Great crested newt (GCN) are a material consideration in the planning process and are protected by both UK and European law. It is one of three newt species found in the UK, the others being the common or smooth newt and the palmate newt.
An initial habitat suitability assessment can be made without a licence, and can be conducted at any time of the year. This assessment will determine the likelihood of GCN being present and inform how the project/development is likely to affect this species.
Due to the protection afforded to the species, the presence/absence survey techniques must be conducted by a licensed individual. Surveys are conducted at night during the breeding period of mid March to mid June. Four visits are required to determine presence or absence, or six visits to estimate population size class. In either case, half of the visits must take place between mid April and mid May.
In accordance with published survey guidelines, a combination of techniques is used on each occasion:
- Egg search – Eggs of this species are larger than the other species, and are laid on the leaves of submerged plants which are then folded over.
- Torching – High power torches are used to shine into the pond at night when newts are most active.
- Netting – A long-handled dip net is used to temporarily capture newts, which are then released following the recording of species identification and sex data.
- Bottle trapping – Plastic bottle traps are submerged in the water at dusk secured by a cane, and checked and removed the following morning. These are only used when the night-time temperature is suitable and where practical. Newts swim into the traps and are unable to exit until released.
- Terrestrial search – Refugia such as logs, rubble, discarded roofing felt and wood are carefully inspected underneath and then replaced. This is done during the daytime and can be undertaken outside of the breeding season.
Should great crested newt be found to be present on a site earmarked for development, appropriate mitigation and a European Protected Species Licence is required to be in place prior to works commencing.
Environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis is a new method for species monitoring in water bodies. Natural England (NE) has approved this method for the determination of Great Crested Newt (GCN) presence or absence from a water sample following strict protocols.
Please contact Sonar Ecology if you require a great crested newt survey or advice relating to this species and licencing requirements.