Great Crested Newt (GCN)

Great Crested Newt (GCN)

 The great crested newt strikes fear into the hearts of even the largest construction companies. The confirmed presence of a single newt can cause delays, ratchet up costs and raise the blood pressure of developers if they happen to pop up on a site.

So what is a great crested newt? And what happens if you find great crested newts? It can’t all be bad news…?

What is a great Crested Newt?

The great crested newt is the largest and least common of three newt species native to the UK and is found across Europe and parts of Asia. The latin name, Triturus cristatus, translates as the Newt of Warts. They can reach up to 16cm in length and have granular and warty looking skin that is dark brown or black with white spots. The underside of a great crested newt is bright orange with black blotches. During the breeding season the males develop a large jagged crest, giving the newt its name.

Why are great crested newts protected? 

The great crested newt is widespread in the UK and locally abundant in parts of lowland England, but has suffered a major decline over the last century and many populations are gradually declining.  Its habitat is under threat from fragmentation and changes in land management.

Where do great crested newts live? 

Great crested newts use a variety of aquatic and terrestrial habitats depending on their stage of life and the time of year.  This includes ponds, canals, grassland, hedgerows, scrub and woodland to name a few. 

How do you survey for great crested newts?

Best practice guidelines require that four surveys are undertaken to determine the presence or likely absence of great crested newts.  These surveys comprise an evening and morning visit to a site where we use a combination of survey methods including bottle traps, netting, torching and egg searches.  Where the presence of  great crested newts is confirmed 2 further surveys are required to obtain a population estimate.

When can great crested newt surveys be undertaken? 

Best practice guidelines dictate that the four (or six if presence is confirmed) surveys should be undertaken between mid-March and mid-June and that half of these surveys should be undertaken between mid-April and mid-May. To undertake an efficient survey they are undertaken during the breeding season when great crested newts congregate at ponds and other suitable standing water.

How far do great crested newts travel from a pond? 

Great crested newts will typically travel up to 500m from a breeding pond.  However, this distance is dependent upon a number of factors including the quality of the habitat surrounding the pond in which case distances may be less or more.

 Are great crested newts associated with habitats other than ponds?

Yes.  Great crested newts use ponds for breeding between mid-February and mid-June.  Whilst ponds continue to be used (albeit less intensively) outside this period grassland, hedgerows, scrub, woodland and other terrestrial habitats are used throughout the year.  Great crested newts typically hibernate between November and February (when temperatures are consistently below 5oC).  During hibernation great crested newts can be found in frost free places such as below ground in mammal tunnels and amongst tree roots, in dense vegetation, cracks in stone walls and log piles.

 When can great crested newts be translocated? 

Great crested newts can be translocated (under an appropriate licence) when they are active.  Great crested newts are generally active when weather conditions are consistently over 5oC, which is typically between March and October.

Why do I need a licence to translocate great crested newts? 

Due to their European protected status a licence is required to disturb great crested newts and therefore to handle and translocate them.

 Why do I need a great crested newt licence? 

Licences allow for activities prohibited under wildlife legislation.  They are only issued for specific purposes, where there is valid justification; this generally includes development sites with planning permission.

Why Choose Ellendale Environmental?

Our Ecologists are experienced and fully licenced to undertaken surveys for great crested newts throughout the UK. We have undertaken surveys for our clients, obtaining planning permission and development licences.

We have provided advice and guidance on mitigation to ensure a development can proceed and create habitat to protect and enhance the population of great crested newts after development.

Stewart Parsons