Newts FAQs Answers to some frequently asked questions about newts I've found a newt in my garden, what shall I do?Answer Amphibians spend the majority of their life on land and are often found in gardens, sometimes hundreds of metres from ponds/water. Smooth newts can be quite common in urban areas and gardens are an important amphibian habitat in their own right. If the animal is trapped or in danger, release it into another part of the garden that provides cover from predators and extreme weather; for example 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 if suitable or the nearest suitable habitat. I have too many newts in my pond, shall I move some?Answer During spring amphibians return to ponds to breed. In garden ponds, smooth newts and common frogscan be particularly numerous at this time of year, leading to the concern that ponds may be 'overcrowded'. This is a completely natural phenomenon, typical of amphibian populations around the world, with some years being particularly successful for breeding amphibians. Many people report that 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. Moving newts or newt eggs?We do not advise that you attempt to move newts or their eggs away from your pond at this time of year: 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. I haven't got any newts this year, what might be wrong?Answer Depending on the weather, it may still be too early for amphibians to be returning to ponds to breed. Amphibians breed in the spring when they migrate to their breeding ponds/ditches/etc. 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. 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. Similarly, their terrestrial habitats are just as important - amphibians disperse on land, to forage, hibernate and colonise new areas and 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 areas that will turn up next year as breeding adults. You may be tempted to import some newts or eggs from elsewhere to try and help your local population but we advise against this. By moving animals/eggs you can accidentally introduce diseases and invasive pond plants. Also, you would need to be careful which species you were introducing - great crested newts are protected by law and you're required to hold a special license to handle or disturb them. Where can I get newts to put in my pond?Answer We do not recommend moving animals or their spawn artificially. This is because movement of animals can transfer wildlife diseases and invasive plants between ponds. In most parts of the UK, amphibians (particularly smooth newts and common frogs) should find their own way to ponds, providing they are in the area and they can access the garden. It can take two years or more for a pond to colonise so do not be concerned if your pond is not immediately inundated with amphibians. See our FAQ below: 'How can I encourage newts into my garden?' or our Dragons in your Garden section for tips on attracting amphibians. What the law saysAll 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. Great crested newts have full legal protection and you are required to hold a special license to handle or disturb them. How can I encourage newts into my garden?Answer 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 and do not add fish as they will feed on spawn/eggs. Newts are more likely to breed in ponds that possess plant species in which they can wrap up their eggs. Those ponds that contain small broad-leafed plants, such as water mint Mentha aquatica and water forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides, could be particularly good for this purpose. 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 nearby. Amphibians spend the majority of their life on land and prefer a variety of habitats in which to forage, shelter and overwinter (hibernate). They will make use of 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. See our Dragons in your Garden section for more details. I am working on my pond, what shall I do with the newts in it?Answer If possible, delay pond maintenance until late autumn (September/October), so that newt larvae have been given time to metamorphose and before other amphibians, like male frogs, might be returning to the pond to hibernate. 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, while you do the work and return them to the garden/pond when you've finished. Occasionally tadpoles/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, see 'How can I make my pond safer for children?'. Removing a pond can be very detrimental to local wildlife, particularly as adult amphibians will have nowhere to spawn when they return the following spring. If there are great crested newts present then consult the relative agency before carrying out any major work as they are protected by law - Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage or Natural Resources Wales. Unfortunately there is no organisation that will pick up animals disturbed as a result of you filling in your pond. What species of newt have I seen?Answer There are three native newt species in the UK. Smooth newts are the most common. Smooth newt: Up to 10cm long. Brown upper body sometimes with visible black spots. Pale orange belly with small black spots. Males develop a continuous wavy crest, running from the head to the end of the tail, during the breeding season. Palmate newt Very similar to smooth newt but a maximum of around 8-9cm. Throat is usually plain (unspotted). Males develop webbed back feet, a ridge running along the back and a thin filament at the end of the tail during the breeding season. Great crested newt Up to 16cm long. Rough, black skin often with white-tipped 'warts'. Bright orange belly with irregular black blotches. During the breeding season males have a jagged crest running