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Notice (updated 19 May 2020 - 12:30pm): Due to the situation regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus), all shooting, stalking and related activity has been suspended on the national forests and land. Whilst FLS fully appreciates the challenges fox control brings in relation to agriculture and land management at this time of year, the safety, health and wellbeing of staff, visitors and contractors is our primary concern.

Therefore FLS has made the necessary decision to close down all our current non-essential operations, except some harvesting sites that provide essential woodfuel and material for other essential products. We are therefore not in a position to carry out any form of shooting or deer stalking until Scottish Government/NHS guidance is updated/relaxed in terms of lockdown.

The fox is a highly adaptable and successful predator found where food is plentiful.

In the uplands, foxes feed mainly on carrion over winter and live prey during the rest of the year. This can include rabbits, voles, amphibians, ground-nesting birds and, sometimes, livestock and game birds.

Whilst the fox is common in woodland and agricultural ecosystems, its impact on forestry is generally neutral or even beneficial. Forestry and Land Scotland will only control foxes to meet conservation interests, for research purposes, to protect FLS agricultural tenanted land and, where deemed appropriate, to assist neighbouring land managers.

Fox hiding in grass © Scott Walsh / Unsplash

Why do we assist our neighbours with fox control?

Land managers are legally permitted to control fox numbers in order to limit predation of animals on their land. Sometimes foxes may travel from neighbouring areas - such as Scotland's national forests and land - to hunt on agricultural land or gamekeeping estates.

In these instances, land managers may seek permission from us to enter our forests to flush out foxes for humane culling.

We appreciate that this can be an uncomfortable aspect of rural life for many people but it is nevertheless a legitimate action.

How do we grant access for fox control?

Our forests are popular visitor destinations, are busy places of work and are home to numerous protected species. We therefore only grant a limited number of permissions to enter the land we manage to flush out foxes for culling.

Public safety is always our top priority and we demand that a risk assessment is carried out before we consider awarding the permission. We also stipulate that there should be no disruption to the public and that the group seeking the permission are responsible for safe access for other forest users, who must be treated civilly if encountered.

We also check the professional qualifications of the gamekeepers taking part, including checking relevant BASC safe-shot certification and public liability insurance.

Our staff will monitor the group’s activity on the days they are on site to ensure that they adhere to the terms and conditions of their permission. If it becomes clear that any of the conditions are not being met, we will immediately suspend the permission and take appropriate action. In cases of a serious breach this can result in the termination of a permission.

Areas identified as having endangered species present will be excluded from any permission granted.

Fox hunting with dogs as a recreational pastime is illegal in Scotland. Contact the police on 101 if you have any information about an illegal fox hunt; whether on land owned by Forestry and Land Scotland or otherwise.

What methods are used for fox control?

Our permission makes it absolutely clear that foxes can only be flushed out (i.e. forced out of hiding, but not killed) by dogs and subsequently despatched by firearm. This conforms to the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, section 2.

The dogs must be kept under control at all times. As per the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, a dog is considered ‘under control’ if, a) the person responsible for the dog is able to direct the dog’s activity by physical contact or verbal or audible command; or b) the dog is carrying out a series of actions appropriate to the activity undertaken, having been trained to do so.

Forestry and Land Scotland’s Fox Management and Control policy is in line with Scottish Government policy on wildlife management and will be reviewed in the coming months.

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