police Scotland’s Wildlife Crime Co-ordinator, said: “We have many internationally renowned species that attract thousands of nature lovers and tourists every year to Scotland, but many crimes against wildlife are cruel and barbaric, often involving a painful death.

From hunting deer, hares or badgers with dogs, to using poisons or snares on protected birds, and protecting one of our lesser known species, the critically endangers freshwater pearl mussel, Operation Wingspan is raising awareness and hopefully encouraging people to come forward and report this kind of crime.”

[This young golden eagle was found ‘deliberately poisoned‘ with a banned toxin on an Invercauld Estate grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park in March this year. Photo by RSPB Scotland]

Operation Wingspan began in October 2020 and Phase One saw officers tackling the trade in endangered species and included visits to over 300 business premises, such as antique dealers, retro shops and pet shops across Scotland to advise owners and provide information about potential contraventions under The Control of Trade in Endangered Species (COTES) 2018 regulations. It resulted in the seizure and recovery of alligator heads from across the country.

Phase Two tackled badger persecution, working with the charity Scottish Badgers, to highlight that badgers and their setts are protected, that it is an offence to harm or interfere with them and that badger baiting is illegal. Where ongoing risks were identified, action was taken to protect the sett and the badgers.

Phase Three saw officers taking part in a construction conference to outline the responsibilities of developers, highlighting that it is an offence to destroy or damage roosts, as well as engaging with bat groups and visiting vulnerable roosts, ultimately leading to people being charged for undertaking development that threatened the welfare of bats.

In Phase Four concentrated on raptor persecution. Officers have carried out a number of activities, including patrols of vulnerable nesting sites, warrants executed in relation to wildlife crime and a social media campaign with an educational video that was produced in collaboration with the RSPB.

Detective Chief Superintendent Laura McLuckie said: “Reports of wildlife crime doubled during lockdown and Police Scotland is dedicated to working closely with a wide range of partner organisations to reduce the harm to species targeted by criminals and the communities who rely on them for employment and tourism across Scotland.

Tackling wildlife crime is not just about enforcement, it is also about working with partners and raising public awareness to prevent it happening. Indeed, the public has an important role in helping up to investigate reports of wildlife crime and I would urge anyone with concerns or who suspect a wildlife crime has been committed to contact us on 101, and if it is an emergency to call 999.”

More information can be found on our website:


7 thoughts on “Reports of wildlife crime doubled during lockdown, says Police Scotland Chief”

  1. Interesting ………… I feared that the large reduction in the numbers of people venturing out during lockdown would create the very circumstances that criminals would want to carry out their foul activities. All thugs detest having hostile witnesses about.

    1. Dougie – Indeed. And when we consider that were far fewer people out in the countryside to detect and report wildlife crimes, then how many more crimes were actually being committed?

      1. Exactly! Swans in local parks were a very big easy target, but where any cruelty would also be easy to spot – the number of swans killed and injured during lockdown looks as if it was alarming. How much else was killed or maimed and we have no idea? The casual killing of wildlife as opposed to formal ‘sport’ shooting may not be as blatant as when I was a child, but I wonder if it’s went down that much or if it’s just better hidden. That of course is on top of the wildlife persecution that goes on for specific purposes such as the belief it will lead to higher game bird numbers. Across the board our society including the education and legal systems need to do a better job of protecting animals from all forms of cruelty and mindless killing – this is supposed to be 2021 FFS.

  2. During lockdown, if you recall there were numerous reports from farmers complaining bitterly about the massive and unprecedented increase in people walking footpaths and trespassing on land. These reports, even if greatly exaggerated, indicate a lot more people out and about in the countryside, and this will of course include many more lowlife morons.

    Livestock worrying cases were up, greatly. Minor vandalism was up and so was stupid stuff like leaving gates open, parking cars in silly places (honestly, it takes a real idiot to try this when it will obviously annoy people with lots of heavy plant equipment readily to hand) and so on. From all of this it is no stretch of the imagination to think that wildlife criminals will be out and about a lot more as well, what with having time on their hands and so on. I’d confidently expect that the badger diggers, lurchermen and fox lampers would be out a lot more as well, not that this group exactly tries to keep tabs on these vermin.

    Raptor persecution is probably a mixture of gamekeepers, country criminals and a few assorted other groups with varying motivations, all of whom will have had more time on their hands during lockdown.

    1. Keepers, their young trainees and Estate hanger-on types also consitute a lot of the crime you are attributing to others. Badger diggers? still a small but not insignificant number of keepers are into that, along with dog-fighting and all the rest. Lurchermen? i.e. killing foxes, badgers and cats with bull-lurchers (but with keepers it is seldom deer and hares, I accept that) is mainly yobs but still a heck of lot of keepers doing that in rough terrain hill areas as it is often more practical than the night vision & rifle gear. Fox lampers, with dogs – as just mentioned. Fox lampers with guns – it is rarely the yobbo types, generally landowner interests. Raptor persecution? I bet there will be 80+ incidents per day across the UK…95% I will bet are from game interests.

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