Information on European protected species licensing

European Protected Species (EPS) of animals - their breeding sites and resting places - are protected against disturbance and harm. EPS plants are also protected. You can obtain a licence from NRW to avoid breaking the law

Coronavirus Update


Any survey work you had planned as part of a species licence application should only be undertaken where absolutely necessary following the latest social distancing guidelines from the government.



If you have further question you can contact our species team via email on


Find out more in our response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some species of plants and animals have declined throughout Europe to such an extent that they are now offered special protection in law. The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (known as ‘the Habitats Regulations’) transposed into UK law the EC Habitats Directive of 1992, which listed these EPS. This page cannot cover all aspects of the law, but is an introduction to show how you can help to protect rare species.

Animal species

The following terrestrial animals occurring in Wales are EPS, and are listed on Schedule 2 of the Habitats Regulations:

  • Bats (all species)
  • Dormouse, Muscardinus avellanarius
  • Great Crested (or Warty) Newt, Triturus cristatus
  • Natterjack Toad, Bufo calamita
  • Otter, Lutra lutra
  • Sand Lizard, Lacerta agilis

Under the Habitats Regulations, it is an offence if you:

  • Deliberately capture, injure or kill any wild animal of an EPS
  • Deliberately disturb wild animals of any such species
  • Deliberately take or destroy the eggs of such an animal, or
  • Damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of such an animal

Disturbance includes, but is not limited to, any disturbance which is likely:

1. To impair their ability –

  • to survive, to breed or reproduce, or to rear or nurture their young, or
  • in the case of animals of a hibernating or migratory species, to hibernate or migrate; or

2. To affect significantly the local distribution or abundance of the species to which they belong.

Defra and the Welsh Government will publish a joint guidance document on the interpretation of the offences relating to disturbance, and damage and destruction of breeding sites and resting places.

There are other offences relating to possession, transport and sale.

Plant species

The following plants occurring in Wales are European Protected Species (EPS), and are listed on Schedule 5 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017:

  • Fen Orchid, Liparis loeselii
  • Floating Water-plantain, Luronium natans
  • Killarney Fern, Trichomanes speciosum
  • Shore Dock, Rumex rupestris

Under the Habitats Regulations, it is an offence if you deliberately pick, collect, cut, uproot or destroy a wild plant of a European protected species.

There are other offences relating to possession, transport and sale.


NRW issues licences under Regulation 55 of the Habitats Regulations to allow you to work within the law. We issue them for specific purposes stated in the Regulations, if the following three tests are met:

  • the purpose of the work meets one of those listed in the Habitats Regulations (see below)
  • that there is no satisfactory alternative
  • that the action authorised will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status (FCS) in their natural range

Licensing purposes

The Habitats Regulations permits licences to be issued for a specific set of purposes including:

  • include preserving public health or public safety or other imperative reasons of over-riding public interest including those of a social or economic nature and beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment
  • scientific and educational purposes
  • ringing or marking
  • conserving wild animals or wild plants
  • protecting any zoological or botanical collection
  • preventing the spread of disease
  • preventing serious damage

For more information on EPS licences, see ‘Do I need a European Protected Species Licence?’.

You must normally be at least 18 to apply for a licence or be named as an accredited agent or assistant on a licence. However you might be able to apply for a licence or be named on a licence if you're at least 16 and you have wildlife licensing qualifications or awards. Exceptions can apply for the possession of dead specimens or parts or derivatives of protected species if they are to be used for educational or scientific purposes. 

Working with an ecologist

If the work you are undertaking is likely to impact protected species, you may need to employ the services of an ecologist for professional advice. 

The ecologist will ensure that your project complies with the relevant protected species legislation and ensure that your project mitigates any impact on the protected species. They may also complete and prepare the application documents.

You can find A Householder’s Guide to Engaging an Ecologist and What to expect from a What to expect from a bat survey: A Guide for UK homeowners is available on the CIEEM website.

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