from the head, along the back, with a break at the base of the tail; the tail also has a conspicuous white flash. See our amphibian identification guide to clarify what you have seen... How do I tell the difference between newts and lizards?Answer Many people confuse newts and lizards as they can be a similar size and colour. Lizards have scaly skin whereas newts possess smooth skin (which can look velvety on land) or skin with a bumpy, 'warty' texture. Lizards are much more likely to scurry away very quickly when disturbed, whereas newts will make slower 'lumbering' movements (generally speaking - if you can catch it, it's a newt). If you have a chance for a closer look you could count the number of toes on the front pair of legs - newts have four toes, lizards have five. Check our amphibian identification guide and our reptile identification guide for more information. I think I have great crested newts in my pond, what do I do?Answer Be sure to properly identify which species of newt you have, using using our identification pages. Newts can be hard to identify and can have features (like a breeding crest) that occur in more than one species. Great crested newts are strictly protected in the UK. If you do have great crested newts in your pond you will need to be aware of how this law affects your management of the pond. Please talk to one of the following statutory agencies, depending on your location: Natural England, Natural Resources Wales. or Scottish Natural Heritage. After receiving information from you statutory agency you should inform your local Amphibian and Reptile Group and the local Biological Records Centre of the sighting. These records help these groups understand the distribution of this species locally. I've found an unusually coloured newt, what is it?Answer The UK's amphibians are much more variable in their colouration compared to other UK wildlife. This can sometimes make identification difficult but does mean that it's more likely what you have seen is a common species with unusual colouring rather than something exotic. Smooth newts, for example, can appear orange, cream or pale green. These are natural genetic variations in the population. I have found an injured newt, what can I do for it?Answer If the injury appears slight and the animal is active and able to move freely, then it's advisable to just move the amphibian to a sheltered part of the garden, away from the view of predators (e.g. cats and birds) and extreme weather, such as amongst dense foliage or dead wood. Make sure it has the option to move to another part of the garden, should it want to. Injuries such as skin abrasions will heal fairly quickly, so moving the animal to a quiet area of the garden, where it can recover and forage easily, will increase its chances of survival. If you think that an animal is seriously injured contact your local vet. Many vets treat wild animals for free but ring to check first. Unfortunately vets (or the RSPCA) are often unlikely to help with injured amphibians, unless they have a specialism or interest in this field. Wildlife hospitals are more likely to be able to offer assistance - the RSPCA may be able to help locate your nearest wildlife hospital. Some links are provided below but further internet searches may prove useful. However, please remember that amphibians are small creatures and it is unlikely that a severely damaged animal will be successfully treated. I have found dead newts, what's going on?Answer Depending on the time of year there could be several explanations for why amphibians may be found dead in gardens. Winter Newts hibernating in pond edges may succumb to cold weather or noxious gases trapped by ice. This is more common with frogs, who will sometimes hibernate at the bottom of ponds, though newts can also be affected, especially during long periods of cold weather. Newts, like all UK amphibians may emerge during milder patches of weather to forage occasionally they can be caught out by a sudden change in weather or be disturbed by a predator. Spring It can be common for amphibians to die naturally after breeding has taken place, sometimes in quite large numbers. Breeding requires a great deal of energy and such exertions can leave amphibians lethargic and more open to predation or natural diseases. Animals that are known to prey on breeding amphibians include: foxes, cats, mink, stoats, otters and rats (though frogs and toads are more at risk). During spring amphibians make migrations to breeding ponds, sometimes moving up to half a mile or more. Roads pose a particular problem in some areas where they interrupt migration routes, and dead amphibians on roads can be a common sight - see our Toads on Roads leaflet. This is primarily a problem for toads but newts and frogs can also be affected. Summer In particularly hot summers, exposed amphibians can die from dehydration (desiccation). This is a particular threat to young amphibians that have just left the pond. To avoid this happening make sure there is plenty of shade and shelter provided by plants around the edge of the pond. If you have found dead froglets or newtlets in the pond itself then it's likely that they have been unable to get out of the water. When tadpoles metamorphose they are reliant on breathing air and they are particularly susceptible to drowning at this life-stage. To avoid this happening create gently sloping sides to the pond and areas where its easy for animals (including small mammals who may fall in by accident) to leave the water. In adult amphibians, diseases can be common at this time of year. If you have found large numbers of dead amphibians (frogs in particular) that are very thin and were lethargic before death, we recommend you contact our colleague at Garden Wildlife Health for help and