Dogs get sniffin’ for newts in Hitchin ahead of vital track improvements - Network Rail

Network Rail teams in Hitchin are using innovative methods - and two new recruits - to detect and protect great crested newts.

two photos of spaniels standing on railway lines
Rocky and Arnie searching for newts in Hitchin (image: Network Rail)

Rocky and Arnie are the world’s first scientifically proven great crested newt detection dogs. They’ve been out on site before essential work to maintain the track takes place next month to bring smoother, more reliable journeys for passengers.

Great crested newts are usually found in ponds, woodland or on grassland, but the amphibians, which are a protected species, sometimes make it onto worksites. If present, they must be trapped and safely moved to a suitable habitat away from where the work is taking place which takes time and can delay projects.

That’s where the detective duo step in. As well as saving time and money, Rocky and Arnie can cover large areas much faster than workers on site and accurately detect any newts.

The dogs were trained for their careers following research and trials with Atkins, Wagtail UK and Natural England.

After a good sniff on the railway and around the worksite, neither Rocky nor Arnie found any evidence of great crested newts, meaning the work can be carried out as planned.

Find out more about conservation detection dogs in this article A bat's best friend by Rachael Flavell from Paws for Conservation

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