Natural England recruits sniffer dog Rocky to help relocate newts


A DOG trained to sniff out detected species has been brought in to help protect a newt population living by the site of a proposed Norwich bypass.

  Rocky, the newt-hunting Cocker Spaniel cross, has been drafted in by Natural England to sniff out the newts so they can be removed to safe areas nearby before construction work along the 12-mile route begins.

  So far, more than 340 great crested newts have been collected in bucket traps, 450 smooth newts, about 850 toads, 90 frogs and an assortment of reptiles and mammals, including a baby hedgehog.

  Two-year-old Rocky will be tasked with using his sensitive nose to sniff out any remaining newts. Trainer Aran Clyne, from sniffer dog firm Wagtail UK, said it takes several months to train a dog to identify wildlife.

  “It’s all about building an association between the newt smell and Rocky’s reward, his tennis ball,” he said. “This is Rocky’s first foray into newt conservation as he is more used to sniffing out bats, another protected species, on sites designated for new windfarms.”

  Once Rocky has located the wayward newts, they will be moved by hand. Norfolk County Council, who employed Rocky, said: “Using a sniffer dog is a quick, efficient and cost-effective way of carrying out final checks of cleared areas. Without a trained sniffer dog, all suitable areas would have to be laboriously searched by hand by ecologists.”