The red squirrel is included in Schedules 5 and 6 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) which means that it is a protected species.
This legislation has subsequently been amended, most recently by the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW) for England and Wales.
The inclusion of the species in Schedule 5 means that, under Section 9 of the WCA it is an offence 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 squirrel control is a legal activity which does not need to be licensed.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) Schedule 9 – makes it illegal to release, or to allow to escape, to the wild any captive grey squirrel.
Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 – makes it illegal to subject grey squirrels to wilful acts of cruelty or abuse.
Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932 – makes it an offence to keep a grey squirrel in captivity, except under licence.
Basic provisions of the legislation are that:
- It is illegal to release a trapped grey squirrel into the wild and it is also illegal to keep a grey squirrel in captivity.
- Any grey squirrel caught must be humanely destroyed.
- Drowning is an inhumane method of despatch.
- When trapping for grey squirrels, traps must be visited once every 24 hours, but, where there is a risk of catching red squirrels or other non-target species it is a legal requirement that traps are checked twice daily.
This is not intended as a definitive guide to the legislation; please refer to the original legislation for more details.