Scottish Natural Heritage has issued its first wild hacking licence for gyrfalcons. Photograph: Gail Shotlander/Getty Images Scottish Natural Heritage has issued its first wild hacking licence for gyrfalcons. Photograph: Gail Shotlander/Getty Images

5 things you need to know about wild hacking

1. The first wild hacking licence has been issued in Scotland

Wildlife regulator Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) last year issued its first wild hacking licence, allowing the temporary release of 150 gyrfalcons in Moray, Scotland.

2. It is a traditional method used by falconers

Young falcons, around four-weeks-old, are released into a semi-wild environment to improve their flying and hunting skills before being sent to a falconry.

3. There is a strong market for falcons in the Middle East

Gyrfalcons and peregrine falcons are raised and exported to markets such as the United Arab Emirates. One gyrfalcon can fetch thousands of pounds. 

4. It is illegal to breed certain falcon species in the UK

Mark Avery, co-founder of nature conservation campaign group Wild Justice, has concerns that hybrid falcons, which are not permitted to be bred in the UK but are desired by foreign falconry markets, could be reared alongside other falcon species unless there is robust monitoring by nature regulators.

5. Some Moray residents have complained that local wildlife has been affected

SNH said curlews and lapwings were present in the licensed area but that the licence did not overlap with the most vulnerable period for moorland waders.

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