A few years ago Great Crested Newts were discovered in the Sanquhar Woods area by SNH (now called Nature Scot) employees, but since then have kept a low profile until now. This year a few have been seen in and around Sanquhar Woods: the weather conditions have possibly suited them.
DNA studies have shown that the very small and localised Great Crested Newt population here is genetically distinct from those found south of the Highlands, indicating that they made their own way up here between 3,000 and 7,000 years ago during a warmer period by crossing the Highlands or maybe coming through the Great Glen. There are no records of them along the coastal plains east and south of here. The photograph shows a Great Crested Newt. They are from 4.75 to 6.25 inches long.
Great Crested Newts are a rare and declining species with special protection and it’s only legal for anyone to handle or disturb them if they have a licence from Nature Scot. The only exception being if it’s necessary to save their lives such as when they are found trapped in a gully pot.
If you do need to handle them or any other amphibians it’s best done with soft gloves as their semi-permeable skin (which enables them to extract oxygen from water) makes them vulnerable to chemicals on your hands or even the natural dryness, warmth or acidity. There are different theories about this but I’ve certainly noticed that when I’ve rescued toads from drains and have had to grab them quickly to stop them jumping back in, that they haven’t liked hands without gloves. Apparently wet hands are not so bad. There is also a small risk of salmonella transmission to the human.
Amphibians, including this species can be helped by making an amphibian hibernacula in one’s garden. You can find a lot online about this but an important consideration, not always mentioned, is that they need to be made just above ground in areas prone to flooding or soil saturation, though in drier places hibernacula that are both above and below ground make better use of available space. This is because water underground would be too low in oxygen to sustain them. Logs or log piles left undisturbed and well vegetated ponds without fish will also help them as fish like to eat newt eggs and larvae.
If you do need to move logs take care not to crush creatures underneath and avoid moving in frosty conditions when newts and other creatures may not be able to survive the disturbance.
Article thanks to Steve Hull