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Reptile Biology

The biology of reptiles and their habitat requirements is profoundly influenced by their need to actively regulate their body temperature (thermoregulation). Instead of using metabolic processes to raise body temperature like humans and other mammals (homeothermic), reptiles use their external environment to regulate their body temperature (ectothermic). Reptiles need to maintain relatively high temperatures when they are active, and as a consequence have a variable core body temperature.

Male Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) in Breeding Colours

Reptiles favour warm microclimates, so south-facing slopes, or sites with varied topography offering a range of aspects, and well-drained substrates are preferred. Structurally diverse vegetation with a mosaic of open areas and cover provides protection from predators and the elements. Diverse invertebrate assemblages at high abundance can also occur in areas which offer a range of microclimates, thus providing plentiful prey for native lizards which feed on insects and other small invertebrates. Snakes which are native in the UK are predominantly carnivorous (see below).

There are six native species of reptile in the UK as follows:

  • Common or Viviparous Lizard Zootoca vivipara;
  • Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis;
  • Slow Worm Anguis fragilis;
  • Grass Snake Natrix natrix
  • Adder Vipera berus; and
  • Smooth Snake Coronella austriaca

Conservation Status

Reptile populations have suffered significant declines in the UK due to habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. Even within protected sites, reptiles have suffered through lack of appropriate habitat management, sometimes leading to declines and local extinctions.

Reptile Surveys

Any development or proposal which has a reasonable likelihood of supporting reptiles and which could be impacted needs to be considered in any development proposal. Surveys need to be undertaken to ensure accurate assessment of the site and any reptile population present. In the absence of survey data, it is difficult to accurately predict the impact of development upon a population of reptiles, and to design appropriate mitigation.

All reptile surveys undertaken by Five Valleys Ecology are designed to comply with stringent requirements following published best practise guidance. Our ecologists possess a wealth of survey experience, together with detailed knowledge of appropriate mitigation designs.

For more information, or to obtain a free proposal, please contact us. We will be happy to provide you with honest and objective advice specific to your project based upon our extensive experience.


Edgar, P., Foster, J. and Baker, J., 2010. Reptile Habitat Management Handbook. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Bournemouth

Five Valleys Ecology Ltd


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Survey Season Calendar

Download a copy of our latest Ecology Survey Calendar (pdf, 210 K) to help avoid costly delays to your projects due to missing ecology survey windows.

Start of the Great Crested Newt Survey Season

Surveys for great crested newts (GCNs) can be undertaken from mid-March to mid-June depending on weather conditions. Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) require survey information before planning applications are determined in accordance with Paragraphs 98 and 99 of 'ODPM Circular 06/2005 Biodiversity and Geological Conservation'. We recommend that clients consider the requirement for newt surveys now and plan ahead. Do not miss the narrow GCN survey window. Contact us now to book in surveys and for further advice.

Supreme Court Ruling on the 'Deliberate Disturbance' Offence

In the case of Morge vs Hampshire County Council [2011] UKSC 2 on appeal from: [2010] EWCA Civ 608 the Supreme Court has overruled the Court of Appeal and given a more cautious interpretation of the Article 12(1)(b) 'deliberate disturbance' offence. The Supreme Court believed that the Court of Appeal had set the threshold for 'deliberate disturbance' too high. Whilst no minimum threshold was given by the Supreme Court, a leading environmental lawyer has reviewed the case and believes that in some circumstances disturbance of one or two individuals of a European Protected Species (EPS) may fall within the offence.

Five Valleys Ecology Receive an Ethical Award from the Ethical Company Organisation

Five Valleys Ecology are delighted to have received an Ethical Award and accreditation from the Ethical Company Organisation in recognition of our strong commitment to ethical business practices. The research team stated 'Five Valleys Ecology are commended for puting ethical and environmental considerations at the heart of their business and for providing an ethical alternative within their sector'.


Email us to book a free 15 minute no-obligation consultation to discuss your site and requirements in more detail.