Newts: in my garden
I’ve found a newt, what shall I do?
Unless the animal is in danger you do not need to move it or do anything for it.
Amphibians spend the majority of their life on land and are often found in gardens, sometimes hundreds of metres from water.
If the animal is trapped or in danger – e.g. you’ve found it near a road or in a part of the garden you’re working on – release it into a nearby suitable habitat or another part of the garden that provides cover from predators and extreme weather, such as in a compost heap, underneath a garden shed or near/underneath dense foliage; it does not need to be in a pond.
If your garden does not seem ‘amphibian-friendly’ move the animal to your neighbour’s garden or the nearest suitable habitat. Try not to move the animal more than a mile from where you found it. You may like to think about making your garden more beneficial for amphibians.
There are too many newts in my pond, what do I do?
Nothing! Gatherings of breeding amphibians will soon disperse.
During spring amphibians return to ponds to breed. It may seem that the pond is ‘overcrowded’ but this is a completely natural phenomenon, typical of amphibian populations around the world. Amphibian populations naturally fluctuate with some years being particularly successful but then in subsequent years the numbers are not sustained and they then drop down.
Adult newts may stay near the pond to hunt for tadpoles. If you’re concerned about the impact of a large newt population on your tadpoles, there is normally no need to worry. A natural predator/prey relationship will establish itself over a number of years, so that while newt numbers are high, frog numbers are low and vice-versa. In some cases a pond may become either a ‘frog pond’ or a ‘newt pond’ and while it may be disappointing for you to see one species excluded this is perfectly natural and it’s best not to interfere.
We do not advise that you attempt to move newts or their eggs away from your pond: by taking them to a different pond you may unwittingly transfer various diseases and invasive plants. Also, many amphibians may try to return and there is a danger that some may suffer as a result of being placed in an unsuitable area.
There are no newts in the pond/garden or the population is declining.
No newts could be linked to the weather; a declining population may be a result of changes to local habitats.
Amphibians breed in the spring when they migrate towards water; this migration is weather dependent (they prefer mild, wet evenings) and so is determined by location – it tends to occur later in the north and east of the country and earlier in the south. If the newts have not arrived at your pond at the ‘expected’ time it’s unlikely to be anything to worry about, a cold or dry spell is usually to blame.
Newts may arrive in ponds after other amphibians have left, as they tend to breed a little later than frogs and toads. Newts also migrate, but it tends to be more drawn out than frogs and toads, with animals arriving at the pond over a longer period of time. In general, newts will start to migrate in early spring (February/March) but this could be earlier or later in different parts of the country or if the spring is particularly mild or cold.
In some cases, lack of breeding amphibians in your pond could be the result of a population decline locally. This might be an indicator of pond loss: ponds form ‘stepping stones’ for amphibians across a landscape – if ponds disappear, so can local populations of amphibians. Their terrestrial habitats are just as important – amphibians spend a lot of time on land, foraging, sheltering / hibernating and colonising new areas; if these areas or ‘corridors’ have been blocked (by a new road or even a fence) or destroyed (through development), the route to your garden may have been lost.
Amphibian populations can fluctuate dramatically year on year, so having years with low numbers of amphibians can be a natural phenomenon and nothing to worry about. If no breeding adults appear in your pond, there may be other juvenile amphibians in the area that will turn up next year as breeding adults (they take two or three years to reach breeding age). An outbreak of disease in previous years or a particularly hard winter could also impact on numbers returning. You may be tempted to introduce some adult newts or eggs from elsewhere to try and help your local population but we advise against this. By doing this you can accidentally introduce diseases and invasive pond plants.
Where can I get newts for my pond?
Movement of animals between ponds is potentially risky and should be avoided; they will normally arrive of their own accord if the garden is accessible.
We do not recommend introducing amphibians or their eggs to your pond as you can accidentally spread invasive plants, animals and diseases. In most parts of the UK, amphibians (particularly common frogs and smooth newts) should find their own way to ponds, as long as they are in the area and can access the garden.
If they don’t, there may be a reason for this (lack of appropriate habitats) so it may not be suitable to introduce them. It can take two years or more for a pond to colonise so you do not need to be concerned if your pond is not immediately inundated with amphibians!
What the law says
All wild, native amphibians (adults and spawn) are protected against sale/trade. Please inform us if you see amphibians being sold (including on internet auction sites); it is legal to buy/sell exotic or captive bred individuals/spawn though this should be stated in the advert.
How do I encourage newts into/to stay in my garden?
Creating amphibian-friendly features like ponds, compost heaps and log piles should encourage newts into your garden.
Amphibians require ponds to breed, so adding a pond to your garden is the best way to encourage them. Consider size, shape and location of your pond before starting work; avoid adding fish as they will feed on spawn (see Just Add Water).
Newts lay their eggs on small broad-leaved plants, carefully wrapping up each one in a leaf. They are more likely to breed in ponds that contain this type of plant, such as water mint Mentha aquatica and water forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides.
If you do not have a pond (or space to create one), your garden can still benefit amphibians and they may make use of it if there are water bodies near by. You could think about a bog garden or small water feature instead.
