European Common Lizard by Thomas Brown via Wikimedia Commons

To book your Reptile Presence/absence Survey

Call Midland Ecology

0121 517 0841

or email

For fast, friendly and affordable service

Adders (Viper aberus), grass snakes (Natrix natrix), common lizards (Zootoca vivipara), slow-worms (Anguis fragilis), smooth snakes (Coronella austriaca) and sand lizards (Lacerta agilis) are protected by law.

If reptiles are found on your site, in most cases, you should be able to avoid harming the reptiles by adjusting your planned work. If you can’t avoid disturbing them or damaging their habitats, then you will require a licence from Natural England. If you need to apply for planning permission, then your planning authority should check that you’re taking the right steps to avoid harming them.

You may be required to undertake Presence/absence Surveys for reptiles if there is a risk that your development could present harm to them or destroy their habitat.

Your local planning authority should advise you, or your architect, that a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal or Extended Phase I Habitat Survey is necessary. If this survey identifies suitable habitat for reptiles on site, or evidence of reptiles e.g. shed skins, then full reptile surveys will be needed.

The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust has lots of guidance, or alternatively call us on 0121 517 0841 for some advice.

All native British species of reptiles are legally protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 due to a dramatic decline in the last century, largely due to loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitat. There are six species of reptiles in Great Britain (Edgar et al. 2010). Four of these are more commonly found; the grass snake Natrix natrix, adder Viper aberus, common lizard Zootoca vivipara and slow worm Anguis fragilis, and two are rare; the smooth snake Coronella austriaca, isolated to lowland heaths in e.g. Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset and West Sussex, and sand lizard Lacerta agilis, with isolated populations in e.g. coastal Wales and Cornwall. These rare reptile species are also protected by European law.

It is illegal to:

- Capture, kill, disturb or injure sand lizards or smooth snakes (on purpose or by not taking enough care).

- Damage or destroy a breeding or resting place of sand lizards or smooth snakes (even accidentally).

- Obstruct access to sand lizards’ or smooth snakes’ resting or sheltering places (on purpose or by not taking enough care).

- Possess or transport live or dead sand lizards and smooth snakes, or parts of them.

- Kill adders, grass snakes, common lizards and slow-worms, unless you have a licence.

- Sell, barter or exchange common and rare reptiles.

If you carry out work affecting protected reptiles or their habitats without a license you will be breaking the law.

Penalties on conviction include

- A maximum fine of £5,000 per offence or per reptile.

- Up to six months in prison

In order to conduct your Reptile Presence/absence Surveys, Midland Ecology will require the following information:

- Your/your client’s name and contact details (e-mail address and telephone number)

- The full site address

- Access to the site on all survey dates
(NB it is not necessary for you to be present during the survey as long as there is open access to the site. Please ensure any alarm/lock codes/keys are sent to us in advance).

- A copy of your Preliminary Ecological Appraisal or Extended Phase I Habitat Survey if carried out by another ecologist.

- Full site plan (in PDF format).

- Your development proposals (in PDF format).

Reptiles are generally active from mid-March to mid-October, but the most reliable months for surveying tend to be April, May and September. The exact timing however will depend on temperature, rainfall and other weather factors. The warmest summer months (where temperatures can exceed 18°C), are considered sub-optimal.

Click here to view our survey calendar

This type of assessment is constrained by the seasonal habits of reptiles. Temperatures of between 9-18°C are generally accepted to be the optimum for reptiles to be active. Weather conditions such as heavy rain, high wind or (in some instances) dense cloud can make a day unsuitable for this type of survey. If cancellation of a survey visit is anticipated, then you will be contacted to inform you of this, and to re-book your survey for the next available slot.

The survey is needed to establish presence/absence of reptiles. If reptile presence is confirmed, the survey will also determine species, sex, an approximate density and distribution.

Standard survey methodology involves installing artificial refugia throughout the habitat. These are left to bed down for 2 weeks before seven checks of the refugia are carried out to confirm presence or absence. In circumstances where reptiles are found, the refugia are checked for a further eight days to obtain a population size class assessment. The refugia are collected after completion of the fieldwork.

It is not necessary for you to be present during the survey as long as there is open access to all of the land in need of surveying. Please ensure any alarm/lock codes/keys are sent to us in advance.

The cost of Presence/absence Surveys for reptiles is determined by the size of the site to be surveyed. Our fee includes the desk study, site visits* and the production of a report, with associated costs (e.g. mileage*, expenses) all included. Call us on 0121 517 0841 or e-mail us for a more detailed quote.

Unless these have already been obtained as part of a recent survey on the site, biological records data will also be required. This is provided by your local biological records centre, who will charge their own fee. We will contact them for a quote on your behalf.

* Please be aware that where reptiles are found, it is necessary to carry out a further eight checks to obtain a population size class assessment e.g. the Preliminary Ecological Appraisal or Extended Phase I Habitat Survey may recommend an initial seven days of surveying following the installation of refugia, however if reptiles are found then a further eight days of surveying will be required. Your surveyor will discuss this with you and agree any further costs before undertaking the work.

Midland Ecology aims to have your finished report with you within 10 days of completing the final day of surveying.

Depending on your local records centre, Biological Records Data (BRD) can delay the final version of your report. We will request a probable timescale when obtaining your quote, and advise you immediately of any likely delays.

If no reptiles are found to be using the site, then this type of survey will usually provide adequate evidence to satisfy your local planning authority that your proposed development poses no risk to reptiles.

If reptiles are found, there is no need to panic – it does not usually mean that your development can’t go ahead, in fact it is very rare that a development will need to stop altogether. A suitable method of working will need to be agreed with the council prior to any works taking place and you may need to adapt your plans slightly to compensate and mitigate for the reptiles.