All native UK reptiles (Adder, grass snake, smooth snake, sand lizard, common lizard and slow worm) are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), making it illegal to intentionally kill or injure a common reptile. Rare reptiles (smooth snake and sand lizard) also receive legal protection under the Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. It is illegal to deliberately injure, kill, capture or disturb a rare reptile, or to damage or obstruct any place used for shelter or protection. Rare reptiles may only be handled by licensed ecologists.
Surveys should be undertaken at an appropriate time of year when reptiles are active and not hibernating. Reptile surveys are typically undertaken April – September in suitable conditions and is usually undertaken by placing artificial refugia around the target area. The refugia are made of tin or roofing felt which warm up in the sun providing an attractive refuge for basking and shelter for cold blooded reptile species. A minimum of 7 visits should be undertaken checking the refugia and undertaking a visual search of the survey site. Once a population estimate is established a suitable mitigation strategy can be developed.
Mitigation is designed to be appropriate to the level of impact and the population size. Common methods of reptile mitigation include habitat manipulation techniques for low impact projects involving sensitive vegetation clearance techniques, encouraging reptiles to adjacent retained and protected habitat. Alternatively, reptile translocation work is undertaken to remove reptiles from an impacted area to a designated receptor site. For this purpose the site is usually fenced off with exclusion fencing to prevent reptiles from re-entering the site and trapped out for a set number of days until the population has been relocated.