[Updated 14 May 09:00]
Natural England has announced (Tuesday 23 April) the temporary withdrawal, with effect from midnight Thursday 25 April, of three general licences for the control of certain birds (GL 04/05/06). The three licences cover 16 bird species, including several members of the crow family (crows, magpies, rooks, jackdaws and jays), feral and wood pigeon, and a number of invasive non-native species (such as Canada goose).
This follows a legal challenge to the way the licences have been issued, which could mean users who rely on them are not acting lawfully, and it is the first stage of a planned review of general and class licences, which will be completed this year.
Natural England intends to start issuing a new set of general licences as of Monday 29 April. They are prioritising the publication of the most important, for example, magpies and carrion crows for conservation puroposes, carrion crows for livestock protection and wood pigeons for crop protection. An up to date list of republishd licences can be found here.
Defra has now (4 May) taken back control of the licensing process. Whilst Natural England are still responsible for the three General Licences published already and the granting of Individual Licences, Defra will be publishing the rest.
From midnight Thursday 25 April, and until new licences have been issued by Defra, anyone needing to control one of these 16 bird species where there is no reasonable non-lethal alternative will therefore need to apply for an individual licence that can be found here. The licences are simplifed and will only take a matter of minutes to fill out. Until Natural England have assessed and authorised the application you will not be able to undertake lethal control.
Equipment used for the purposes of catching and killing birds, including Larsen traps, decoys or shooting, will be illegal after Thursday 25 April, until new open licences are issued, unless an individual licence has been applied for, and granted. As a result people could be committing an offence. If anyone is any doubt as to what they should do on their land, they should visit the Natural England licensing webpage for more information and advice: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/wildlife-licences.
As it currently stands:
1. The General Licences for the control of 16 species have been revoked.
2. Killing or taking them without a licence is an offence
3. A number of General Licences have already been republished, including woodpigeons for crop damage and carrion crows for livestock damage.
4. The rest of the General Licences are due to be republished by Defra
5. You can apply for a temporary Individual Licence, use the current republished General Licences or wait a few days/weeks for the new set of General Licences to be published.
We will be updating this advice as new information comes forward and you can watch Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner answer your questions about the Natural England general licence changes in the video below.
What action should you take?