Pine Marten, Polecat, Shrews and Stoat Licensing

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:

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.

Pine marten

Pine martens are extremely rare in Wales. There are a few recent records from Carmarthenshire and Snowdonia, but the only specimen to be found in the last 40 years was a road casualty in mid-Wales in 2012.

The pine marten has a creamy coloured throat and a chocolate brown coat. It is an agile climber and needs suitable cavities in trees to raise its young. Pine martens eat small mammals, birds, beetles, nuts and berries. They rely on wooded and often rocky locations which tend to be remote from human populations.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) gives full protection to pine martens under Schedule 5. It is also listed on Schedule 6, which prohibits certain methods of capture and killing.

For Schedule 5 species, the following are offences:

  • Intentional taking, killing or injuring
  • Intentionally / recklessly damaging or destroying its place of shelter / protection
  • Intentionally / recklessly disturbing it whilst occupying its place of shelter / protection
  • Intentionally / recklessly obstructing access to its place of shelter / protection
  • Sale, or offering / exposing for sale
  • Possession


The polecat had almost disappeared from Wales by 1900 because of persecution, but has made an impressive recovery since then. It has now spread throughout Wales again, although it remains somewhat elusive.

Polecats have distinct ‘bandit’ markings around their eyes and a brindled brown coat. They are adept hunters, able to catch rabbits in their burrows and even to swim. They are found in a variety of habitats including sand dunes, farmland, woodland and marshes.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) lists the polecat on Schedule 6. This prohibits certain methods of killing or taking animals, which are specified in Section 11. These include using the following:

  • Any trap or snare, electrical device or poisonous / stupefying substances,
  • Any net,
  • Any automatic or semi-automatic weapon,
  • Any device for illuminating a target / sighting device,
  • Any dazzling device,
  • Any gas or smoke,
  • Any sound recording as a decoy,
  • Any mechanically propelled vehicle

If you wish to carry out surveys / research that would involve offences under this legislation, you must apply for a licence from NRW.


If you are intending to trap shrews, this can be done under General Licence 017.

Once downloaded, please contact us and let us know that you intend to activate the licence.

Please read all the conditions attached to the licence, in particular conditions 97, 98 and 211.


If you are intending to trap stoats, this can be done under preventing serious damage to crops, property and fisheries General Licence 019 or conserving wild birds General Licence 020.


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.

Apply for a survey licence

If you want to apply for a survey licence and have not had one before, you will need to show that you have the necessary training and experience. You will need to submit your completed survey and conservation licence application form.

Reference form

If you have not held a relevant licence from us before, your application must include a reference form.

Referees must be:

  • able to comment on their experience of working with the relevant species
  • their ability to use the methods and equipment proposed within your licence application
  • qualified themselves and must have held a relevant licence before
  • must have experience of your work for at least one survey season

We can only accept one reference from the company you currently work for. We may contact your referees to verify their statements.

Who can apply for a licence

Find out who can apply for a protected species licence

Renew your licence and report on your activities

If you want to renew your licence or report on the activities you have carried out under your licence, you will need to complete the survey licence reporting and renewal application form.

Amend your licence

You can ask for amendments to your licence using the relevant forms.

Amendment request form
Change of licensee
Change of ecologist form

Contact us

You can contact us for help at any time before or during your licence application.

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