Pest management in the United Kingdom

Published on 13 August 2018
Author: Aleksejs Vankovs
Varmint Advice
In my opinion, small game starts with rabbits and stops with foxes: I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise to most of you, that both of the above populations require careful management across the country. I can say with confidence that almost every single hunter would pull the trigger if he saw a fox in front of him, in the right situation.

Management of the fox population

In the UK, the fox is the largest predator with no natural enemies and the fact that winters here are very mild means that the foxes soldier on. It also means that there are a lot of foxes in very poor condition, covered in parasites, their fur in a bad state, scavenging around the countryside. They interact with other foxes, transferring whatever disease they carry to others and sometimes passing it on to our pets (dogs, cats, and others).

In recent times fox management has become a business and, for some people, their main occupation.   Controlling fox populations has much in common with deer management and other types of shooting practiced on the ground; in most cases, shooting permission is required, as part of the agreement* between landowner/farmer, and hunter.

Fox management has moved to a completely new level, with people spending huge amounts of money to get expensive equipment for detecting them earlier, to be able to call the animal from greater distances, to take a shot from greater distances, and extraordinary modifications are made to hunting trucks: all of this to improve pest management.

Management of the rabbit population

As well as fox management here in the UK, we also have a grass-eating pest which, for some farmers and landowners, is more devastating than the fox.  Although this pest is small and appealing to some people, it destroys gardens, lawns, farm crops and irrigation systems. The European rabbit is probably the second most populous pest in the UK – after pigeons.

If for controlling foxes you are advised to use a centrefire rifle (for a clean kill), then for controlling rabbits, anything goes: flushing with shotguns, ferreting, birds of prey, air-gunning, rimfire rifles, etc.

To control both of the above hunters, state-of-the-art torches, night vision and thermal imaging are used, not to mention the pimped-up trucks… Nighttime pest control has become more like a sport activity and almost a distinct type of shooting discipline altogether, where endurance, concentration, and precision are crucial. As it is done at night, it takes a lot of practice and skill to execute a perfect shot. That is why a good quality rifle is a MUST for pest control and I can say that I am the very lucky owner of one such rifle: the Browning T-Bolt Varmint .17HMR – it has never let me down…

How are you managing pests in your country or region?