The beginning: Natural England letter revoking licences


Dear Licensee

As you may recall, the EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species has been due to come into force through UK legislation. We can now inform you that the government expect the Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019 (“the Order”) to come into force on 28 March 2019, and are writing to update you on the consequent change to the licensing of keeping or release of species listed under the Regulation.


EU Regulation 1143/2014 on Invasive Alien Species (“The EU Regulation”) creates a list of species of Union concern, which are those whose adverse impact is such that they require coordinated action at an EU level. The Regulation applies strict restrictions on these species so they cannot be imported, kept, bred, transported, sold, used or exchanged, allowed to reproduce, grown or cultivated, or released into the environment. There are currently 49 species listed under the Regulation, and these include Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and Muntjac Deer (Muntiacus reevesi). When the Order comes into force, the release (and sale) of listed species will no longer be covered by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but will instead be governed by the Order. The Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932, which prohibits the keeping of certain animals except under licence, will remain in force.

What this means for licensing

In preparation for the Order coming into force, we will now no longer issue new licences to take Grey Squirrels into captivity. Licences permitting the keeping and release of Grey Squirrels, and the release of Muntjac Deer, for those animals currently in captivity will be extended until the end of March 2019. From the end of March, no more licences will be issued to keep or release species listed under the Regulation, including Grey Squirrel and Muntjac Deer, except where licences are compatible with provisions in the Order (e.g. in respect to the exception for companion animals referred to below). Current licences, which are issued under the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932 (for keeping listed species) and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (for release of listed species), will be revoked.

Any animals that are being held when the Order comes into force will not be allowed to be released into the wild. There is an exception for keeping of companion animals by non-commercial owners, where the animal was kept as a companion animal immediately before that species’ inclusion on the list of species of Union concern (3 August 2016 for Grey Squirrel and Muntjac Deer). Such animals may be kept until the end of their natural lives, provided that they are contained securely and prevented from breeding or escaping. There will also be a licensing provision for non-commercial premises to keep animals until the end of their natural lives.

Otherwise, animals in captivity once the Order comes into force would have to be euthanised.

Defra will soon be providing further information on the EU Regulation and the Order on The GB Non-native Species Secretariat has published a Frequently Asked Questions document on the EU Regulation which will be updated nearer to the time the Order comes into force. This will provide further advice on situations which may be covered by a defence or licence, and the route for applying for licences under the Order.

If you have any questions about your current or renewed licence, please contact us on [email protected] or on 020802 61089 or If you have queries about the EU Regulation, the Order or future licensing, please contact Defra on 03459 335577.

Kind regards

Species Management

Natural England Wildlife Licensing Sevice

Horizon House, Deanery Road, Bristol, BS1 5AH

Telephone: 020802 61089 

Email: [email protected]