Amphibians spend the majority of their life on land and make use of a variety of habitats in which they forage, shelter and overwinter (hibernate). They will use log and stone piles, long grass, compost heaps and even nooks and crannies under your shed, decking or greenhouse. Habitats that provide shelter, stay damp and provide a good source of insects and slugs to feed on are particularly beneficial.
I need to work on the pond, what shall I do with the newts?
Keep amphibians out of harms way and release back into the garden afterwards.
Ideally, delay pond maintenance until late autumn (September/October), so that larvae have been given time to metamorphose and before adults return to the pond to hibernate (newts may lie dormant in the muddy banks of ponds). Make sure you know which species of newt you are dealing with before starting any work – great crested newts and their habitats are protected by law.
If you need to carry out the work more urgently place any amphibians you find in a tank or suitable container, preferably with pond water and some vegetation, while you do the work and return them to a secluded part of the garden when you’ve finished.
Occasionally newt larvae remain in the pond over the winter and develop the following spring, so be sure to be check the pond carefully at any time of year before starting work.
If you are considering filling in your pond because of safety concerns we advise you to consider installing some simple safety precautions for the pond instead. Removing a pond can be very detrimental to local wildlife, particularly as adult amphibians will have nowhere to lay their eggs when they return the following spring.
There is no organisation that will come and remove amphibians from your garden.
How can I help the newts in my garden see out the winter?
Amphibians naturally seek out a place to lie dormant over the winter such as compost heaps, rockeries or log piles.
Newts normally overwinter in places like compost heaps, amongst dead wood or under decking/your shed/other objects. Occasionally they will use the bottom of ponds or the muddy banks. They can take care of themselves as long as they have somewhere to shelter so you do not need to worry about providing anything in particular for them at this time.
Another option for overwintering amphibians is a ‘toad home’ (though they may be used by all amphibians). These can be made or bought and will provide a safe place for amphibians to ‘hibernate’. Amphibians may choose to come out and forage during milder periods of weather so don’t worry if you see them around quite late in the year or if you accidentally disturb them.
I have great crested newts in my pond/garden what do I need to know?
Great crested newts are legally protected in the UK, you must not do anything that will disturb them.
Great crested newts are fully protected under UK and European legislation:
- Bern Convention 1979: Appendix 111
- Wildlife & Countryside Act (as Amended) 1981: Schedule 5
- EC Habitats Directive 1992: annex 11 and 1V
- Conservation (Natural Habitats etc.) Regulations 1994: Schedule 2
- Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW 2000)
Because great crested newts are listed on Schedule 5 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, Section 9(1) of the Act makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take great crested newts. Section 9(2) makes it an offence to internationally damage, destroy or obstruct access to, any structure or place which great crested newts use for shelter or protection. It is also an offence to intentionally disturb them while occupying a structure or place which it uses for that purpose. Section 9(5) makes it an offence to sell, offer or expose for sale, or possess or transport for the purpose of sale, any live or dead great crested newt or any part or thing derived from them. It is also an offence to publish or cause to be published any advertisement likely to be understood as conveying that great crested newts, or parts or derived things or them are bought, sold or are intended to be. Section 9 applies to all stages in their life cycle.
Their inclusion in Schedule 2 of the Conservation Regulations 1994 affords great crested newts extra protection by also making it an offence under Regulation 39(1) to deliberately capture, kill or disturb great crested newts or to deliberately take or destroy their eggs, or damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place. Regulation 39(2) makes it an offence to keep, or transport, or exchange great crested newts or any part or thing derived from them. Paragraphs 39(1) and 39(2) apply to all stages of their life cycle.
I want to undertake educational pond dipping in a pond which I know supports, or is likely to support, great crested newts. Do I need a licence?
Yes, this would be advisable if it is likely that you will capture great crested newts.
It is an offence to deliberately take great crested newts (taking would include temporary handling). A licence from Natural England will allow you to take newts for educational purposes. Therefore if you are actively looking for great crested newts, or it is predictable that they will be caught as part of your pond dipping, a licence is advisable.
The relevant application form is WML-A29 and can be found on Natural England’s website
Although the pond contains great crested newts, I think I can avoid capturing them by using very careful pond dipping/clearing methods or timing. Do I need a licence for capturing?
No, if you do not capture newts.
If you have no licence but exercise due care, law enforcement bodies are unlikely to take action over occasional, inadvertent capture of great crested newts. If you are clearing the pond it must be undertaken out of season i.e. during late autumn and over the winter months. If you do inadvertently disturb great crested newts you should halt the work and return to the newts gently to their resting place.
The law covering the disturbance of great crested newts is complex. In simple terms, low levels of disturbance whilst pond dipping are unlikely to be deemed unlawful, if you are not intending to disturb the newts. Therefore if you take reasonable care during pond dipping/clearing to avoid disturbing great crested newts i.e. avoid all vegetation, avoid disturbing the base or sides of the pond and use only a small number of nets, Natural England will not expect you to apply for a licence. If this is not practical and great crested newts are likely to be disturbed then we recommend that you apply for a licence.