In fact, in the UK, we have six native reptile species.
Three types of snake; adder, grass snake and smooth snake and three types of lizard; common lizard, sand lizard and slow worms (often mistaken for snakes).
All of these species are protected from killing and injury under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Smooth snakes and sand lizards also have legislation protecting their habitat due to the rarity of these species within the UK.
This legislation means that clearance of ground vegetation will often require reptile surveys to be completed beforehand to establish whether reptiles are present or not. Without this knowledge, you may end up killing or injuring animals as part of the proposed development and breaching wildlife legislation.
Reptile habitat varies from species to species but most reptiles will be found in overgrown grasslands, areas of scrub, commons, heaths and moorland. Piles of rubble, stone, logs or vegetation can also provide good quality habitat and refuge space for reptiles and removal of these types of structures must be carefully considered.
Surveys should be carried out in dry conditions with temperatures being between 9°C and 18°C. As the materials used in reptile refugia are excellent heat conductors, when left in the sun or warm conditions, they become warm to the touch. As reptiles are ectothermic or ‘cold blooded’, they cannot produce their own body heat but rely on environmental heat sources for warmth. The refugia provides an excellent place to ‘bask’ or warm up and provide energy for these animals. This is why it is important to carry out these surveys in the correct temperatures and conditions. If it is too cold then the refugia will not heat up enough to provided warmth for reptiles and if it is too hot then reptiles will already have heated up from the ambient temperature and will not need to see out other sources of heat.