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Hedgehog Street

Introducing Reaseheath Mammal Society

Reaseheath Mammal Society was created properly in January, though I’d had the idea for at least a couple of months before that after reading of other ecological recording groups set up by students. As mammals are my main interest it was an obvious choice to focus on them although that’s not to say that the sightings of other species are not ignored; when birds are caught on the trail cameras or when amphibians stroll through the footprint tunnels, details are submitted to the environmental record centre for Cheshire, rECOrd.

Hedgehog Street The focus is on acquiring records for this centre as the data will contribute to published local and perhaps even national mammal atlases; Cheshire Mammal Group relied on rECOrd for their 2008 ‘Mammals of Cheshire’ publication and are working on an update. Certain records are also submitted for the purpose of national projects like the Hedgehog Street campaign jointly organised by People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS).

So on to what we have found! To date, footprint tunnels have been used in multiple locations and woodmice, weasels and either frog or toad prints were found. Longworths have been used at separate sites, finding woodmice and bank voles and trailcams have shown a number of other species such as badgers, otters and tawny owls. Field sightings of course have their place too and a range of rabbit warrens have been mapped out, footprints of the red fox discovered in the sandbanks of streams and endangered hedgehogs seen in numerous places. Bat detector surveys have presented at least 6 of the 10 (or possibly 12) bat species of Cheshire just above Reaseheath lake, with a couple of species above the ponds, too; they emerged in spring to feed on recently emerged insects such as mayflies.

Bank Vole in Little Eel Cage

Bank Vole in Little Eel Cage

I’ll finish off the introduction to Reaseheath Mammal Society with a few interesting facts about the fascinating mammals living alongside us; the woodmouse, one of three native mice, was previously believed to be one and the same with its two relatives the yellow-necked mouse and the harvest mouse. It’s only a relatively recent discovery that they are in fact distinct species. Secondly, the badger, a species of the Mustelidae family, bucks the trend shown by its solitary relatives (i.e. weasels and otters) and instead opts to live in groups known as clans, although in some situations it does revert to solitude. Noctules have been heard above the lake with heterodyne bat detectors, with distinctive ‘chip-chop’ calls coming through at 25khz; this bat is the largest in the UK, although it still only weighs 40g at most with a range of 19 – 40g.

If you read this and want to get involved at all, visit our Facebook page. Information on joining the group is included on the page (see ‘About’).

By Jack Riggall, Level 3 Conservation and Wildlife Management student

hedgehog

Hedgehog Streets in Nantwich

The hedgehog is a wild mammal that needs little introduction; there is nothing else even remotely like it in the country, although on the European mainland it has to be referred to as the western hedgehog to differentiate it from a relative in the same genus, the eastern hedgehog. Though it is a familiar neighbour to us all in the UK, it is becoming scarcer every day; it has in fact halved in numbers in the past 25 years. This decline rivals and even surpasses that of the endangered tiger.

However, we can make changes to our own habits that will encourage the hedgehog population. Hedgehog Street, a national campaign jointly organised by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, is always looking for voluntary Hedgehog Champions and with numerous hedgehogs around the college grounds it would be a positive move to sign up for the conservation of this species.

One purpose of this national project is to encourage neighbours to look at their gardens and ensure hedgehogs can come and go between them; this opens up a wider territory for the food (beetles, slugs and other creepy crawlies) that the hedgehog needs to eat each night. If you want further information on how to do this then please visit www.hedgehogstreet.org.

I’m also submitting any hedgehog records that people can share; any time you see them, whether it’s alive or the unfortunate victim of road kill, please let me know; I can be contacted via email at onthisrock@hotmail.co.uk. The records will go to rECOrd, the Cheshire environmental centre who collate species sightings for distribution maps, and from February to August next year to the national hedgehog survey operated by Hedgehog Street.

By Jack Riggall, Level 3 Conservation and Wildlife Management student