There are no specific legal restrictions on the night shooting of foxes. Authorised persons may legally carry out this form of fox control. Ensure that you comply with previous guidance in this code.
Restrictions on the taking and killing of rabbits and hares
The night shooting of rabbits and hares by tenants or occupiers of land, who are not the owners of the land, are subject to the following restrictions. These do not apply to landowners, but they should be aware of the legal restrictions on shooting hares at night:
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 schedule 7 amended Section 6 of the Ground Game Act 1880 and Section 50 of The Agricultural (Scotland) Act 1948, to allow night shooting of ground game under certain conditions.
England and Wales:
It is lawful for the occupier of any land himself, or one other person authorised by him, to use firearms for the purpose of killing ground game at night if the occupier has the written authority of a person entitled to kill or take the ground game on their land e.g. holder of shooting rights (except where the occupier has the exclusive rights). The following conditions apply:
- No person should be authorised by the occupier to kill ground game except:
• Members of his household resident on the land in his occupation
• Persons in his ordinary service on such land e.g. employees
• Any other person, bona fide employed by him for reward in taking and destruction of ground game. The keeping of ground game satisfies the requirements of reward in the absence of money.
- Every person so authorised by the occupier, on demand by any other person having a concurrent right or any person so authorised by him in writing, must produce their written authority. In default, a person would not be deemed to be an ‘authorised person’.
England, Wales and Scotland:
Under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and in Scotland under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994, it is an offence to shoot mountain hares (Lepus timidus) at night with the aid of a lamp or image intensifier, or at any time using any semi-automatic weapon with a magazine capable of holding more than two rounds of ammunition. However, licences can be granted to allow night shooting under certain circumstances.
Scotland: The following criteria apply:
- It shall not be unlawful for the owner of the shooting rights on any land or any person holding those rights from him, or the occupier of any land to use a firearm for the purpose of killing ground game thereon at night.
- The occupier of any land shall not use a firearm to kill ground game at night (except where he has exclusive right) unless he has obtained the written authority of the other person or one of the other persons entitled to kill ground game.
- An occupier who is entitled to use a firearm for the purpose of ground game may be subject to the provision of Section 1 of the Ground Game Act 1880, which authorises one other person so to use a firearm. Common Law permits a landowner to take and kill game on his land, and, subject to reservation, an agricultural tenant, as occupier, to kill ground game for crop protection.
‘Night’ is defined as one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Ground Game Act 1880, define ‘ground game’ as hares and rabbits.
Northern Ireland: The following criteria apply:
- Article 12 (1) (c) of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, makes it illegal to use sound recording for the purposes of killing or taking any wild animal (including foxes).
- Article 12 (2) of the Wildlife Order 1985, makes it illegal to use any form of artificial light or any night-sighting device for the purposes of killing or taking any wild animal listed on Schedule 6 which includes any hare or any deer.
- In Northern Ireland, Article 7A (1) of the Game Preservation Act 1928 makes it an offence for any person to kill, take or destroy any game (including hares) on a Sunday or, during the period commencing one hour after sunset on any day, and ending one hour before sunrise on the next day.
There is no close season for rabbits or prohibited time of taking with the exception of the provisions of the Ground Game Acts 1880 and 1906, relating to the taking of rabbits on moorland and on unenclosed land.
There is no close season for hares in England and Wales except for the provisions of the Ground Game Act 1880 and 1906 relating to the taking of hares on moorland or unenclosed land. Hares are included in the definition of ‘game’ in the Game Act 1831 and are therefore protected on Sundays and Christmas Day.
In Scotland under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, there is a close season for brown hare from 1 February to 30 September and mountain hare are protected.
In England and Wales the Hares Preservation Act 1892 makes it an offence to sell or expose for sale any hare or leveret between 1 March and 31 July inclusive. This does not apply to imported foreign hares. In Scotland there is no close season for the sale of hare, however, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, it is an offence to have in your possession, sell or offer to sell any hare which has been illegally taken.
Moorland and unenclosed land
Moorland and unenclosed land does not include arable land or detached portions of land less than 25 acres which adjoins arable land.
In England and Wales under the Ground Game Act 1880, as amended by the Ground Game (Amendment) Act 1906, occupiers or authorised persons may only take and kill ground game on moorland or unenclosed land between 1 September and 31 March inclusive; however, firearms may only be used for such purposes between 11 December and 31 March.
In Scotland, the Ground Game Act 1880 has been amended as follows by the Agriculture Act (Scotland) 1948 and the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011:
The occupier of the land or persons authorised by him may take rabbits, throughout the year, on moorlands and unenclosed lands (not being arable) by all legal means other than by shooting, and by means of firearms over the period from 1 July to 31 March inclusive. Hares to which this legislation also refers are now subject to a close season as a result of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011.