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Reptiles & Amphibians

Our services include:

  • Habitat Suitability Index calculation
  • Great crested newt surveys (including bottle-trapping)
  • Reptile surveys (using refuges)
  • Design and implementation of reptile mitigation
  • Monitoring works during development work

At Protected Species Ecology Ltd we have licensed and accredited ecologists able to carry out specialist great crested newt surveys across all counties of England and Wales, as well as more generalised surveys covering all the other reptile and amphibian species.

There are 4 species of reptile and 6 species of amphibians native to Britain - some are widespread, others are rare and restricted to certain habitat or areas of the country.

Great crested newts occur throughout much of England and Wales, but they are of conservation concern across Europe, and so they are a European Protected Species (EPS). This makes it an offence to kill or injure a great crested newt, or to damage refuges or ponds used by great crested newt, even when they are not there. So if a development is considered likely to damage habitat that could be used by great crested newt, a survey and assessment needs to be completed before a planning application can be submitted.

We have been carrying out great crested newt surveys since the 1990s. During this time we have surveyed road and rail schemes, quarries extensions and residential developments for great crested newts. David Lewns has carried out great crested newt trapping and translocation work for a number of other consultancies, and he work includes habitat creation on major infrastructure projects and where great crested newts were present throughout the works.

An assessment of likelihood of a pond to be used by great crested newt can be calculated using the Habitat Suitability Index (HSI); this combines a number of factors that are known to be important to newts, such as size and features of the pond, geographic location and proximity to other ponds. Great crested newt surveys include searching for eggs (on natural or artificial media), netting for efts (young newts) or adults, or using torches and bottle-traps to confirm the numbers of newts present, as well as carrying out refuge surveys on the land surrounding ponds. As the adults newts visit ponds to breed during spring and early summer, this is when most great crested newt surveys take place.

Sand lizard and smooth snake are both European Protected Species (EPS), but they are rare and restricted in their distribution in the UK. The other species of reptiles – grass snake, adder, slow worm and common lizard are much more widespread, and are protected from harm under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Surveys for reptiles are carried out using refuges (sections of roofing felt, carpet tiles and tin sheets), placed in areas of suitable habitat (field margins, woodland edges, hedges, pond margins). Reptiles adopt the refuges, using them to warm their body temperature, and so regular inspections for reptiles on or under the refuges will establish if reptiles are present.

If reptiles or great crested newts are present, we will explain the potential issues and conflicts, and advise our clients on any modifications to the design or changes to the timing that may help them avoid the need for a licence. If a (EPS) licence is required, we will complete the EPS licence application on our client’s behalf, and liaise with the licensing authority, planning authority and contractors to ensure a successful outcome for all.

Great crested newt surveys are completed in advance of submitting a planning application; and this can mean unexpected delays for some clients. Reptile surveys are not always required in advance of an application, but most authorities will require an Ecological Method Statement to be compiled in advance of development, to ensure that reptiles are not harmed during the works. Since this can necessitate retaining areas of suitable habitat or providing alternative habitats, we encourage clients to discuss their plans with us as soon as possible, to ensure the surveys are timed to best effect, and delays are minimised.