About Reptiles

Two of the UK’s reptile species; smooth snake and sand lizard, are afforded the highest level of protection under European Protected Species status and UK law. This makes it an offence to deliberately or recklessly; Capture, injure or kill, disturb, take / destroy eggs, damage / destroy a breeding site or resting place

Any work or development which affects smooth snake or sand lizard will require a European Protected Species Licence from Natural England.

The other four UK reptile species which are more widespread and common are protected under amendments to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 against killing or injury, and are additionally Species of Principal Importance in England under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. These are; Adder, Grass snake, Common lizard, Slow worm

Reptiles are ectotherms, which means that they rely on external heat sources to raise their body temperature, as they are coldblooded animals. They require basking spots to raise their temperature allowing them to become active, conversely they require areas of shade and cover to reduce body temperature and prevent overheating. These species specific requirements mean that they prefer sites that offer a diversity of habitats, aspects and climatic conditions, in addition to a nearby source of food. Typically suitable reptile habitats will include; upland and lowland heathland, woodland and woodland edge habitat, rough grassland and scrub, railway embankments and brownfield sites where a mosaic of shaded and open habitats are present.

Reptiles hibernate over winter under dense vegetation, in stone walls, log and compost piles, and animal burrows where temperatures are more stable. Overwintering sites are known as hibernacula.

Our Reptile Services

We undertake reptile surveys throughout the UK. Pennine Ecological have over 25 years experience of undertaking reptile surveys, mitigation and post-development monitoring for the following protected reptile species: Common lizard, Slow worm, Grass snake, and Adder.

We have survey experience of the full range of reptile habitats in Britain, including derelict post-industrial land, heathland, coastal grassland, chalk pits, grassland, railway verges and the motorway verge network.

Standard methods of survey involve strategic placing of artificial refugia during the active period for reptiles from April to early October. This is allied to basking spot surveys of suitable habitat using binoculars.

Mitigation often involves selection of suitable receptor sites and translocation of reptile populations from development sites.

We also have experience of destructive search at development sites, to capture reptiles during ground preparations prior to development.

Post-development work includes monitoring of survival rates by marking pattern recognition photography of adult animals, and suitable habitat management of receptor sites, for example construction of hibernacula and provision of log pile refuges and compost heaps.

Examples of our work with Reptiles

United Utilities PLC

Surveys of land holdings and Waste Water Treatment Works throughout NW England. Implementation of mitigation measures.

Highways England

Surveys and mitigation for major road projects in North Yorkshire, East Midlands and Lancashire including Smart Motorway upgrades.

Numerous surveys and mitigation on brownfield sites throughout England for small – large scale developments.

Reptile Case Study

Pennine Ecological were commissioned to undertake a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal of proposed warehouse development site located within an existing business park. Although the site had been subject to significant historical landform disturbance, its location between a canal and river, together with highly suitable reptile basking spots and refuges on site, such as large weathered slabs of concrete were considered to provide highly suitable habitats for reptiles, particularly grass snake. Therefore an Artificial Refuge Survey using roofing felt mats was recommended. Following the completion of seven site visits over several months, a small population of grass snake were discovered to be present.

A programme of carefully managed and supervised vegetation removal was undertaken over an extended period to encourage dispersal of the species off site. Careful hand searches and destructive searches of potential concrete slab hibernacula were then undertaken. Thankfully no grass snakes were found, indicating that carefully managed vegetation removal had been successful in encouraging safe dispersal of the species. However, the design of the sites peripheral areas included re-locating the concrete hibernacula structures and creating suitable basking spots / areas of shaded scrub and woodland around the periphery the site, whilst ensuring habitat linkages with surrounding highly suitable river and canal habitats were maintained.

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If you would like to discuss how Pennine Ecological can help you, please get in touch with us.