Footprint tunnel keeps track of garden visitors
MAMMALS play a vital role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem in the British Isles, as keystone predator and prey species, indicators of habitat quality and diversity, and as shapers of our environment.
Small mammals sustain our rare carnivores and birds of prey, and bats control insect numbers.
Rabbits and deer are important grazers in grassland and forest. The otter and water vole indicate excellent water quality in our rivers. And thriving harvest mouse and hedgehog populations represent diverse, connected landscapes. That’s how it should all pan-out, but the natural environment in the British Isles faces a number of modern challenges, and mammals in particular have several. For example:
of habitat through land use change, development and agricultural intensification affects hares, harvest mice and hedgehogs.
species bringing risk of competition, hybridisation and disease to native mammals, particularly for water voles, red deer and red squirrels.
with humans including road collisions, damage to housing, forestry and agriculture, and urbanisation of species like the fox.
and research gaps that limit our understanding and ability to identify and help vulnerable populations.
Because of their elusive nature, finding and recording mammals is difficult, resulting in patchy, unreliable and out-of-date distribution records. We don’t know in enough detail how well they’re doing, where key populations exist and whether they are thriving.
Without this information, population changes and declines cannot easily be identified, important species movements and interactions cannot be monitored and as such we cannot reliably advocate effective conservation efforts.
The Mammal Society is working to collect and share information on mammals to get a clearer picture of mammal distribution, abundance and population changes over time, and from that a better understanding of how mammals are being affected by the challenges they face.
From ongoing monitoring surveys, training and events to sharing knowledge and the results of new research.
Cut off from the continent around 8,000 years ago, as the ice retreated and re-opened the North Sea and English Channel, our native mammal fauna was fixed. Since then a number of introductions have taken place, such that today we have:
native terrestrial mammals, two native marine mammals. native bats. introduced or naturalised species.
terrestrial island mammals.
cetaceans found in and around our waters.
vagrant mammals: four bat species and five seals – found only occasionally.
feral species and two domesticated / managed species.
For readers interested in getting involved here’s how.
The Mammal Society runs surveys and ongoing monitoring projects, and this can be as simple as recording the fox or badger which visits your garden and submitting it.
Surveys collect statistical, detailed information on mammals, while monitoring projects collect vital distribution records and can identify population change.
Both the records from the scientific community and general public alike feed into The National Mammal Atlas Project – NMAP –which aims to produce a recent baseline of mammal distribution data.
The new kid on the block when it comes to data collection, is the footprint tunnel, a non-invasive tool to look for the presence of mammals in a habitat by identifying their footprints.
Imagine a cloche-like structure and you’re nearly there. Mammals walk over ink pads to reach bait inside, and leave footprints on special paper as they do so.
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop
l● A water vole munches on vegetation by the riverside