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 844 232 or email as soon as possible.

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.

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 re-attend the site unless in the company of a serving police constable and at their request.

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.

Types of Badger Crime

Unfortunately due to long-held prejudices, misinformation and for some the misplaced belief in ‘traditional activities’, badgers face a huge range of persecution. Both badgers themselves and their setts have legal protection, however this does not prevent them from coming to harm by both deliberate acts and those done inadvertently. The types of cases we hear about include poisoning, blocked sett entrances, shooting, forestry operations, development, agricultural operations, and hunting with dogs. We have included some of the more frequent or dangerous examples below for further information.

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 emailing us. Don't forget to get an incident number.

Large Crowning down hole


Back filled crowning down hole

Snaring: It is not legal to intentionally 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 us by email. 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 potentially illegal 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. Any identification tags or absence of should be noted.

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.

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

For operations such as forestry, development and agriculture, a licence can be issued through Scottish Natural Heritage which enables some leeway near badger setts only. For further information please see the NatureScot website, but if in any doubt, please speak to us.

Further Info

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

Badgers and the Law

PAW Scotland

Wildlife Crime in Scotland

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

Natural Injustice 2

Scottish Government Wildlife Crime Report (2019)

Useful Contacts

If you're not sure who to contact in the first instant, please get in touch with our Operations Coordinator either via email or call 07866 844 232 to discuss.

There are also the following options:

  • 101 - Local Wildlife Crime Officer
  • 999 - Police (Ongoing crime)
  • 03000 999 999 - SSPCA (where concerns for live animals' welfare)
  • 0800 555 111 - Crimestoppers (for confidential reports)
  • 0800 321 600 - Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (Suspected poisoning)


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.