I've found a newt in my garden, which species is it?
There are three species of newt in Britain:
- Great Crested Newt - The largest of the three species (see below).
- Smooth Newt - Grows to about 10cm and is brown in colour. The female is relatively plain but the male has darker spots and develops a continuous wavy crest along its back and tail during the breeding season. The belly of both sexes is yellowy-orange with dark spots including spots on the throat.
- Palmate Newt - Grows to about 6cm and is brown in colour. The male develops a low crest along the middle of the back, has black webs on the back feet and the tail ends abruptly in a filament at the tip. The female is very similar to the female smooth newt but a distinguishing feature is that the throat of the female palmate newt is pink or yellow and unspotted. The female smooth newt's throat is white and spotted.
What is the legal status of Great Crested Newts?
There has been a decline in the numbers and range of Great Crested Newts in recent years, leading to them becoming protected under both British and European Laws.
It is illegal to kill, capture, disturb or injure Great Crested Newts, damage or destroy their habitat, or possess, sell or trade them in any way.
What does a Great Crested Newt look like?
It can grow to about 15cm in length and will be coloured dark brown or black with a warty, rough skin with tiny white dots along its side. Its underside is bright orange with dark patches.
In the spring the male will develop a ragged crest along its neck and a smoother crest along the top of its tail which also has a white stripe along each side. The female does not develop these crests or white stripe but they have instead an orange stripe running along the bottom edge of its tail.
More information about all types of newts can be found on the Herpetological Conservation Trust website.
Where do Great Crested Newts live?
They need both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. They need pond environments for laying their eggs from as early as late February, they then leave the breeding pond by about July.
Great Crested Newts spend the rest of their time on land, taking shelter under rocks, logs and other debris during the day and foraging for food above ground mainly at night.
They eat small water creatures whilst in ponds and small invertebrates such as spiders, earthworms and insects on land.
During the winter months, they hibernate on land in sheltered, damp, frost-free places such as underground crevices.
What can I do to encourage Great Crested Newts to live in my garden?
The main factor is not to have fish in your pond, as Great Crested Newt larva is especially susceptible to being eaten by fish. They require a pond of around 50m2 to 250m2 with good aquatic vegetation for egg laying.
As Great Crested Newts also require terrestrial habitats, management of the area surrounding the pond is recommended. Areas for shelter, hibernation and foraging are needed.
The 'Great Crested Newt Conservation Handbook' produced by Froglife provides more detailed information.
I've seen a Great Crested Newt, who should I tell?
All recorded sighting of Great Crested Newts should be reported to the Dorset Environmental Record Centre on 01305 225081, along with a grid reference.