How animals suffer in floods
THE north has just seen the worst floods – for most of us - in memory.
Our village is in a valley and houses at the bottom end were hit by about three feet of water.
And the situation was much worse for many others, with whole communities finding their lower floors and cellars under water.
The noise of gushing water has drowned out any wildlife sounds but I must admit that I saw very little movement around on the worst days of the festive floods.
In the office we discussed how the floods affect wildlife and badgers were mentioned, but badgers will normally have setts high up in wooded valleys so they are unlikely to suffer – we’ll leave that to badger-culling politicians.
However, other mammals will have been devastated, in particular unfortunate hedgehogs. As if it isn’t enough that they suffer because of modern agricultural practices, roads and general cruelty.
Hedgehogs will have started hibernating and low-level nests been flooded. The inhabitants will have drowned.
Smaller mammals also suffer in the floods and where there are fewer mammals there is less food for birds and other predators.
On many of The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves we have seen owls hunting outside their normal territory to find food. This means the owls are using up more energy than usual.
Turning to barn owls, these birds particularly struggle if they are faced with a long period of rain because their feathers become waterlogged, making it even more difficult to get out and hunt.
Some birds, like curlews and lapwings, may be finding food easier in the muddy ground left behind after flooding but kingfishers and herons will struggle to see fish in fast-flowing rivers, made murky by disturbed sediment.
And those poor fish won’t have had it any easier with eggs laid in gravel upstream now washed away.
Our most endangered mammal, the water vole, sounds like it would love the extra water, but they are not strong swimmers and could find themselves washed from their nests. As they struggle to get to the bank they will be easy pickings for predators like otters and mink.
In turn, those otters won’t be happy if their own holts are flooded, leaving them homeless in the cold, winter months.
The way land has been managed over the past 100 years has meant more fragmentation of areas.
While real wet mossy areas will provide some refuge for wildlife, the rush to dry out land has meant more channels pushing water from uplands to lowlands.
The dry areas are not ideal habitats for anything but a few species so all the rest suffer.
Flooding is a natural process and, when it is not excessive, can actually benefit many species.
But the recent flooding has not been good for the majority of humans or wildlife.
To support the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside. Text WILD09 with the amount you want to donate to 70070. To become a member of the Trust go to the website at www.lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.
For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust. org.uk.
●● Water voles will not have enjoyed the flooding