Small Mammal Licensing

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) fully protects water voles; and protects shrews and hedgehogs from certain methods of killing / taking. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) grants licences so you can work within the law

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.

Small mammals, for the purposes of this page, include voles, shrews, mice, rats, moles, stoats and hedgehogs. Information on licensing for other mammals can be found on the following pages:

Bat licensing,

Dormouse licensing,

Otter licensing,

Badger licences issued by Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Government,

Deer licensing,

Pine marten and Polecat licensing,

Red squirrel licensing,

Water vole licensing and

Marine European Protected Species licensing.

Small mammals include insectivores, such as hedgehogs, moles and shrews, and rodents, such as mice and voles. Not all species are protected, and the levels of protection vary between species.

This page cannot cover all aspects of the law or mammal ecology, but is an introduction to show how you can help to protect these species.

UK legislation

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), known as ‘the Act’, lists several mammal species on Schedule 6, for which certain methods of killing or taking are prohibited. These include the following small mammals:

  • Hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus
  • Shrews, Soricidae
  • Water vole, Arvicola amphibious
  • Eurasian Stoat, Mustela ermine

The water vole is also listed on Schedule 5 of the Act. For more information, see ‘Water vole licensing’.

European legislation

None of the species considered here are protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (known as ‘the Habitats Regulations’). The Hazel dormouse is listed on schedule of 5 of the Habitats Regulations. For more information, see Dormouse licensing.

For a summary of mammalian legal protection, see Legally protected mammals in Wales.


NRW issues licences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act for specific purposes, so you can undertake certain activities without breaking the law. We can grant licences for the following purposes:

  • Scientific and educational
  • Ringing or marking
  • Conserving wild animals or wild plants, or introducing them to particular areas
  • Protecting any zoological or botanical collection
  • Photography
  • Public health or public safety
  • Preventing the spread of disease
  • Preventing serious damage to crops, property, fisheries etc

We cannot issue licences for the purposes of development under this legislation.


If you are intending to trap shrews, this can be done under a General Licence - reference GEN:WCA:017:2016 which can be downloaded below. Once downloaded please inform NRW that you intend to activate the licence via email to and remember to read all the conditions attached to the licence taking particular note of conditions 97, 98 and 211.


If you are intending to trap stoats, this can be done under a General Licence - reference GEN:WCA:019:2020 (Preventing serious damage to crops, property, fisheries etc.) or GEN:WCA:020:2020 (Conserving wild birds) which can be downloaded below.

Incidental trapping

If you are intending to trap non-protected or pest species, but there is a chance of trapping a Schedule 5 or Schedule 6 species, then see

Incidental trapping of Schedule 5 and Schedule 6 animals

Relevant Sections of the Wildlife and Countryside Act

Notes on trapping shrews.

Related document downloads

Notes on trapping shrews PDF [147.3 KB]
General Licence 017 - 2019 Licence to take shrews (Soricidae) for scientific or educational purposes PDF [282.1 KB]
General licence 19 2020 Licence to trap Eurasian stoat to prevent serious damage to livestock PDF [137.0 KB]
General licence 20 2020 Licence to trap Eurasian stoat for the purpose of conserving wild birds PDF [134.4 KB]