A sniffer dog has been brought in to help protect a newt population living along the site of a proposed new road. Rocky, the newt-hunting spaniel, has been drafted in to sniff out the amphibians along the route of the planned bypass to the north of Norwich, Norfolk. Natural England has been overseeing the safe removal of the protected great crested newts to secure areas nearby. Ecologists need to remove protected species and other wildlife to safe areas before building work can begin.
Specially-trained Rocky is being brought in for a week to ensure none remain along the 12-mile (20km) route.
Since the warm spring weather brought the newts out of hibernation, more than 7km (4.3 miles) of amphibian fencing has been used to steer them into bucket traps in the three areas on the route of the Norwich Northern Distributor Road.
The buckets are checked daily by ecologists and any creatures inside are transferred to more suitable habitats away from the development site.
So far, more than 340 great crested newts have been relocated together with 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, the tennis ball," he said.
"Whenever he finds a newt, he gets his ball."
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 he 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."