skip to main content

Wildlife crime

Wildlife and habitats are protected because they are rare, vulnerable, or because they have a history of persecution.

Wildlife crimes are those that affect these habitats and species.  Despite the legal protection unfortunately there are people who intentionally break these laws.  In other cases the reckless actions of individuals can result in offences being committed.

Wildlife crime has the potential to damage and destroy some of our most important natural assets.  Scottish Natural Heritage is committed to protecting our nature and landscapes and combating wildlife crime.

Tackling wildlife crime is not just about arresting criminals, it's about increasing people's awareness of the importance of our wildlife and habitats, how they are protected, the effects of wildlife crime, and how to stay within the law.  Scottish Natural Heritage aims to play a key role in tackling wildlife crime by supporting prevention and enforcement of wildlife crime.  To do this we work in partnership with others bodies and organisations, including the police.  We are a key partner in the Partnership for Action against Wildlife crime Scotland (PAWS)

Propane gas guns

We have recently received a number of enquiries requesting feedback on the use of propane gas guns to scare birds. These enquiries focus on two main questions:

1. What is our position on the use of propane gas gun scarers with regard to the law, and specifically with regard to our guidance on Schedule A1 and 1A species under the Wildlife  PDF document ; and

2. Do we intend to issue any formal guidance?

The use of gas guns is currently regulated by Local Authorities under S79 of the Environmental Protection Act 9 (as amended by the Environment Act 1995). They are a legitimate management option for reducing the impacts of some common bird species where they may be causing specific problems but, where gas guns are placed in the vicinity of breeding birds, we recognise that there is potential to cause disturbance and prevent birds from using their nests. This could constitute an offence.

NFU guidance sets out principles of best practice when using them to protect crops, including the use of buffers to deflect sound away from sensitive areas.

With reference to Schedule 1 species, to date we have received details of a very small number of incidents where gas guns have been deployed on high grouse moors with the potential to impact on breeding birds. Although the rate of incidents in Scotland doesn't suggest a need for new guidance here, we are liaising with Natural England to prepare guidance to help inform decisions about when and how gas guns might be deployed and any permissions required.

We welcome any information on specific impacts on breeding birds by gas guns or evidence of their improper use. This information should be forwarded to Any suspected criminality in relation to gas gun use and breeding birds should be reported directly to Police Scotland on 101.

To find out more about wildlife crime, and how you can help to stop it, follow the links below:

Hen Harrier sighting?  Please email

Last updated on Monday 13th March 2017 at 13:45 PM. Click here to comment on this page