General licences are issued by government agencies to provide a legal basis for people to carry out a range of activities relating to wildlife. By definition you do not need to apply for general licences but you are required by law to abide by their terms and conditions.
General licences are renewed annually in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These general licences are made available on the websites of the relevant government agencies and include those general licences relevant to the all year round control of ‘pest birds’ such as carrion and hooded crows, magpies and woodpigeon. Control methods allowed under general licence may include shooting; the destruction of eggs and nests; and the use of cage traps such as larsen traps, larsen mates and multi-catch traps.
The rest of this webpage contains the latest information for the general licences in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Find out more
More general information is available from the BASC website on the control of avian and mammalian pests and predators, including relevant BASC codes of practice.
General licence Frequently asked questions - Click to read
Who is responsible for issuing the licences?
England – Natural England
Scotland – Scottish Natural Heritage
Wales – Natural Resources Wales
Northern Ireland – Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
Do I need to apply for a licence?
By definition you do not need to apply for general licences but you are required by law to abide by their terms and conditions.
Do I need to carry a copy of the licence with me?
No you do not but again you are required by law to abide by their terms and conditions.
Where can I use a Larsen trap
There are no geographical restrictions on where you can use a Larsen trap as long as you are the land owner or have permission from the land owner. Land which is designated SSSI, SAC or SPA may require prior permission from the relevant agency.
Regardless of location you must comply with the licence terms and conditions and remember to have respect for the countryside, consideration for others and due regards to health and safety.
Can I shoot geese out of season?
In England, Scotland and Wales, Canada geese can be controlled out of season for certain purposes which are listed in each individual country’s general licence.
In England, Egyptian geese can also be controlled for certain purposes.
Scotland also allows the controlling of resident Greylag geese between 01 July – 31 August for the prevention of serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables and fruit.
It is up to the user to be satisfied that they are carrying out the control for these purposes and comply with the terms and conditions of the licence.
If I’m controlling species listed on the general licence do restrictions on the use of lead shot still apply?
Yes restrictions on the use of lead shot regulations still apply when controlling species under the general licence. Please click here for more information.
What if the species I want to control isn’t listed on the general licence
If the species isn’t listed then you would have to apply to the relevant government body for a specific licence.
- England – Natural England
- Scotland- Scottish Natural Heritage
- Wales – Natural Resources Wales
- Northern Ireland – Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
When it comes to the taking of game birds in the close season this can only be authorised by the Minister (under the Agriculture Act 1947 section 98), for the purpose of preventing serious damage to crops, livestock and other agricultural interests.
There are no other exceptions and no licensing provisions within the Game Act 1831 or other legislation that would permit the taking of game birds during the close season.
Do the birds have to be doing damage at the time for me to control them?
No. As long as you are carrying out the control for the purpose for which the licence is issued (i.e. to prevent serious damage to crops), there is no site specific conditions listed in the licence. The licence also doesn’t state that the control has to be done at the time of damage occurring.
The licences use terms preventing, preserving and conserving. This basically means that in an effort to effectively control species, such as woodpigeon, it is acceptable to be using a variety of local landscape-scale tactics such as decoying, roost shooting etc. and not specifically on the crop being damaged.
Under the same principle you don’t have to kill a crow in the act of predating on a nest but you must be satisfied you are controlling them for this purpose.
The licence does state the requirement that the user must be satisfied that legal (including non-lethal), methods of resolving the problems are ineffective or impracticable. This doesn’t mean you have to have tried these methods, just be satisfied that they are ineffective or impracticable in a specific situation.
Can I use a rifle to carry out the control of species listed on the general licence?
Subject to firearms regulations and your FAC conditions, a rifle can be used to carry out control of listed species for the purposes of the licence. Lead ammunition restrictions do not apply to rifles unless at the land owners discretion.
Can I use a semi-automatic shotgun to control species listed on the general licence
In England, Wales and Scotland a standard semi-automatic held on a Section 2 shotgun certificate (shotguns which have a magazine which holds no more than 2 rounds) can be used for all quarry species and avian pest species, specified in the general licences.
High capacity semi-automatic shotguns held on a Section 1 firearm certificate (semi-automatic shotguns which have a magazine that holds more than 2 rounds), cannot be used on game and wildfowl quarry species but can be used on the species specified in the general licences issued for each country.
How do I know it is the correct species I’m controlling?
It is up to the user to be certain that they have correctly identified the species. If in doubt do not carry out the control.
With regards to using Larsen or multi-catch traps, non-target species caught in them should be released unharmed immediately upon discovery.