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A way to reduce problems in pitfall trapping | Matt Levan | Levan Ecology

A way to reduce problems in pitfall trapping

11 February 2014


 February 11, 2014
Category: Uncategorized
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I wrote the below a few years ago for publication but in the event the magazine decided it did not fit with the themed issues they were running and so it has waited. With the prospect of newt translocation work in the coming season it seemed a good time to resurrect the article. I have given full credit to the people and companies I worked with on the original project but if you want to discuss this please send any questions to me.


A simple modification allows easy auditing of pitfall trapping on large sites

Natalie Hughes, Tony Chadfield, Steve Piggot, Gareth Parry, Emily Dickins, Brandon Murray, Danielle Rozycka, Jia Ming Lim and Matt Levan



The site was a former clay pit covering approximately 90ha with several water bodies supporting great crested newts, smooth newts, common frogs and common toads. To permit the restoration of the site required under the original mineral permission the amphibians were translocated to nearby newly created habitat that had been agreed with Natural England under the terms of a great crested newt mitigation licence.


The terrestrial part of the translocation was carried out using over 2000 pitfall traps placed along amphibian proof fencing that were checked each morning.


The issues

To demonstrate a high quality of fieldwork and minimise the risk of traps going unchecked it was decided that a method should be developed for auditing that every trap has been checked on a daily basis, preferably without significantly increasing the workload for site staff or the cost to the client.



The technique that was developed made use of two existing practices, minimising the additional work required while allowing all trap checks to be audited on a daily basis. Firstly in line with best practice (Great Crested Newt Mitigation Guidelines, English Nature 2001) all traps had a wooden stick to allow small mammals to escape from the bucket, second to reduce the risk of amphibians dehydrating all traps were inspected in the afternoons and water was added to any that appeared dry.


The mammal ladders were marked at one end with coloured tape and alternate days were designated ‘tape up’ or ‘tape down’. As each bucket was checked the stick would be turned to the appropriate way up. This made it possible for those checking the dryness of traps to see at a glance if a trap had been searched that day and to carry out a backup search if the stick was the wrong way up.


As a result of using this technique it is possible to provide greater assurances to the client and other interested parties that work is being carried out consistently. Since the technique makes use of aspects of site work that would be in place anyway it can be used on sites of any size with minimal additional effort or resources.


Thanks to Froglife Ltd, Natura International Associates and Baker Shepherd Gillespe

Correspondence: matt@levanecology.co.uk

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