You may need to control pests such as rats, rabbits, foxes, mink, stoats, moles and grey squirrels.
You can control pests with pesticides and poisons, by shooting or using traps or snares.
Pesticides and poisons can cause significant environmental damage and they also pose a threat to human and animal health.
What you must do
Use approved pesticides and biocides
You must only use pesticides and biocides that have been approved by the appropriate authority.
You must only use pesticides for the purpose for which they were intended. This purpose should be stated on the product label. For example, some products are only approved for use against rodents, rabbits and grey squirrels. You must only use them to control these species.
If you are unsure about the correct use of a product contact the manufacturer or supplier before you use it.
Check the UK register of approved pesticides for more information.
Have a certificate of competence
You may need a qualification called a certificate of competence to use agricultural pesticides.
Read section 2 of the code for using plant protection products to find out if you need a certificate of competence.
Do not use pesticides for certain species
You must not use pesticides to control some pest species, such as mink, foxes and stoats. However, you can control them by shooting or trapping.
Check if you need a licence to control bird pests
All wild bird species are protected by law in the UK. You must not harm protected species such as peregrine, osprey and harriers. However, the law allows hunting of certain game birds and the control of pest species.
You can shoot or trap pest birds, such as crows, magpies, pigeons and gulls under a general licence.
There are only 12 bird species that you can control legally, including some species of gull, crow and pigeon. However, the situation varies for different species across the UK.
You must apply for a licence from your environmental regulator to control certain bird pests such as carrion crows and magpies.
- Joint Nature Conservation Committee: list of protected bird species (Adobe PDF - 300 KB)
- British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC): Information on general licences
In some circumstances you can get a specific licence if you need to use an otherwise illegal method to trap birds, or control a protected species.
- Scottish Government: Wildlife licensing and registration
- Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA): Wildlife licensing
Dispose of dead animals correctly
If you have killed a wild animal as vermin or to reduce the population, eg a deer culling exercise, you need to dispose of carcasses appropriately. Wild animal carcasses that you don't have a use for are waste, and you have a duty of care to dispose of them safely, so you don't cause pollution or attract vermin.
- store and transport your waste appropriately and securely so it doesn't escape
- check that your waste is transported and handled by people and businesses that are authorised to do so
- complete waste transfer notes (including a written description of the waste) to document all waste movements, and keep these as a record for at least two years.
You must not bury or burn in the open any animal carcasses, unless you have permission, for example if there is a disease outbreak or if you are in a designated remote area. See our guidance on disposing of animal carcasses.
Bury poisoned vermin safely
You can bury small quantities of vermin that you have killed on your land. You must ensure that you don't cause water pollution.
You must meet conditions in the relevant SEPA or NIEA position statement if you bury rodent carcasses on your land.
- SEPA: Position statement - Burial of small quantities of rodent carcasses poisoned on farmland (Adobe PDF - 178KB)
- NIEA: Position Statement – Burial of Rodents poisoned on farmland
Spray pesticides responsibly
You must spray pesticides carefully, particularly when working near to watercourses, so you don't cause pollution of surface water or groundwater. See our guidance on spraying pesticides
Dispose of waste pesticides and biocides correctly
Pesticides and biocides are likely to be classed as hazardous/special waste, so you will have to separate them from other waste.
You can dispose of pesticide and biocide containers as normal waste if you triple rinse and drain them, following the product label instructions. Some containers can never be cleaned completely, for example smoke canisters and packaging for poisons that contain aluminium phosphide. You must always dispose of these as hazardous/special waste.
You must never dispose of waste pesticide to a soakaway, watercourse or drain.
You may be able to:
- apply dilute pesticide washings to a crop, in accordance with the instructions on the product label
- dispose of pesticides to land if you have authorisation from your environmental regulator - see our guidance on water pollution
- dispose of pesticide washings to a lined biobed in Scotland, but only if you have registered an exemption with SEPA.
- Water pollution guidance
- Contact your environmental regulator
- Waste exemptions for hunting, shooting and game breeding
For more information on how to dispose of your pesticides correctly, see our guidance on disposing of pesticides and biocides.
Store pesticides safely
Pesticides are highly polluting and you should store, handle and dispose of them carefully to prevent them entering drains and watercourses. For example, store your pesticides in an area where you can contain any spills or leaks, such as in an impermeable bund.
Report wildlife crimes
Report any illegal or accidental poisoning of wildlife to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS).