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Sniffing for newts in Farnham

A specially trained sniffer dog saved at least a month of detection work while ensuring a protected newt species will be unharmed by pipeline construction, taking place under licence from Natural England.

Poppy the Springer Spaniel scaled several acres of land in rapid fashion, sniffing out potential hiding spots for Great crested newts within fields in Farnham, Surrey.

South East Water is currently installing two kilometres of pipe in the area as part of a vital, £1.3 million project.

Part of the pipe goes through private land within close proximity of a water body – a well-known haven for the small, threatened creatures.

Jeremy Dufour, Project Manager, said: “Great crested newts are a protected species and are small, meaning they are often hard to spot on land without using labour-intensive daily trapping. By using these specially trained dogs we can identify where the newts are living and ensure the impact on both the wider environment and ecology is kept to an absolute minimum."

“We also reduce our carbon footprint by reducing the number of times we need to visit site to set up fencing and equipment and search for newts.

“Traditional methods would have taken around 30 days to complete so we have saved approximately a month of work as well as hefty project costs and – of course – disruption to the community.

Newts do not give off a particularly pungent scent to the human nose, but dogs are able to sniff them out from several feet away.

Sniffer dogs are trained not to touch, harm or chase newts. They simply alert their handlers to where the animals may be hiding by sitting still.

If a newt is found, a dedicated ecologist then picks it up and moves it to a safe location.

Jeremy continued: “Thankfully, Poppy did not detect any newts within our working area so our team can proceed to install the new pipe as planned.

You can find out more about the project here.