Over the last 40 years, the population of Great Crested Newts has dramatically declined across the United Kingdom, despite protection under UK and European legislation. With these laws, it is an offence to kill, injure or disturb great crested newts or destroy any place inhabited by newts.
The primary factor causing the great crested newt population to decline is believed to be habitat destruction. Research shows that the UK countryside had 1 million ponds a century ago, but there are only around 478,000 today (Freshwater Habitat Trust, 2022).
Surveying great crested newts, as well as other species, is a great way to find and provide information on topics such as population trends and the diversity of specific species, which can be used to make sure we are properly maintaining habitats and reserves.
Optimal survey environment:
Newt surveys can be carried out between mid-March to mid-June, visiting at least twice in the period from mid-April to mid-May. If great crested newts are found to be present, it is recommended to visit an additional time during this busy period.
The mating season of Great Crested Newt is April-May; they prefer to breed in water, hence why the decreasing number of ponds in the UK is a worry for population researchers.
Newts are much less likely to be found near main roads and motorways or other hard ground areas compared to soft ground areas with standing water close by. This means if your project site is within 500 metres of standing water, a survey is recommended (Ecology By Design, 2022).
Great Crested Newt survey methods.
eDNA sampling – eDNA sampling is a relatively new method used by industry professionals to prove if there are great crested newts in the area. The process of eDNA sampling is by collecting a sample body of water from the area you are surveying for it to be tested for newt DNA.
Newts will shed material such as saliva, faeces, urine and skin cells, which will show in the eDNA results determining if Great Crested Newts are located in the survey area (The Ecology Partnership, 2022).
Wildcare work with Applied Genomics Ltd to offer an eDNA sampling service kit available to buy:
- Standard Kit - 5-day turnaround
- Economy (12 or more kits - 10 working days)
- Priority 2-day turnaround (subject to availability)
What makes the Applied Genomics kit worth it?
- Purpose-built laboratory for environmental DNA applications
- Strict laboratory management systems to ensure proper procedures are followed
- Guaranteed 5 working days turnaround from receipt of sample
- 2 working day turnaround available at an additional cost
- 10/10 on proficiency test set up by Natural England – FAPAS subsid of FERA (10 sample kits – Control testing)
A simpler approach to checking for newts in a body of water is simply by waiting for dusk and using a high-power torch to try and catch the presence of the newts in the torch beam. This method works great as an initial survey if you are looking around for the first time, however, a more conclusive method is recommended to back your findings up. Newts are only small so one could easily go unseen!
Bottle traps are a greatly effective way of searching for newts in a pond full of weeds. They must be placed into the pond in the early hours of the evening, the newts will then swim into the traps during the night, unable to get out. Following this, you should check the morning after to see if there are any newts in the traps and if so, they should be released once your data is recorded.
Ready-made bottle traps are available to buy on the Wildcare website, with a discount when ordered in bulk.
Can I do the survey myself?
It is important to remember that in order to carry out a Great Crested Newt survey, you will need a licence. The level of licence you need will depend on what kind of survey you wish to carry out.
To be able to carry out surveys including bottle traps and torches, you need a level one licence, some surveys, such as pitfall traps, require a level 2 licence. You will require several years of practical experience and knowledge of the species, with references, for your licence application to be approved by Natural England.
To view more information on how to sign up for a licence, visit https://bit.ly/3aBzs6c
We hope this blog has provided some small insight into a few different methods of newt surveying practices available and what one might be best for you!
If you’re someone who likes to be prepared early, then why not visit our site and pick up your GCN survey equipment for next year.
If you forgot about something you need this year, don't worry, Wildcare does not only sell traps. We also have a range of scales, dipping nets, fencing, pins and other accessories that you may need for newt surveying or mitigation
To view our range of Great Crested Newt Surveying Equipment, click here - https://bit.ly/398XftO
- Freshwater Habitat Trust. (2022). Great Crested Newt habitat report. Available: https://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/news/great-crested-newt-habitat-report/#:~:text=Great%20crested%20newts%20have%20declined,habitat%20remains%20their%20biggest%20threat.
- Ecology By Design. (2022). Ecology Survey Guidelines - Great Crested Newt Survey. Available: https://www.ecologybydesign.co.uk/ecology-resources/what-is-a-great-crested-newt-survey.
- The Ecology Partnership. (2022). eDNA - FAQ. Available: http://www.ecologypartnership.com/edna-faq/. Last accessed 27/04/2022.
- EMEC Ecology. (2022). Great Crested Newt Survey. Available: http://www.emec-ecology.co.uk/surveys/great-crested-newt-surveys/#:~:text=Bottle%20trapping%20is%20the%20most,the%20pond%20in%20early%20evening.. Last accessed 27/04/2022.