Information on UK Protected Species Licensing

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, amongst others, gives legal protection to hundreds of plant and animal species found in the UK. You can obtain a licence from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to avoid committing an offence

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.

Over the last few decades, successive UK governments have passed Acts of Parliament to protect species and their habitats, so future generations can continue to enjoy Welsh wildlife. This page cannot cover all aspects of the law, but will help you decide what activities might require a licence.


The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 lists protected species of plants and animals on various schedules, with differing levels of protection according to their needs. NRW can issue licences for several purposes under this legislation, including scientific, research, educational, conservation and photography, but not for development.

Other relevant Acts under which licences can be granted include:

  • Protection of Badgers Act 1992 (see Badgers)
  • Deer Act 1991 (see Deer)
  • Conservation of Seals Act 1970

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981


The Act protects all birds, their nests and their eggs (see Birds for details). In addition, Schedule 1 lists 79 species, which have extra protection from disturbance. For more information on bird licensing, see ‘Bird Licensing’.


Schedule 5 lists animal species (excluding birds, but including around 50 vertebrates and 70 invertebrates) with various levels of protection. Offences include combinations of the following, according to the rarity of the species:

  • Sale, or offering / exposing for sale
  • Possession
  • Intentional taking, killing or injuring
  • Intentionally / recklessly damaging or destroying its place of shelter / protection
  • Intentionally / recklessly disturbing it whilst occupying its place of shelter / protection
  • Intentionally / recklessly obstructing access to its place of shelter / protection

Schedule 6 prohibits certain methods of killing or taking particular wild animals, including the following Welsh terrestrial mammals: badger, bats, dormouse, hedgehog, otter, pine marten, polecat, red squirrel, shrews (see relevant page for each species or group).


It is illegal to uproot any wild plant, unless you have the permission of the landowner. In addition, more than 100 flowering plants and over 75 lower plants are listed on Schedule 8. For these specially protected plants, it is an offence if you:

  • Intentionally pick, uproot or destroy
  • Sell, offer or expose for sale


NRW can grant licences for various purposes under different UK legislation. This is to allow certain activities, for specific purposes only, which would otherwise be offences under the legislation. Wildlife and Countryside Act licences cannot be issued for the purposes of development. For further information, see the appropriate species licensing pages.

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. 

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