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Reptiles: A Brief Life History
Reptiles are cold-blooded creatures that have limited means of maintaining their body temperature, typically relying on external heat sources, such as the sun, to do so. Consequently, they are more active in the summer months between April and September, where they may be seen basking in the sun or warming themselves on a warm rock or sun-baked stretch of sand or tar. Reptiles slow down their metabolism and hibernate over the winter months between November and February.
Current Status and Why They’re Protected
Six indigenous species of reptile are found in Great Britain — three species of lizards and three snake species — of which four species (common lizard, slow worm, adder and grass snake) are considered common reptiles, while two species (sand lizard and smooth snake) have a far more limited distribution and are considered rare reptiles. All six reptile species are afforded legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (Schedule 5), which prohibits anyone from intentionally injuring or killing a reptile. Additionally, the rare reptile species (sand lizard and smooth snake) are protected under the Conservation of Species and Habitat Regulations (Schedule 2), making it illegal for anyone other than a licensed ecologist to intentionally disturb, capture or handle a rare reptile, or to obstruct or damage any habitat used by a rare reptile for refuge or shelter. All reptiles are listed as a species of principle importance under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006; consequently, local planning authorities are legally bound to consider their conservation during the planning process.
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