Rocky the newt dog

08 June 2016

Rocky the newt-hunting spaniel became a star of the small screen when he arrived on the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR) construction route to sniff out protected Great Crested Newts.

There are three places where the 20km dual carriageway will go through areas where great crested newts have been found, and trapping under Natural England mitigation licence has been going on since the newts came out of hibernation. Rocky, with handler/trainer Aran Clyne of Wagtails, has been brought in to help carry out final checks before the areas are disturbed.

View Mustard TV’s coverage.

This is Rocky’s first active assignment, and he can cover in a few minutes a difficult area, such as a rubble or log pile, that would otherwise take ecologists days to search by hand. Rocky can show where searches can be concentrated, and which areas are clear of Great Crested Newts.

Most newts are caught during 60 days of trapping. On the NDR this has involved over 7km of amphibian fencing to steer them into bucket traps that are checked on daily by ecologists from Mott MacDonald, who hold the Natural England mitigation licence.
Anything caught is transferred into suitable habitat outside of the construction footprint, either on land already owned by Norfolk County Council, or through landowner agreement. These areas already feature new and improved ponds and hibernacula (areas for hibernation), and will be further enhanced during the next winter season when the newts are hibernating.

So far over 350 great crested newts have been trapped and safely relocated away from the line of the road - plus 450 smooth newts, over 850 toads, 90 frogs and an assortment of reptiles and mammals (including a baby hedgehog).

Norwich NDR is currently the biggest local authority-promoted road scheme in the country. Balfour Beatty is the main contractor, with the construction contract beginning on 4 January 2016, with contract completion scheduled for early 2018, and a target to have the road open to traffic before Christmas next year (2017).

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