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Great Crested Newts – Frequently Asked Questions

January 28, 2014 HannahMaben BathEcologistSomerset

Here are the answers to several frequently asked questions, which we hope will help you understand great crested newts and the need for surveys, licences and mitigation.  You might enjoy testing your knowledge by completing our quick Great Crested Newt Quiz.











If you have any other questions relating to great crested newt ecology, survey, licensing or mitigation then please send them to:

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.  Back to top.

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.  We’ve even found them in old swimming pools and storage tanks!  Back to top.

How long do great crested newts live for? Given the right conditions an individual newt may live for up to 15 years.  Back to top.

How big are great crested newts?  Great crested newts are the largest of the UKs native newts.  They can reach up to 16cm in length.  Back to top.

How do I know if great crested newts are present on my site?   A survey at an appropriate time of year will confirm if you have great crested newts present on site.    Back to top.

Why are great crested newt surveys expensive?  Best practice guidelines require that four surveys are undertaken to determine the presence or likely absence of great crested newts.  These surveys generally comprise an evening and morning visit to the site i.e. eight site visits in total.  Due to the surveys being undertaken in the dark two surveyors are generally required for health and safety reasons.  If presence is confirmed during any of these initial four surveys then a further two surveys are required to assess population size.  Back to top.

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.  Back to top.

Why are great crested newt surveys seasonally restricted?  Great crested newt territories comprise a range of habitats over a large area.  To undertake an efficient survey best practice guidelines are for surveys to be undertaken during the breeding season when great crested newts congregate at ponds and other suitable standing water.  Back to top.

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.  Back to top.

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.   Back to top.

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 and if the newts are migrating in which case distances may be less or more.  Back to top.

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.  Back to top.

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.  Back to top.


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