Small mammals

Under UK legislation, shrews and hedgehogs are protected from certain methods of killing / taking. Hazel dormice and water voles are protected but dealt with separately. We grant licences so you can work within the law

Small mammals, for the purposes of this page, include voles, shrews, mice (but excluding hazel dormouse), rats, moles and hedgehogs. Information on other mammals can be found on the following pages: ‘Bats’, ‘Dormice’, ‘Otter’, ‘Badgers’, ‘Deer’, ‘Pine marten and polecat’, ‘Red and grey squirrels’, ‘Seals’, ‘Water voles’ and ‘Whales, dolphins and porpoises’.

Small mammals include insectivores, such as hedgehogs, moles and shrews; and rodents, such as mice and voles. They are found in most types of habitat, as long as there is a supply of food and suitable vegetation to hide in. Most of them are important components of the diets of larger carnivores and birds of prey. 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 voles’.

European legislation

None of the species considered here are protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (known as ‘the Habitats Regulations’). However, the Hazel dormouse is listed on schedule of 2 of the Habitats Regulations. For more information see ‘Dormice’.

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

NRW issues licences under the various legislation for specific purposes, so you can undertake certain activities without breaking the law. See ‘Small mammal licensing’, ‘Water Vole licensing’ and ‘Dormouse licensing’ for more information.

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’.