Which Pests are also Protected

Having a pest infestation around your home or business can be worrying. You might be tempted to deal with them yourself at the first sign of trouble. However, some pests are protected by law so taking things into your own hands can land you in legal hot water.

Which Pests are Protected by Law?


It’s become increasingly common to see foxes in urban areas. They are natural scavengers and have realised that us humans provide them with an ever-available source of food. While they might seem harmless, foxes can cause problems, especially in numbers.

They prey on domestic pets, they dig up gardens, they ransack your bins, and they carry diseases and parasites. So most people will want to control them if things are getting out of hand. However, foxes have protections under UK law.

Laws That Protect Foxes

Protection of Animals Act (1911)

• Placing poisoned baits with the specific intention of killing foxes is illegal.

• Trapped and/or captive animals must be treated and killed humanely.

Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981)

• Live baits and decoys are prohibited.

• Self-locking snares are prohibited.

• The use of bows or crossbows to kill foxes is prohibited.

Control of Pesticide Regulations (1986)

• Only products registered under these regulations are legally allowed to be used in domestic gardens.

• Gassing dens to kill foxes is illegal

Wild Mammals Protection Act (1996)

• Destroying, blocking, or filling up a fox den that contains live foxes is an offence.

Protection of Wild Mammals Scotland Act (2002) & The Hunting Act (2004)

Hunting foxes with dogs in Scotland, England, and Wales with dogs is illegal.

There are some exceptions to the ban on hunting:

• It is legal to stalking and flush out a fox with up to two dogs. The fox must be shot as soon as it emerges from cover.

• Using a single dog underground to flush out foxes in order to protect birds kept for shooting is legal.

• It is legal to use up to two dogs to search for an injured animal where the animal is humanely killed when it is found. It is against the law to injure a fox to enable it to be caught.

Animal Welfare Act (2006)

• Snares must be checked once per day for a trapped fox. If these aren’t checked, landowners can be prosecuted.

Penalties are considerable for breaking the law. Anyone found poisoning, gassing, asphyxiating, maiming, stabbing, impaling, drowning, or clubbing foxes can face 6 months imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine per animal.

What Can I Do Myself to Control Foxes?

If foxes are causing problems around your home or business, here’s what to do first:

• Proof your property against foxes. Installing physical barriers using materials like wire mesh around your home or business premises can stop foxes from getting in.

• Remove any sources of food that attract foxes. Overflowing rubbish bins are like a goldmine for them, so make sure bins are securely shut and don’t leave stray bags of rubbish lying next to your bins.

• Call in professional pest control. Contego provides a number of tailored fox control treatments to protect your home or business premises. Don’t try to take things into your hands, we can deal with your issue humanely and legally.


Squirrels are cute, but when it comes to grey squirrels, they are classed as pests. They are an invasive non-native species that cause all kinds of problems like;

Causing damage to homes, gardens, businesses, and health

Destroying forests and woodlands

Causing the decline of native red squirrels

The grey squirrel has limited protections under UK law. However, the red squirrel is now classed as endangered, thanks to having to compete with grey squirrels for food and habitats. Grey squirrels can also transmit a fatal disease to red squirrels.

Laws That Protect Squirrels

Red squirrels are a protected species under Schedules 5 and 6 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

This means that it’s illegal to:

• Intentionally kill, injure or take (capture) a red squirrel.

• Intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy any structure or place a red squirrel uses for shelter or protection or disturb a red squirrel while it is occupying such a place.

• Possess a dead or live wild red squirrel, or any part of a red squirrel, unless you can show that the animal was taken legally.

• Sell, or offer for sale, a wild red squirrel or any part of a wild red squirrel.

Under Section 11 of the Act, it is also illegal to:

• Set in place a trap, snare, electrical device for killing or stunning or any poisonous, poisoned or stupefying substance; use a decoy, gas or smoke, bows or cross-bows, explosives, automatic weapons or mechanically propelled vehicles which are of such a nature and so placed as to be calculated to cause bodily injury to a red squirrel.

Grey squirrels may be legally controlled, however, they do have some legal protection.

• Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it illegal to release, or to allow to escape, to the wild any captive grey squirrel. Any grey squirrel caught must be humanely destroyed.

Drowning is an inhumane method of destroying a squirrel under law.

• The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 makes it illegal to subject grey squirrels to wilful acts of cruelty or abuse.

• The Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932 makes it an offence to keep a grey squirrel in captivity, except under licence.

What Can I Do Myself to Control Squirrels?

If squirrels are causing a problem around your home or business;

• Cut back any trees or branches that might help squirrels gain access to a roof.

• Proof any gaps or entry points in or around the roof with wire mesh.

• Call in professional pest control. Legally, if you catch a grey squirrel, you have to kill it humanely.

You might not feel comfortable or competent doing this. If you were to cause it suffering in the process or harm a non-target species by setting traps, you’d likely fall foul of the law. That’s why it always pays to get expert help.


Birds can be noisy, messy, and aggressive. Their droppings can be a health and safety hazard. Whether you have a pest bird population around your home or business, you won’t want to put up with it for long. However, because all wild birds in the UK, as well as their nests and eggs, are protected by law, you can’t just take matters into your own hands.

Laws That Protect Birds

In England, Scotland and Wales the legislation that protects wild birds is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and in Northern Ireland, The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

Certain birds have more or less protections depending on the species, so get professional advice if you’re not sure about the bird that’s causing an issue.

Basically, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states that;

All birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law and it is an offence, with certain exceptions, to:

• intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird

• intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird whilst it is in use or being built

• intentionally take or destroy the egg of any wild bird

• have in one’s possession or control any wild bird, dead or alive, or any part of a wild bird, which has been taken in contravention of the Act or the Protection of Birds Act 1954

• have in one’s possession or control any egg or part of an egg which has been taken in contravention of the Act or the Protection of Birds Act 1954

• use traps or similar items to kill, injure, or take wild birds

• have in one’s possession or control any bird of a species occurring on Schedule 4 of the Act unless registered, and in most cases ringed, in accordance with the Secretary of State’s regulations (such birds include hawks, falcons, eagles, kites, tits etc.)

• intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1 while it is nest building, or at a nest containing eggs or young, or disturb the dependent young of such a bird (birds on schedule 1 include gulls, some tits, swans, some eagles, falcons etc)

There are exceptions:

• an authorised person (a landowner or occupier) may kill or take, in certain situations and by certain methods, so called ‘pest species’ and destroy or take the nest or eggs of such a bird. This is permissible under the terms of General Licences issues by government departments.

• it is not illegal to destroy a nest, egg or bird if it can be shown that the act was the incidental result of a lawful operation which could not reasonably have been avoided.

• a person may kill or injure a wild bird, other than one included on Schedule 1, if they can show, subject to a number of specific conditions, that their action was necessary to preserve public health or air safety, prevent spread of disease, or prevent serious damage to livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, or fisheries (contact Defra for more information).

• a person may take or kill (or injure in attempting to kill) a bird listed on Schedule 2, Part I, outside the close season.

• a person may take a wild bird if the bird has been injured other than by their own hand and their sole purpose is to tend it and then release it when no longer disabled. These provisions enable people to care for sick, injured or orphaned birds. Additionally, a wild bird may be killed if it is so seriously disabled as to be beyond recovery. Sick and injured birds listed on Schedule 4 should be registered with Defra.

A licence is needed to carry out bird control in the event that these exceptions apply.

What Can I Do Myself to Control Birds?

• You can invest in bird scarers and physical deterrents like bird netting or spikes;

• Call in professional bird control. At Contego, we recommend and install highly effective bird proofing like bird netting, bird mesh, and spikes, and we have other bird control tricks up our sleeve too. From deterrents like fire gel to falconry bird control, we can help you keep your home or business free from pest birds. In the event that other methods like shooting or trapping are required, we’ll do this legally and only as a last resort.

Need Help Controlling Pests on Your Property?

Controlling pests can be tricky at the best of times. Controlling pests that are protected can make things even more complicated. That’s why it’s best to call in the professionals so you stay compliant with the law.

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