How an­i­mals suf­fer in floods

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

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.lanc­ or call 01772 324129.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust.

●● Wa­ter voles will not have en­joyed the flood­ing

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