Reptiles are found in a variety of habitats including heathland, woodland, grassland, wasteland, roadside verges, brownfield sites and gardens.
The need for reptile surveys is usually identified during the Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA), where suitable reptile habitat is present.
Refugia surveys involve setting out a predetermined number of felt mats measuring at least 0.5m x 0.5m within suitable reptile habitat on site. The reptile mats are then left to 'settle' for a period and surveys are conducted by an ecologist during suitable weather conditions (10-18°c) between March to October. Usually, seven survey visits are required and spaced apart as appropriate to ensure the survey results are representative.
All surveys are conducted in accordance with the 'Froglife Advice Sheet 10' (Froglife, 1999) and NARRs Survey protocols for the British herpetofauna (NARRs, 2013).
TRANSLOCATION AND DESTRUCTIVE SEARCH
Should a larger number of reptiles be recorded during the refugia surveys, a reptile translocation must be undertaken if they are reasonably likely to be affected by the proposed development. Reptile fencing may be erected around the development zone and reptiles will then be carefully captured and placed in suitable receptor site outside of the development boundary. The following points should be noted in relation to translocations:
A suitable receptor site must be created prior to the translocation. The receptor site should be of equal size or larger to the original reptile site, and include similar features for reptiles, such as hibernacula (log / rubble piles) and a varied vegetation structure.
Translocations may only be conducted during suitable weather conditions and during the appropriate season.
Translocation of reptiles on site will continue until a number of consecutive surveys have been conducted as 'clear' visits (i.e. no reptiles recorded). Please note this process can take many months where larger reptile populations are present.
The vegetation around the fencing should be kept short and away from the fencing to prevent reptiles from gaining access back into the development site.
Following the translocation, a destructive search may be required of suitable reptile features, such as tree stumps, log / rubble piles and vegetation clearance. A licensed ecologist will supervise site contractors in carefully and methodically searching for reptiles and moving them safely to the receptor site.
REPTILE LICENSING AND MITIGATION
Smooth snakes (Coronella austriaca) and sand lizards (Lacerta agilis) are afforded additional protective legislation due to their rarity and national decline. If your site features suitable habitat for these species, the best form of mitigation is to avoid these areas entirely to negate the need for a licence through Natural England. If avoidance is not possible and habitat supporting these reptiles is likely to be affected as part of the development, then this will need to be implemented under a licence. The licence will require a detailed method statement including a mitigation scheme and any compensation measures, including additional enhancements for reptiles on site; habitat creation or management and creation of additional suitable reptile habitat.