Do Roman Snails Require Specialist Survey Works in the UK?

Roman snails Helix pomatia are the country’s largest terrestrial snail species. Their distribution is primarily across south-east England, with the main hotspots being the North Downs, Chilterns and Cotswolds. They require well-drained, chalk or limestone soils and are found in a range of habitats, including, grasslands, hedgerows, open scrublands, allotments, embankments, and quarries. In 2008, the Roman snail was added to Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). This legal protection can have implications on development projects.

Roman Snail Surveys
If records indicate that the species is present in the local area, or you are operating in their known habitat, a survey is recommended. A combination of daytime hand searches, and nocturnal torch surveys can be used to assess presence or absence of the species and in conservation efforts to relocate a threatened population, under licence. These surveys are best carried out during the snails’ main active period from May-August, during warm, humid conditions either during or after recent rainfall.

Roman Snails Legal Protection & Conservation
In summary, Roman snails are protected against intentional killing, injury and taking. Where Roman snails are present within development areas, such that there is a need to move them to avoid killing or injuring the individuals, this must be licensed. Natural England will consider issuing a licence for conservation purposes.

Conservation aims may include future longevity and maintenance of conservation status in the local area. Options such as enhancing habitat can be considered, including introducing base-rich, friable topsoil, creating more cover in open areas through planting scattered scrub or relaxing management regimes and introducing log piles. It is important to monitor the population, which can include yearly visits and the mark-recapture method. Monitoring results can be passed to the Conchological Society’s national non-marine recording scheme and local biodiversity record sites for conservation purposes.

For more information, and to enquiry about a survey, please contact a member of our ecology and biodiversity team.

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