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Small Mammal Licensing

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) fully protects water voles; and protects shrews and hedgehogs from certain methods of killing / taking. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) grants licences so you can work within the law

Small mammals, for the purposes of this page, include voles, shrews, mice, rats, moles and hedgehogs. Information on licensing for other mammals can be found on the following pages: ‘Bat licensing’, ‘Dormouse licensing’, ‘Otter licensing’, ‘Badger licences issued by Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Government’, ‘Deer licensing’, ‘Pine marten and Polecat licensing’, ‘Red squirrel licensing’, ‘Water vole licensing’ and ‘Marine European Protected Species licensing’.

Small mammals include insectivores, such as hedgehogs, moles and shrews, and rodents, such as mice and voles. Not all species are protected, and the levels of protection vary between species.

This page cannot cover all aspects of the law or mammal ecology, but is an introduction to show how you can help to protect these species.

UK legislation

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), known as ‘the Act’, lists several mammal species on Schedule 6, for which certain methods of killing or taking are prohibited. These include the following small mammals:

  • Hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus
  • Shrews, Soricidae
  • Water vole, Arvicola amphibius

The water vole is also listed on Schedule 5 of the Act. For more information, see ‘Water vole licensing’.

European legislation

None of the species considered here are protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (known as ‘the Habitats Regulations’). The Hazel dormouse is listed on schedule of 5 of the Habitats Regulations. For more information, see ‘Dormouse licensing’.

For a summary of mammalian legal protection, see ‘Legally protected mammals in Wales’.


NRW issues licences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act for specific purposes, so you can undertake certain activities without breaking the law. We can grant licences for the following purposes:

  • Scientific and educational
  • Ringing or marking
  • Conserving wild animals or wild plants, or introducing them to particular areas
  • Protecting any zoological or botanical collection
  • Photography
  • Public health or public safety
  • Preventing the spread of disease
  • Preventing serious damage to crops, property, fisheries etc

We cannot issue licences for the purposes of development under this legislation.

If you are intending to trap shrews, this can be done under a General Licence - reference GEN:WCA:017:2016 which can be downloaded below. Once downloaded please inform NRW that you intend to activate the licence via email to and remember to read all the conditions attached to the licence taking particular note of conditions 97, 98 and 211.

If you are intending to trap non-protected or pest species, but there is a chance of trapping a Schedule 5 or Schedule 6 species, then see ‘Incidental trapping of Schedule 5 and Schedule 6 animals’, ‘Relevant Sections of the Wildlife and Countryside Act’ and ‘Notes on trapping shrews’.

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