Smooth newt

Lissotriton vulgaris

Grey brown newt on dark background

Have you seen this animal? Report it now!

Photos and accurate descriptions of where and when the animal(s) was sighted are critical when making a report. Detailed information allows the Victorian Government to make a timely and positive identification. All reports are responded to as a priority and may result in trapping, surveillance and the removal of confirmed smooth newt.

It's important to report smooth newt sightings

Smooth newts are not native to Australia and pose a risk to native species if they were to establish and breed. They have the potential to carry disease and predate on small native species.

Smooth newt are classified as a prohibited pest animal under the Victorian Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994. The importation, keeping, breeding and trading of this species, without appropriate permits, is illegal and penalties apply.

A population of smooth newts has been identified in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs. The specific source of the population remains unknown, but the most likely source is via the illegal pet trade. The illegal keeping and trading of smooth newts poses one of the greatest risks of the species establishing in Victoria. Escapees or deliberately released animals can be extremely difficult and costly to recover. In many cases once they are found in the wild eradication is extremely unlikely and the species ultimately becomes established.

How to identify a smooth newt

Size

Smooth newt are a lizard-like animal that can grow up to 10 cm in length.

Newt with mouth open on tree branch

Colour

They are pale brown to olive green in colour and have an orange-coloured belly with dark spots.

Brown newt on grass

Distinctive features

They have an elongated, paddle-like tail that aids in swimming. During breeding season (spring to early summer) the males develop a transparent crest along the spine which extends to the end of their tail.

Two newts on branches with long tails

Habitat

They prefer still and shallow water of variable size and quality for breeding with plenty of aquatic vegetation, either permanent or short-lived water bodies are suitable. Terrestrial hiding sites can include under logs, rocks and leaf litter.

Behaviour

Smooth newts have a semi-aquatic lifestyle. During breeding periods (July to December in Victoria) they live in aquatic habitats, from sea-level up to 2400 m in altitude. Outside of breeding periods they retreat from water and live a cryptic lifestyle in the surrounding habitat.

They are generally nocturnal, but during breeding season are active both day and night, outside this period they restrict activity to rainy or humid nights.

Impact on native species

Potential impacts could arise from predation, competition and disease spread.

Image acknowledgment

(i),(ii),(iii), (iv) Museum Victoria

Page last updated: 06 Sep 2021