Guidance

Wildlife licences: when you need to apply

Find out which licence you may need to carry out work that affects wildlife and its habitat, how to apply and when you may need to pay.

You can get an unlimited fine and up to 6 months in prison if you do not have a licence when carrying out an activity that needs one.

You must normally be at least 18 to apply for a wildlife licence. However, you may be able to apply if you’re at least 16 and you have wildlife licensing qualifications or awards.

When you need a licence

You need a licence from Natural England or Defra if you plan to disturb or remove wildlife, or damage habitats.

You’ll need a licence if your work is to:

  • prevent damage to agriculture, livestock, fisheries, property or archaeology
  • protect public health and safety, such as demolishing an unsafe derelict building that hosts a bat roost
  • maintain or develop land, for example converting farmland or a brownfield site to housing
  • prevent disease among species
  • keep or release species not native to England
  • sell, own, exhibit or transport protected species
  • survey for the presence of wildlife on your land for science or educational research or for conservation work

Conditions of using licences

To use any licence you must:

  • follow the conditions written in each licence
  • submit records and annual reports if Natural England ask you to

When you do not need a licence

You do not need a licence to control pests such as rats and cockroaches. Read more on pest control on your property to find out what you can do without a licence.

Types of licence

There are 4 types of licence to allow you to carry out various types of work that may affect a protected species. Choose the type of licence relevant to the level of work you are planning to do.

General licences for low-risk work

You need a general licence for some types of work that have a low risk for the conservation or welfare of a protected species.

See the full list of species and activities that need a general licence.

You do not need to apply for a general licence but you must follow its conditions of use. A general licence is free of charge.

Class licences

You need a class licence if you’re doing work that needs a specific skill or experience to avoid risk to the conservation or welfare of a protected species.

See the full list of species and activities that need a class licence.

You must check you’re eligible to use a class licence and follow its conditions of use.

To use a class licence you must register with Natural England. How you register and how long it takes depends on the specific licence. Registration usually takes about 15 days.

Not all class licences are free of charge. Find out when you may need to pay.

You may need to provide references or other documentation to support your application.

Individual licences

You must apply for an individual licence if you’re doing any activity that affects a protected species and is not covered by a general or class licence. This includes activities such as:

  • disturbing, trapping or handling protected species
  • disturbing their habitats, for example by cleaning out a pond or building a housing development

To find out if you need to apply for an individual licence, see the full list of licences for:

You also need an individual licence to keep, move or release a species into the wild if it’s not a species usually found in Great Britain.

If your work affects European protected species you need to apply for a mitigation licence. See the list of species that need a mitigation licence. You’ll need to send additional information to support your application.

If you want to trap badgers, beavers, otters or pine marten, you must use traps that meet international humaneness standards.

It usually takes 30 working days to get an individual licence. Not all individual licences are free of charge. Find out when you may need to pay

Organisational licence

You can apply for an organisational licence if your business or organisation carries out an activity that:

  • is routine
  • affects one or more protected species

This means you may not need to apply for a separate licence each time you carry out that activity.

Find out how to apply for an organisational licence and the conditions that apply.

When you may need to pay

Natural England may charge for certain licences.

Hazel dormice mitigation licence

You may need to pay for this licence if you’re carrying out development work that affects hazel dormice. Find out if and how much you may need to pay on the hazel dormice mitigation licence (A35) page.

Bat licences

You may need to pay for the following licences if you’re carrying out development work that affects bats. Find out if and how much you may need to pay on:

Organisational licence

You’ll usually have to pay for the time it takes Natural England to prepare an organisational licence. Find out how much on the organisational licence page.

How to apply

You only need to apply for individual and organisational licences.

You can apply for individual licences online or by post. You may find it quicker to apply by post if you only need one licence.

You need to email a request for an organisational licence to protectedspecieslicensingandmanagement@naturalengland.org.uk.

Apply online

Find out how to apply for individual licences online using Natural England’s case work management system.

Apply by post

Send your completed application and any documents to:

Wildlife licensing

Natural England
Horizon House
Deanery Road

Bristol
BS1 5AH

When you might need to provide more information

You’ll get a letter from Natural England asking you for more information if they think you have not provided enough information in your application.

You will not get your licence unless you provide the information they need.

Your application will be closed if you do not provide the information needed within 6 months.

When we might share your information

Natural England may sometimes share the information you submit to them with third parties. We only share information when necessary and, whenever possible, anonymously. For details see the Wildlife licensing privacy notice.

When to contact Natural England

Replace your licence documents

You can get your licence replaced if you lose it. Email:

Replacement licences are free.

Extend your licence

You can sometimes apply for an extension to your licence if you’re unable to complete an activity before a licence expires.

Contact Natural England as soon as possible at:

Renew your licence

You must apply for a new licence if your licence has expired.

Published 13 October 2014
Last updated 23 April 2019 + show all updates
  1. Added 3 bat licences to section on 'When you may need to pay'. Moved organisational licence details to a new page.
  2. Added a sentence on the need to use traps that meet international humaneness standards to trap certain species of mammal.
  3. Added section on 'Licences you may have to pay for'. Updated organisational licence request form.
  4. Sentence that refers to logging into the Case Work Management (CWM) system through the Government Gateway removed. The Gateway is closing and users must log directly into the CWM system.
  5. Updated request form for an organisational licence.
  6. Change to the email address to send an organisational licence application.
  7. This page has more information on the different types of wildlife licences. It also explains how you can apply for an organisational licence if your business regularly does work that’ll have a low and temporary impact on one or more protected species.
  8. From 6 April 2015 you are no longer charged for a coypu licence.
  9. First published.