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Newt Fencing

A Quick Guide to Newt Fencing

One member of the salamander family called the Great Crested Newt has been diminishing in number over the years due to loss of habitat, which is the reason that newt fencing is required in England.  When any type of site work is being conducted for new construction, companies must install these fences to prevent these, as well as other small creatures, from entering the site.

The great crested newt

There are three species of newts in Britain, with the largest of these being the great crested newt.  A jagged crest that decorates the back of the adult male provides the descriptive name for the amphibian, which can reach up to 5 or 6 inches in length.  A distinct splattering of white spots over the black, warty looking body along with a bright yellowish orange belly with black spots make the newt quite recognizable among other salamanders of the area.

Great crested newts inhabit a variety of areas; farmlands, quarries, grasslands, dunes, woods, brown field areas and even industrial sites.  They particularly favor areas with profuse plant life and large waterways such as ponds or lakes that contain no fish.  The weeds provide refuge for the newts, and the water a place in which to breed and lay eggs.  The young remain in the water for approximately three months after hatching until they are able to leave and dwell on land.  They are largely terrestrial with the exception of breeding.  An important factor for a newt habitat is that the waterway be relatively close to the preferred land for migration between the two.

Loss of habitat for the newt has prompted action by several government agencies, as the number of colonies for the species is declining at a rate of 2% per year.  The Wildlife and Countryside Act states that “it is an offense to intentionally damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place which these species use for shelter or protection.”  Threats to habitats include loss or division of breeding ponds, waterborne pollution, landscaping and fish stocking of ponds and lakes.  Despite the protected status the great crested newt is afforded, the habitats are growing smaller and smaller largely due to build development.

Newt fencing

In an attempt to maintain habitats of the newt, specialized fencing is erected to preserve known populated areas.   The fences are designed to keep newts and other amphibians either in or out of specific areas.  Fences may be wood, plastic, polythene sheeting or polypropylene panels, and all feature the same type of installation design.   A trench is dug to bury the base of the fence a minimum of 10 inches below the surface.  The fence sections are placed within the trench and secured with soil.  When polythene sheeting is used, wooden stakes are placed as supports along the lengths of the fence.  All types of fencing must meet the approval of and follow regulations of the English Nature Great Crested Newt Mitigation Guidelines.

Barriers can be constructed for temporary usage during site work on construction areas, or can be installed as permanent fencing in high risk areas.  The condition of the area is considered when decided on the type of fencing to install.  Permanent fencing must provide UV protection with durability; since polythene sheeting lasts only about 2 years, it is not a feasible option as a long term barrier.

Being proactive to the plight of creatures that are losing their natural habitat due to human expansion is a key component for preserving species.  The mandatory use of newt fencing to maintain the habitat of the great crested newt in Britain will hopefully assist in preserving the vital elements required for the continued breeding and lifestyle of this small amphibious creature.