Badgers (Meles meles) are a familiar part or Scotland's countryside, and can be found in many habitats, though they favour woodland. Badgers and their setts (burrows in which they live) are protected by the Protection of Badger Act 1992 (as amended in Scotland by the WANE Act 2011) which among other things makes it an offence to kill, injure or take a badger, or damage, disturb or obstruct the access to a badger's sett. Badger-baiting is a cruel activity that is also outlawed by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.
A survey to identify whether badgers are present may be needed where there is suitable habitat. The best time of year to record badgers is in the spring or autumn when the vegetation is low enough to see their tracks. Our experienced ecologists have many years of dealing with badgers and development, and where applicable may be able to give advice on suitable avoidance or mitigation measures that will ensure the welfare of these iconic animals during your development.
Otters (Lutra lutra) have made a remarkable comeback to Scotland's rivers over the past few decades, following a period of persecution, and are a conservation success story that we can all be proud of. They are now found on all Scotland's major rivers as well as the coast. As a European Protected Species they are protected under the Conservation (Natural Habitats.) Regulations 1994, making it illegal to kill, injure or disturb an otter, or to damage, destroy or obstruct access to a breeding or resting site. It should be noted that an otter holt is protected whether or not an otter is actually present in the structure.
Otter surveys are usually required where suitable freshwater or coastal habitat is identified close to a development. In order to verify if a burrow is in fact an otter holt, a licenced surveyor may use a camera trap to capture images of otters. We have worked on a number of development projects close to rivers and burns, including hydroelectric schemes, and we are well-placed to provide advice that ensures our clients meet their legal obligations and continue to help conserve the otter.
WATER VOLES & SMALL MAMMALS
Water voles (Aryciola amphibius) have suffered big declines as a result of habitat loss and predation from introduced predators such as mink. Prior to the reintroduction of the beaver to Scotland, the water vole was our largest rodent, and its usual habitat is along the banks of rivers and canals, where it sometimes signals its presence with a distinctive "plop" as it dives underwater and out of sight. Water voles are listed on Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended in Scotland), which gives them partial protection and prohibits the damage or destruction of any place that a water vole uses for shelter (which can be burrows in a riverbank or nests of woven into reeds for example).
There are three species of shrew in Scotland: common shrew (Sorex areneus), pygmy shrew (S. minutus) and water shrew (Neomys fodiens), and they are also protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended in Scotland). This means that it is an offence to capture or kill any species of shrew.
With many years of experience of working in the Scottish heartlands for water voles, we know the signs and habitats for water vole well, and we can provide advice on suitable avoidance and mitigation. Wild Surveys ecologists are also able to show contractors the best ways of avoiding disturbing or accidentally capturing small mammals during construction activity through our Ecological Clerk of Works service.
Scotland is one of the last places to see red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) in the British Isles, and they have declined drastically due to the introduction of their North American cousin the grey squirrel (S. carolinensis). Red squirrels are protected by Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it an offence to kill, injure or take a red squirrel, disturb a red squirrel in one of its shelters , called a drey, or damage, destroy or obstruct access to a drey.
Grey squirrels are not protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, but do have some protection under animal welfare legislation. It is an offence to release a grey squirrel into the wild.
Our surveyors are qualified tree climbers who are able to carry out tree surveys to determine if dreys are present as well as carrying out surveys to determine if dreys are in use. We are also able to apply for licenses as and when required.
GREAT CRESTED NEWT & NATTERJACK TOAD
A tiny dragon of ponds, the great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) is an impressive amphibian that is afforded a high degree of protection due to it being a rare sight across Europe. The natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita) is our rarest amphibian and in Scotland it is restricted to the south coast of Dumfries and Galloway. Both species are European Protected Species and are protected in Scotland by the Conservation (Natural Habitat.) Regulations 1994. Regulations protect both the amphibians and their breeding and resting places.
Surveys for great crested newts are carried out by licensed ecologists and usually have a Habitat Suitability Index assessment of a pond, carried out as a first step, followed by more detailed surveys. Our licenced ecologists can carry out a range of survey methods for this species, and advise on the best course of action should great crested newts be found. If you are lucky enough to have natterjack toads we can also provide advice and link in to specialist organisations such as the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust.
In Scotland all of our native reptiles are protected, including adders (Vipera berus), slow-worms (Anguis fragilis), common lizards (Zootoca viviparg) and all species of marine turtle. Most developers do not find turtles to be an issue, as these tropical travellers are just visitors to our seas, but the other land-dwelling species are all protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended in Scotland) which means that there are certain things a developer must bear in mind where suitable reptile habitat is found.
All of our surveyors have been trained to search for reptiles and their places of rest, and can provide guidance on what to do in the event one of these species is encountered.
There are a number of other protected species in Scotland that may require developers to conduct surveys and provide mitigation. Our ecologists come from a range of backgrounds and have specialisms and training to allow us to confidently identify sights and signs of Scotland's wildlife. Other species we can survey include:
- Wild Cat (Felis silvestris)
- Pine Marten (Martes martes)
- Protected Freshwater Fish Species
- Freshwater Pearl Mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera)
- Protected Butterflies