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Threatened Species - Great Crested Newt

The great crested newt is the largest and rarest of the three native newt species which occur in the UK. The appearance of the animal is striking and colourful. Both sexes have a boldly patterned orange belly, but only the breeding male develops the characteristic spiky crest which runs down the length of the back and tail. The great crested newt breeds in water and can be found in a wide variety of natural and man-made aquatic habitats ranging from farm ponds to flooded quarries and brick-pits.

The newt does not live in water throughout the year and spends the summer, autumn and winter in neighbouring habitats such as old hedges and rough grassland.

An internationally important species of conservation concern. Since the late 1940's great crested newt populations have experienced drastic declines throughout much of Europe, although populations are still found in many parts of the UK. It is widespread but local in Scotland, where there are fewer than 1000 individuals. The species may be numerous locally in parts of lowland England and Wales but is absent or rare in Cornwall and Devon. It is absent from Northern Ireland.

The great crested newt is protected under the EU Habitat Directive, Appendix II of the Bern Convention and by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Factors causing loss or decline:

  • Loss and fragmentation of suitable aquatic and terrestrial habitat due to natural succession,construction developments, recreational usage, land drainage, water abstraction and the in-filling of ponds and ditches as a result of agricultural intensification/diversification.
  • Introduction of predators, e.g. the stocking of fish, wildfowl, etc.
  • Decline in the water quality of ponds due to eutrophication and pollution from agricultural and industrial chemicals and waste.
  • Inappropriate management of known GCN sites.
  • Poor quality mitigation schemes (e.g. insufficient provision of terrestrial habitat and inappropriate pond designs (which favour fish introduction)).
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