General Licences permit a range of activities to control wild birds where necessary to prevent serious agricultural damage or disease, preserve public health or safety and to conserve flora and fauna, including other wild birds.
In England, General Licences are the responsibility of Natural England, who last year carried out a wide ranging review. A number of proposals were put out to consultation, and one in particular attracted considerable attention, namely that birds should only be shot or trapped under the General Licences where other methods, such as scaring or proofing, had been tried and failed. General Licences Controlling wild Birds and Proposals for Trapping.
Over 2,000 responses were received and in September Natural England published a summary of its decisions. To the relief of the rural community, common-sense prevailed and the Board decided that the test should remain as before, simply being satisfied that there is no satisfactory alternative.
The consultation also raised a number of topics “in order to inform future proposals”. These included cage trapping, an activity routinely carried out each year in late spring and early summer to target crows and other corvids to protect ground-nesting birds.
Views were sought on:
- A draft Code of Practice to replace some of the existing conditions and to provide additional advice on the conduct of trapping operations
- Keeping trapped birds as decoys, including how long they may be kept in traps and used as decoys
- A tagging system for traps, similar to that in place in Scotland
- The use of Larsen-Mate type traps (also known as “clam” or butterfly” traps, including potential conditions of use such as specifying suitable bait (e.g. no carrion), again as already stipulated in Scotland
Natural England say they will be considering the feedback in detail before any changes to the current licensing arrangements are made.
Since 2010 anyone convicted of a wildlife or animal welfare offence is automatically excluded from being able to use the General Licences until the conviction is spent (typically 5 years). The 2015 Licences contain the additional warning, that a failure to comply with the terms and conditions may result in permission to use the licence being withdrawn.
Anyone shooting or trapping pest birds must act in full compliance with the terms and conditions of the appropriate General Licence and ensure they keep fully up to date with any changes that may be implemented.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.