13 September 2017

That’s newts to me

Feature pest control | PPC88 September 2017

Jonathan Walker from BPCA Member company, Eradipest, expected a straightforward rodent problem. However, his site survey revealed that rats weren’t the only species that had made themselves at home.

Thats newts to me

After moving around some old wooden sections of the timber, Jonathan discovered more than rat burrows. Beneath the last rotten plank (which disintegrated on removal), Great Crested Newts were taking up residence. These rare newts are protected under UK law and have already disappeared from many sites across Europe.

Jonathan said, “It was clear that the newts were not going to be safe in this busy working area. None of our team had experience with this species.”

After contacting his Technical Director, Jonathan gave BPCA Technical Officer, Natalie Bungay, a call and she referred him to Natural England. They offered guidance and also suggested contacting the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust to get more advice on how to tackle this delicate situation.

Relocating the newts

relocating the newts

Jonathan said, “I was advised that if the newts had to be moved they should be relocated nearby in a habitat similar to the one they were found in.”

“The challenging part of the operation was to carefully remove the newts to a suitable and safe location with minimum disruption. They had to be handled with extreme care and transferred to their new location in a suitable container. To minimise the disruption, a suitable quantity of the organic matter that they were living in was included with them in the container.”

The newts were successfully moved to their new environment – however, the story could have ended differently if Eradipest hadn’t sought the correct advice or hadn’t performed a proper site survey.

Unusual pests

Jonathan’s experience helped ensure that the non-target species was unharmed and kept him and his company on the right side of the law. He told us, “A professional pest controller with suitable training should be able to deal with unusual and sometimes difficult situations in the correct way in order to safeguard non-target species in an ever changing environment.”
“Although pest controllers primarily deal with pests, our attitude to wildlife should be one of respect and careful consideration.”

Jonathan has dealt with his fair share of unusual pests including pharaoh ants, bats and slowworms. However, this goes to show that no matter how long you’ve worked in pest management, you’ll never have seen it all!

Great Crested Newts  (Triturus cristatus)

great crested newtstriturus cristatus

Although native to the UK, the number of great crested newts in the UK has drastically declined in the last 100 years. They prefer large ponds with lots of weeds and no fish. They’re active at night and are often eaten by badgers, rats, foxes, birds and hedgehogs. The loss of ponds and an increase in intense agricultural practices has seen numbers dwindle steadily across Europe – leading to their protected status.

IDENTIFICATION. Great crested newts are the largest of the three species of newt in the UK, with the adults reaching up to 15cm long. Their skin is black or dark brown and looks rough and warty. They have bright orange undersides with irregular black blotches. The males have a crest along their backs which is more obvious during the breeding season.

IF YOU SPOT ONE. Great crested newts are a European protected species. The animals and their eggs, breeding sites and resting places are protected by law. You need to contact Natural England if you come across them and need to move them.

Slowworms (Anguis fragilis)

Slowworm anguis fragilis

Although they can be found all over the UK, they’re normally found in the South-West of England and Wales. Slowworms like humid conditions so emerge from their hiding places at night fall or when it’s raining. Unfortunately, they’re easy prey for house cats and have no natural form of defence. They spend their winters hidden under piles of leaves, bark and tree roots.

IDENTIFICATION. Despite their name and appearance, slowworms are neither worms or snakes. Their ability to shed their tails and blink with their eyelids make them one of Britain’s native lizards. 

IF YOU SPOT ONE. In the UK, slowworms (as with all other British reptiles species) have protected status under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it illegal to intentionally kill or injure them. If you find slowworms on a site where you’re conducting pest management work, you need to take every possible precaution to minimise the risk of harming them.


All BPCA members can access our technical team with questions or concerns. If it’s not a problem we’ve experienced, we’ll know exactly where to get the advice you need to carry out your work.


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Scott-Johnstone-Staff-bubbleScott Johnstone
Content and Communications Officer

15 September 2017  |  PPC88

Source: PPC88

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