Advice and legislation relating to water voles.
Water voles are currently declining at a rapid rate. Until the 6th April 2008 water voles have some protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), this includes protection from killing or taking by certain prohibited methods and their breeding and resting places being fully protected from destruction or obstruction, it is also an offence to disturb them in these places. An explanation of this change to the legislation: (58kb) has been produced by Defra. From April 2008 water voles and their resting places will be fully protected in England, it will be an offence to deliberately, capture, injure or kill them or to damage, destroy or obstruct their breeding or resting places. It will continue to be an offence to disturb them in their breeding or resting places. For full details of legal protection always refer to the primary legislation and subsequent amendments.
There is, however, provision within the legislation to use prohibited methods or to disturb them or damage/obstruct their resting places (and from 6th April to kill or take them) in certain defined circumstances, if the issue cannot be resolved by any alternative means.
Natural England Wildlife Management and Licensing administers licence applications for the following purposes:
Please note that the legislation does not permit licences to be issued in relation to development of land; please see our leaflet for developers for helpful advice.
Often potential conflicts between water voles and people can be resolved without recourse to any licensed action. Natural England produces a range of leaflets and research reports on water vole biology and management of sites:
You may also find the answers to our frequently asked questions: (562kb) useful. If the activity you propose cannot be carried out without a licence please download one of our application forms below. If you require specific advice contact us.
If you wish to apply for a licence you will need to complete an application form. The forms can be downloaded from this website, then they can either be posted to the address on the form or completed electronically and submitted by e-mail. If you are unable to download a form they can be obtained directly from Wildlife Management and Licensing. There is no charge for this licence or for advice.
Following receipt of your completed application, a Wildlife Management Adviser may contact you to discuss the case or arrange a visit to the site where the problem is occurring. The adviser will assess the situation and provide guidance on the remedial options available where applicable.
We aim to process damage, agriculture and overriding public interest related licence applications in 30 working days from date of receipt and science, education, conservation and possession cases in 15 working days.
Please download an application form using the links below: