Natural England - Non native species

Non native species

Advice, licensing and legislation relating to the release, management or control of non-native species in England.

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North American mink (Neovison vison) © Natural England

Overview

Natural England has a regulatory role in respect of non-native species. This includes licensing releases and the keeping of non-native species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), and the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932external link. These are carried out on behalf of the Secretary of State in accordance with Defra policy guidance.

What we don't do

Natural England does not deal with release of biological control agents, fish, shellfish and aquatic crustaceans, or importation of non-native species. Please see aquatic animal health and movementsexternal link and animal trade: imports and exportsexternal link.

Advice and leaflets

Advice leafletSummaryAudience
Guidance on controlling mink TAN02external linkAdvice on techniques for control to limit damage caused to wildlife, fisheries and game and domestic birdsFishery owners, farmers, landowners, gamekeepers
Mink raft leafletexternal link (The Game Conservancy Trust)A method to detect and control mink.Fishery owners, farmers, landowners, gamekeepers
Urban grey squirrels TIN056external linkInformation on how to manage grey squirrel problems.Forest managers, woodland owners
Practical techniques for surveying and monitoring squirrels FCPN011external link (Forestry Commission)Survey techniques for squirrel.Forest managers, researchers
Controlling grey squirrel damage to woodlands FCPN004external link
(Forestry Commission)
Information on grey squirrel control in woodland.Forest managers, woodland owners

Releasing non-native animals

Legal protection

Article 11 of the EU Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds 1979 (79/409/EEC; the ‘Birds Directive’) requires Member States to ensure that any introduction of a bird species which does not occur naturally in a wild state within their territory does not prejudice the local flora and fauna.

Article 22(b) of the Habitats Directive requires Member States to ensure that deliberate introduction of non-native species is regulated or if necessary prohibited, so as not to damage natural habitats or wild native flora and fauna. Section 14(1) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 makes it an offence for any person to release or allow to escape into the wild any animal which:

  • is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state; or
  • is included in Part I of Schedule 9external link.

Species covered by this can only be released under a licence Defra’s guidanceexternal link on its policy regarding releases, includes an annex giving guidance on when a release into an enclosure might be considered a release into the wild.

How to apply for a licence to release non-native species

Licences for activities prohibited under wildlife legislation are only issued for specific purposes, where there is valid justification. Your activity may be possible under a General licence or Class licence detailed below but you must ensure you are eligible and abide by their conditions.

Otherwise please apply for an individual tailored licence, each form below explains what you must provide. Licences and advice are provided free of charge (some exceptions). See our licences page for more information on: who needs a licence, what types there are and how long they take to obtain.

Natural England will not normally issue licences to release exotic non-native species into the wild or the release of established non-native species outside their present range or where they are likely to have a negative impact on native wildlife.

Class licence

DescriptionWho can use this?How to register

WML CL-22: (168kb)pdf document To permit the use of non native subspecies of the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) in commercial glass-houses or poly-tunnels for crop pollination.

Licence report form: (220kb)word document

 

Any person registered with Natural England may use this licence.

Please note: the terms and conditions for licence WML-CL22 are changing. The updated terms and conditions: (197kb)pdf document will be effective as of 1 April 2014.

You need to contact Customer Services Wildlife Licensing in writing to use this licence

Individual licence 

Application formGuidance
WML-A03: (443kb)pdf document - To release non native speciesGrey squirels position statement: (21kb)pdf document
Frequently asked questions: (558kb)pdf document
Please note for Ring-necked parakeet and American mink there is a strong presumption against issuing any licences for release into the wild.

We aim to process licence applications within 30 working days from date of receipt.

Keeping non-native species

Legal protection

Under the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932  (as amended)external link certain non-native mammals, mink, coypu and grey squirrel may only be kept in captivity under licence for exhibition, scientific research or other exceptional purposes. Natural England views that short-term possession of these animals for transport to a place for immediate humane destruction, e.g. taking trapped grey squirrels to a veterinary surgeon to be humanely put down, does not require a keeping licence. If, the animals are to be housed even temporarily then a licence should be obtained.

Please note that it is an offence under Section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)external link to release or allow to escape into the wild grey squirrels, mink and coypu without a licence, (see release section above for details).

Please also note that a licence under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 is required to possess wild-taken individuals of species listed in Annex IV of the Habitats Directive more details can be found on our European Protected Species pages. This includes species such as the European beaver, which are not currently established in the wild in this country.

How to apply for a licence to keep non-native species.

Licences for activities prohibited under wildlife legislation are only issued for specific purposes, where there is valid justification. Otherwise please apply for an individual tailored licence, each form below explains what you must provide. Licences and advice are provided free of charge (some exceptions). See our licences page for more information on: who needs a licence, what types there are and how long they take to obtain.

Application formGuidance
WML-A04: (417kb)pdf document - To keep non native species Frequently asked questions: (558kb)pdf document
There is a charge of £185 for coypu licence