ARCHIVE: Farming: Pest control
Some mammals and birds are considered pests and may need to be controlled legally, normally by the occupier of the land, as part of countryside management.
There are a number of advisory leaflets which can offer guidance on controlling many of these. However, if you have a problem that is not covered you should contact the Natural England Wildlife Licensing Unit on 0845 6014523 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Control of some species of birds for certain purposes can be carried out under a General Licence, but you should check full details of the species covered, the permitted actions and the purposes covered in the General Licences section of the Natural England website first.
Licences for pest control
For the control of some species such as rats, mice, rabbits and foxes, there is no requirement for a licence. A licence, or special authority, is required to take action against protected species or to use particular methods of control.
Application forms and relevant guidance can be downloaded from the Natural England website.
Licences may be issued to allow action to be taken against protected mammals and wild birds, some of which can cause problems on farms.
Controlling these species can be particularly important to:
- prevent the spread of disease
- prevent damage to livestock
- prevent damage to feedstuffs
- preserve public health and safety
If any further advice is required, you should contact Natural England's Wildlife Licensing Unit.
Occasionally, a problem arises which cannot be resolved under a general licence either because the particular species or the method to be used is not covered by a general licence. In this situation alternatives will be considered by application to Natural England.
Examples of methods which are prohibited under the provision of a general licence are:
- stupefying bait (e.g. alphachloralose)
- mist nets
- carbon dioxide
For most types of licence there is no charge.
Rat and mouse control
Rats and mice are a particular problem on farms. Rats in particular can jeopardise assurance scheme accreditation and in food premises contamination could result in prosecution under food safety legislation.
There is no requirement for occupiers of agricultural land to notify the local authority of the presence of rodents but, under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949, there is a responsibility to control them.
A range of leaflets are available that provide guidance and best practice, including the following:
- Mouse control guidelines
- Rats: options for controlling infestations
- Rats: control on livestock units
- The control of rats with rodenticides – a complete guide to best practice
- Rodent control plan of action
- Urban rat control and safe use of rodenticides by professional users
Methods of control may include trapping, shooting or chemical control using fumigants or rodenticide baits. It is likely that a combination of measures will provide the most effective control.
Under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 the local authority can, where necessary, carry out the control work and recover the cost of such action from the landowner or occupier.
Approved spring traps
Under the Pests Act 1954, only certain types of spring traps are approved for killing and taking animals. These are listed on the Spring traps approved for use page on Defra website.
Two traps adapted solely for the destruction of rats, mice or other small ground vermin are excluded from this general prohibition, these are spring traps known as break-back traps commonly used for rats, mice and other small ground vermin, and spring traps of the kind commonly used for catching moles in their runs.
Following a consultation in 2003 on the use of snares under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, a code of good practice was produced to provide guidance on their use.
Reporting illegal pest control
If you suspect a trap is illegally set or any other wildlife crime has been committed you should phone the police, or contact your local wildlife crime officer.
Natural England Wildlife Licensing Unit: 0845 6014523
Page last modified: 12 February 2009
Page published: 1 July 2006