The four common reptile species are listed under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 198, which means that surveys are required to take place on your development.Surveys follow a set methodology, with refuges placed in area where the habitat is seen as suitable for the reptile in question such as south face bankings, allotments and railway cuttings. When undertaking out presence/absence surveys a total of 7 visits to a site is made. Two complimentary methods are commonly used to identify reptiles; direct observation and the use of artificial refugia “tins”.

Ellendale Environmental ecologists have extensive experience of surveying for British reptile species and are fully licensed to survey for sand lizard and smooth snake.

Reptiles are generally active from March to October but the most profitable months for surveying tend to be from March to June and in September/October, with the peak survey months being April, May and September. Surveys are limited during July and August by high temperatures.



When are Reptile Surveys Required?

The exact timing of any survey will depend on rainfall and other climatic patterns as these will influence activity, breeding and feeding activities of the animals. Reptiles may also be active at different times of the day and so the surveys will be altered to reflect this.


The Reptile Survey Process


Direct Observation

In general the site will be walked slowly scanning at least 4m ahead and observation of any reptiles will be made. The aim of the survey will be to locate potential basking animals and sunny spots will be searched. Additionally vegetation such as scrub will be checked.

Reptile Translocation / Reptile Mitigation

The presence of any reptile species on a site is a material planning concern, and mitigation measures should be agreed to minimise the risk of the development resulting in the killing or injury of reptiles as part of the planning application process. 

Where possible reptile habitats should be retained on site and reptile populations conserved in situ.  Where habitat retention and management is not practicable, a reptile translocation can be undertaken, removing animals to suitable alternative habitats as agreed.

Mitigation and translocation of reptiles from a site typically includes reptile fencing to prevent animals entering the site, capture and translocation of reptiles from a site. Mitigation can also include the creation of suitable habitats, refugia, hibernacula and habitat management.

Artificial Refugia

Reptiles can often be found under debris that is exposed, or partially exposed, to the sun (Gent & Gibson, 1998). A practical objective of reptile surveys is to find them basking, when there is least disturbance to the animal and sufficient time to capture the animal. Refugia (squares of corrugated tin roofing or felt sheets) are placed in areas of suitable habitat.

The refugia are checked periodically in suitable weather conditions (i.e. low ambient air temperature but with the sun shining, and little, or no, wind).


Specialist surveys

Specialist surveys can be devised for a wide range of purposes. Out reptile specialists are always happy to discuss your requirements further.



Why Choose Ellendale Environmental?

Ellendale Environmental ecologists have extensive experience of surveying for British reptile species and are fully licensed to survey for sand lizard and smooth snake.

Our ecologists have experience is planning surveys, developing and undertaking mitigation for reptiles on both large and small sites that ensure our clients are able to progress with their planning applications and developments.

Your development will be in safe hands with our experts at Ellendale Environmental who will work alongside you to ensure that your development is compliant with the law which will minimise disruption to your project. We are able to ensure this through extensive searches of the surrounding area being conducted for the presence of reptiles. If reptiles are present we work collectively to ensure the development process is not hindered whilst protecting the reptiles through implementing appropriate mitigation and compensation measures



All British reptile species are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, with the four most common species protected from sale and intentional or reckless killing or injury, these are the grass snake, slow worm, common lizard and adder. Two rarer species come under full protection from harm and disturbance to them or their habitats, these are the smooth snake and sand lizard.

British Reptiles

There are six native British reptile species, four of which are commonly found and widespread. These are the common lizard Zootoca vivipara; slow-worm Anguis fragilis; grass snake Natrix natrix; and adder Vipera berus. The remaining two species, smooth snake Coronella austriaca and sand lizard Lacerta agilis, are very rare and have restricted distributions and specialist habitat requirements.

Different species of reptile have varying habitat preferences and requirements as outlined below (Beebee & Griffiths 2000).

  • Common lizards use a variety of habitats from woodland glades to walls and pastures; although one of their favoured habitats is rough grassland.

  • Slow worms utilise similar habitats to common lizards, and are often found in rough grassland, gardens, and derelict land.

  • Sand Lizard are most commonly associated with the southern lowland heaths and coastal dunes of the north-west. The habitat range is limited to a few known locations and reintroduction sites.

  • Grass snakes have broadly similar requirements to common lizards, although they have a greater reliance on ponds and wetlands, where they prey on common frogs.

  • Adders use a variety of fairly open habitats (with some cover available) but are most often found in dry heath and woodland edge.

  • Smooth Snake have a restricted distribution in and are now thought to be confined to the South East of Dorset, South West Hampshire and a small area of East Hampshire and West Surrey. This species is found on dry heath slopes with mature heather and Dwarf Gorse usually south facing


The four common reptile species are listed under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), in respect of section 9(5) and part of 9(1). This protection was extended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Legislation protecting British Reptiles

The legislation makes it an offence to:

  • intentionally, or recklessly, kill or injure any of the above species; or

  • sell, or attempt to sell, any part of the species, alive or dead.

The two rarer species receive greater protection under both the Wildlife and Countryside Act and also from the under Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations.