There are six species of reptile native to the UK, three lizard species; Common Lizard Zootoca vivipara, Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis and Slow-worm Anguis fragilis and three snake species; Adder Vipera berus, Grass Snake Natrix natrix and Smooth Snake Cornella austriaca. Reptiles are found in a wide range of habitats including heaths, moors, rough grassland, gardens and woodland edges.
Protection and Legislation
- Common lizard, slow worm, adder and grass snake are all protected under Section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (as amended) against injuring, killing or selling.
- Sand lizard and smooth snake are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (as amended) and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 against killing, injuring, capture, damaging or destroying a breeding or resting site, intentionally obstructing access to a place used for shelter, keeping, transporting or sale.
Reptiles are most active in late spring and late summer; hibernation occurs between November and February. Reptile surveys therefore can take place from March to October, with late spring (April-June) and September being the best time to survey. Survey times can be limited by high temperatures in July / August, because reptiles will consequently spend less time basking, whilst low temperatures in October can lead to early hibernation.
- Presence / likely absence survey: Artificial refuges, which are tiles made from corrugated iron, roofing felt or carpet tiles, are placed in suitable reptile habitat. These refuges provide shelter from predation and aid heat absorption. The artificial refuges are then checked on seven occasions in suitable weather conditions.
Licensing and Mitigation
If reptiles are found on site then mitigation will be required. Works which will impact upon sand lizard or smooth snake may require a derogation licence to be obtained from the appropriate statutory body for nature conservation prior to the start of works. A mitigation licence permits operations which would otherwise constitute an offence and will only be approved if it includes a suitable mitigation plan and is completed by a licensed ecologist.