advice. I've disturbed a newt from hibernation, what shall I do with it?Answer Amphibians lie dormant in winter, taking advantage of milder patches of weather to come out and forage. For this reason if you do disturb an animal in winter, it should be unharmed if covered up and left undisturbed. If you are unable to put the animal back where you found it, place it somewhere that offers protection from frost and garden predators like cats. Suitable places include log piles, under sheds or within your compost heap; it should not be somewhere 'warm', just a place that keeps free of frost. I've found a swollen newt, what's wrong?Answer Female amphibians become noticeably swollen with eggs in spring. This is completely natural and they normally return to a smaller size once they have spawned. Two other causes of swollen amphibians are occasionally reported to Amphibian and Reptile Conservation: Egg-bound females: In spring or early summer a swollen amphibian could be a female that is egg-bound - where eggs fail to pass properly through the reproductive system. Try contacting a vet about it; most vets treat wild animals for free but do ring first. 'Bloated amphibians': Sometimes Amphibian and Reptile Conservation received reports of amphibians, primarily newts, that become noticeably bloated. The bloating is apparent even in the upper body of the newt, rather than only the belly (which is indicative of carrying eggs). This unusual bloating is thought to be related to a hormonal imbalance which pulls water into the newt's body causing it to swell. According to our enquiries, symptoms often appear to subside over time. If you have found a bloated amphibian that is dead this is likely to have occurred after death, especially if it died in the pond, rather than being a symptom of something that killed it. Newts are being preyed upon, what can be done?Answer Amphibians form a crucial diet of many wildlife species so you can expect to see a number of predators in your garden. Some amphibian predators, like grass snakes, have disappeared from many parts of the UK where they once thrived; having these animals in your garden is a privilege. Cats, however, can pose a persistent problem. While some cats may ignore amphibians, others will catch, play with and sometimes kill them; newts cannot escape as quickly as frogs can. Adding a variety of places in your garden for amphibians to hide when disturbed is the best long-term advice. Log piles, rockeries, dense low-growing foliage and water bodies can all provide places where newts, frogs and toads can hide and cats have trouble getting their paws in to. 'Cat scarers' are another alternative method to consider. We would advise that pond-owners avoid using pond-netting. Sometimes the animals you're trying to attract (like grass snakes or hedgehogs) can become caught and die. Newts are eating my tadpoles, can anything be done to stop them?Answer Many amphibians lay large numbers of eggs because the chances of them surviving the numerous predators that exist are so slim. This amphibian adaptation means that they form a vital part of food chains. Newts are one such predator of tadpoles - particularly in the weeks after frog spawning, when newts are in the pond laying their eggs on pond plants. Tadpoles can be an important food source for newts (particularly the smooth newt which is common in many gardens) but we would advise that newts should not be removed. By relocating the newts to another pond you could be accidentally transferring invasive plants and diseases, as well as leaving the way open for more newts to enter the pond. If you have great crested newts in the pond then you could also be unintentionally breaking the law by handling a protected species without a license. Garden ponds are often home to more than one species of amphibian; this is a healthy situation and indicates the pond is functioning well. There is no need to remove newts or other predators. In most cases where newt predation takes place, some tadpoles will survive to become froglets. What often occurs in many gardens is that, over a number of years, a 'boom-bust' relationship forms between frogs and newts - with larger numbers of newts leading to fewer frogs, then fewer frogs leading to fewer newts, leading to more frogs in following years (and so on). Other tadpole predators also exist in ponds, including water boatmen, diving beetles and dragonfly larvae. Adding places within the pond for tadpoles to hide could help increase their chances of survival. Potential hiding places include rocks, pebbles or aquatic planters. A newt habitat is threatened, what can be done?Answer Of the widespread species of amphibian, the great crested newt, Pool frog and Natterjack toad are protected by law from intentional killing and injury; their habitats (including ponds and key foraging areas) are also protected. If you suspect incidents where this law might be being flouted, please inform us. In England (under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006) all public bodies must have regard for great crested newts, and common toads, (specifically under 'biodiversity conservation') when carrying our their functions. In Wales, Section 40(1) of the NERC Act 2006 places a new duty on every public authority, in exercising its functions, to 'have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity'. The duty affects all public authorities. Local authorities are a key target group, but the duty also affects a wide range of public bodies, including fire, police, health and transport authorities. In addition, Planning Policy Statement 9 (PPS9) states that planning authorities should ensure that species of principal importance, including great crested newts and common toads, are protected from the adverse effects of development.