Wildlife Crime FAQ

What do Area Wildlife Crime Officers do?

We are specially trained staff and officers with access to resources and expertise in partner organizations and enforcement agencies such as Natural England, DEFRA, National Wildlife Crime Unit, RSPB, Border Force Agency (CITES & COTES offences), RSPCA and the Bat Conservation Trust. We can gather evidence, obtain expert witnesses, forensic services, impact statements, receive and share intelligence as well as preventative advice such as bat, nesting bird surveys.

What offences are likely to come to my attention?

Typical offences are species and habitat destruction or disturbance, baiting, trapping, snaring and badger or bat offences.

What do I do if I receive a complaint or allegation?

Contact us – we have the expertise and access to partners in many other organizations and enforcement agencies and direct links into the right departments of the rail industry.

What species might I be dealing with in regard to a complaint or question?

Most commonly nesting birds, bats, badgers, great crested newts, dormice and trees/woodland.

Are pigeons and foxes protected by law?

Yes. All wild animals and birds have varying levels of protection.

How do I know pest control is being carried out lawfully?

Contact us with the details – the short answer is pest control may only be lawfully carried out on certain species by competent persons using approved methods.

I have been told a railway location has special /conservation status. What does that mean?

There are many conservation designations in the UK, but the following are most common on or near the railway:

  • LNR (Local nature reserve) can have protection against damaging operations and development on and around it. The level and type of protection afforded an LNR is decided locally, and varies from site to site.

  • SINC (Site of importance to nature conservation) A designated area of local conservation interest. This is the lowest tier of conservation designation and will only offer a limited level of planning protection against developments of certain types. It provides no protection at all for species and habitats as such, nor does it have any effect upon management - or lack of it.

  • SSSI’s (Site of special scientific interest) are designated by Natural England or DEFRA. They are not necessarily owned by a conservation organisation or by the Government - in fact, they can be owned by anybody. A SSSI is given certain protection against damaging operations, and any such operations must be authorised by the designating body. The status also affords a certain amount of planning protection.

    I have received complaints that maintenance / engineering works are being carried out during nesting season or where protected species are present. What should I do?

    Contact us, we can liaise with the rail community, complainant and other agencies to prevent offences occurring or establish if any offences have taken place.

    What is an EPS?

    European Protected Species are animals and plants that receive protection under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, in addition to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. In the UK Great Crested Newts, Dormice, Otters, Smooth snakes, Sand lizards, Natterjack toads and Bats are all EPS. Four of these species have been consistently recorded on the LU network for many years.

    Not only are these animals protected, so are their breeding sites or resting places. It is an offence for anyone to deliberately or recklessly capture, injure or kill any such animal, take or destroy their eggs or damage or destroy their breeding or resting places. It is also an offence to have in one's possession or control, any live or dead specimens.

    I have protestors alleging Wildlife offences at a railway works site, what do I do?

    Contact us, we can liaise with the rail community, protestors and other agencies to prevent offences occurring or establish if any offences have taken place.

    I have received a complaint that railway maintenance / works is taking place near a bat roost. What do I do?

    All UK bats and their roosts are protected by law. Bat offences are the second most common allegation on BTP jurisdiction. Contact us with the details, we can establish if bats are indeed present and liaise with the rail community, complainant and work with other agencies to prevent offences occurring or establish if any offences have taken place.

    What is COTES and CITES?

    COTES (Control of Trade in Endangered Species) makes it an offence to sell, keep for sale, offer for sale, transport for sale, use for a commercial purpose, or purchase anything which claims to be made from a species in Annex A of the EC Council Regulations e.g. Tiger bone and Elephant/Rhino ivory.

    CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international treaty to protect endangered plants and animals. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species in the wild, and it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 34,000 species of animals and plants.

    Operation Charm is the only ongoing police initiative against the illegal trade in endangered species in the UK. Since its launch in 1995, it has been responsible for the seizure of tens of thousands of items made from endangered species which were on sale in London. COTES and CITES offenders are often linked with organised crime due to the high monetary value in this trade.

    Suspected specimens/derivatives of endangered species were found on a person / during a house search. How do I know if they could be COTES or CITES offences?

    Contact us, we can confirm what the specimens are and if it would amount to an offence. We also have partners in specialist and enforcement agencies to access further advice, intelligence, forensic testing facilities, expert witnesses etc and we can link in with Operation Charm.

    I suspect that trapping / snaring / poisoning / baiting is being carried out on railway property. What do I do?
  • Contact us, we can liaise with the rail community, National wildlife crime unit and other agencies to establish if any offences have taken place.
    What is the Badger Cull?

    The culling of badgers is used in parts of the UK to attempt to reduce bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Whilst this disease can be passed to humans it is not currently considered a significant risk to human health. The disease affects cattle and some wildlife, including badgers. From 1 June 2013 – January 2014, culling in England has been introduced into two pilot areas in Gloucestershire and Somerset. Culling may only be carried out in these areas and by authorised persons with a license granted by Natural England. The cull is very controversial and many people and wildlife / conservations groups are opposed to it.

    Aren’t Badgers protected?

    Yes, even though European Badgers are not an endangered species, they are among the most legally-protected wild animals in the UK. They are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitat. This is why the Badger Cull is being carried out under such strict regulation.

    Who are PAW and why are BTP partnered with them?

    PAW (Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime) is a multi-agency body comprising representatives of the organisations involved in wildlife law enforcement in the UK to ensure that  skills, experience and specialist knowledge are pooled. Click here to see the memorandum of understanding between PAW, the Association of Chief Police Officers, Crown Prosecution Service, Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales.

    The PAW wildlife crime priorities for 2011-2013 likeliest to be committed on railway property are Badger persecution, Bat persecution, Raptor (birds of prey) persecution (including poisoning, egg theft, chick theft and nest disturbance/destruction).

    • How do I contact an Area WCO?

    Email: Wildlife-environment@btp.pnn.police.uk

    Out of hours: Contact FCRL, they will put you in contact with an on duty Area WCO.

  • Contact Us

    To report a crime or incident, call

    0800 40 50 40

    or text 61016

    In an emergency call 999