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Great Crested Newt

The Great Crested Newt (GCN) is a European Protected Species (EPS). It is against the law to damage or destroy a GCN breeding site or resting place (pond or terrestrial habitat), or deliberately to capture, kill, injure or disturb a GCN

The GCN is our largest newt at 15cm, and both males and females have orange bellies with black spots. It is the male that develops a serrated crest along its back. The species is found across most of Wales except Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. It relies on ponds that are free from fish and suitable terrestrial habitat nearby for foraging, shelter and hibernation.

This page cannot cover all aspects of the law or the ecology of newts, but is an introduction to show how you can help to protect GCNs. For more information on conservation, see ‘Great Crested Newt Conservation Handbook’.

Legislation

The GCN is protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended), known as the ‘Habitats Regulations’, because it has declined throughout Europe in recent decades.

Under the Habitats Regulations, it is an offence if you:

  • Deliberately capture, injure or kill any wild animal of an EPS,
  • Deliberately disturb wild animals of any such species,
  • Deliberately take or destroy the eggs of such an animal, or
  • Damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of such an animal

Disturbance is defined as that which is likely:

1. to impair their ability

  • to survive, to breed or reproduce, or to rear or nurture their young, or
  • in the case of animals of a hibernating or migratory species, to hibernate or migrate; or

2. to affect significantly the local distribution or abundance of the species to which they belong.

Defra and the Welsh Government will publish a joint guidance document on the interpretation of the offences relating to disturbance, and to damage and destruction of breeding sites and resting places.

There are other offences relating to possession, transport and sale.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(as amended) (W&CA) it is illegal to:-

  • Intentionally or recklessly disturb any great crested newt while it is occupying a structure or place which it uses for shelter or protection, 9(4)(b)
  • Intentionally or recklessly obstructs access to any structure or place used by a great crested newts for shelter or protection, 9(4)(c)
  • Sell, offer or expose for sale any great crested newt, 9(5)

It is, however, legal for you to tend a disabled GCN with the intention of releasing it, or to kill a GCN that cannot recover, as long as the injury was not a result of your unlawful act (Habitat Regulations 42 (1)(2); W&CA 10(3)(a)(b)).

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) issues licences under Regulation 53 of the Habitats Regulations to allow you to work within the law. You might need a licence to undertake pond management, scrub clearance or a development, for example. For further information, refer to the links on this page.

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