Freya the newt-hunt­ing dog is not to be sniffed at

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - SARAH LUM­LEY news@west­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

AUTILITY com­pany has be­come the first in the UK to use a snif­fer dog to track down and save a pro­tected species of newt.

Three-year-old springer spaniel Freya has been trained to de­tect great crested newts by smell, ahead of Wes­sex Wa­ter lay­ing new pipes in the ground.

The re­gion in which the com­pany op­er­ates is a “strong­hold” for the noc­tur­nal am­phib­ians, which are pro­tected un­der UK and Eu­ro­pean leg­is­la­tion.

Wes­sex Wa­ter is the first util­ity com­pany in the UK to have an in­house great crested newt de­tec­tion dog, owned and trained by ecol­o­gist Nikki Glover.

Freya’s train­ing in­volved hid­ing a great crested newt in­side a breath­able con­tainer. When the newt is lo­cated, the dog in­di­cates the find by ly­ing down, in re­turn for a treat.

The com­pany says that hav­ing Freya as part of the team is a “mas­sive ben­e­fit”.

Freya’s owner Nikki said: “The Wes­sex Wa­ter re­gion is a strong­hold for great crested newts and we come across them when car­ry­ing out con- struc­tion works. If works are within 250 me­tres of breed­ing ponds and we are likely to cause an of­fence un­der the leg­is­la­tion, we must ap­ply for a li­cence from Nat­u­ral Eng­land.

“We would then be re­quired to fence off the con­struc­tion area and carry out pit­fall trap­ping (buck­ets sunk into the ground), which could take around 30 days to com­plete.

“Hav­ing a great crested newt de­tec­tion dog within a util­ity com­pany is a mas­sive ben­e­fit.

“They can find the newts more ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively, and it’s a non-in­va­sive method.”

Nikki has been granted a Nat­u­ral Eng­land li­cence, which al­lows her to keep four great crested newts in tem­po­rary cap­tiv­ity from July to Oc­to­ber for the pur­pose of train­ing Freya.

The type of con­tainer used for train­ing is var­ied to avoid Freya ‘scent im­print­ing’ on the con­tainer ma­te­rial as op­posed to the newt.

She is now able to lo­cate wild newts as well as cap­tive ones.

Louise Wil­son, founder and di­rec­tor of dog de­tec­tion com­pany Con­ser­va­tion K9 Con­sul­tancy, said: “Nikki came to me over a year ago to progress Freya’s train­ing. They have both been ab­so­lute stars. You can see how much Freya en­joys her work and the bond she has with Nikki is ab­so­lutely vi­tal.

“We’ve never worked with a wa­ter com­pany be­fore and it’s been re­ally re­ward­ing. It’s a bril­liant idea.”

Hav­ing a great crested

newt de­tec­tion dog within a util­ity com­pany is a mas­sive ben­e­fit

NIKKI GLOVER

Pho­tos: Nick Up­ton/Wes­sex Wa­ter/SWNS

Nikki Glover puts Freya through her paces

Freya lies down af­ter find­ing a hid­dengreat crested newt

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