Merry Christmas!

On behalf of all at Wiltshire Mammal Group & Wiltshire Bat Group, a very merry Christmas and happy new year to you all!XmasRhipp

Thank you to everyone for their efforts in surveying and monitoring Wiltshire mammals, and in promoting positive conservation messages! May 2019 be full of even more!!

Why not consider the perfect Christmas gift – a year’s membership to Wiltshire Mammal Group or Wiltshire Bat Group!

The Christmas break (and the associated over-indulgence!)  is the perfect time for winter walks and some impromptu mammal recording! Please submit your records via Living Record or email them directly to us. Or consider downloading and using MammalTracker or MammalMapper. Your records are important in providing the evidence base to support Wiltshire’s mammals.

Nadolig Llawen – Joyeux Noel – Fröhliche Weihnachten – Wesołych Świąt – Nollaig Shona


URGENT: Disease in Brown Hares; your help needed

In October 2018 Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Norfolk Wildlife Trust initiated a partnership project with the University of East Anglia to study a series of mysterious hare deaths in the East Anglia region. In promoting this work on TV, radio and the press, UEA have received reports of large numbers of hare deaths from across the UK (including south-west England, Wales and Scotland). Post mortems indicate that several viruses are involved including hares dying with symptoms characteristic of myxomatosis in rabbits. The reports indicate that these infections are spreading throughout the national brown hare population, and that spread is rapid.

Wiltshire Mammal Group is therefore asking anyone seeing a freshly dead hare to record its location and grid reference, date and to photograph the entire animal – especially around the head and bottom – and send the information to Dr Diana Bell at the University of East Anglia. Dr Bell has recently been studying the impacts of diseases on rabbit populations, including myxomatosis and strains of haemorrhagic disease.

Dr Bell said: “The death of any animal is obviously distressing but we’re asking people to try and photograph these hares to help us understand what is happening. Getting good images and the actual bodies of these hares, along with their exact location, is crucial for us to rule out or identify possible diseases. Any dead animals should be double-bagged using gloves and where possible put into a freezer for collection or ”

Wiltshire is an important stronghold for brown hares in the UK; the recently-published Mammals in Wiltshire (Second Edition) demonstrates that they are widely-spread in the county and indeed are more frequently recorded that rabbits. In fact, rabbits have declined rapidly in recent years in response to different strains of rabbit haemorrhagic disease.

There is also no closed season for hares, which means that they can be shot legally at any time of the year – including during breeding season. Illegal hare coursing is also still prevalent in Wiltshire (see Wiltshire Rural Crime Team Facebook page, 17th December 2018).

Hares can be distinguished from rabbits in a number of ways. Hares are larger than rabbits, with longer hind legs and black-tipped ears that are as least as long as their heads.

Have you seen a sick or dead hare?

Since more than one virus is involved, observers may encounter dead or dying hares exhibiting a range of symptoms, including the bulging eyes and bleeding characteristic of Myxomatosis to a wide range of other symptoms seen in the haemorrhagic disease (including looking apparently perfectly healthy to bleeding from the eyes and orifices, and lethargy).

Please note the precise location & grid reference (using a map or this website), and date. 

The team are keen to receive carcasses of the hare for post-mortem and analyses to confirm which viral infection is involved. Using gloves where-ever possible, double-bag carcasses and tag with the date and location and then freeze or leave in a cold place.

And then:

Please send your report, with a photograph of the hare (including its head and bottom) to Dr Diana Bell at the University of East Anglia by emailing Inform Dr Bell immediately and arrangements will be made for collection of carcases.

And for those reports in the south-west of England,  please also copy your report to another member of this research team, Dr Alex Barlow MRCVS, APHA Wildlife Group, Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA),

Carcases can be delivered, after discussion of case, to either of two sites depending on location; Please don’t deliver carcases before discussion of cases.

  • Main site; APHA Starcross VI Centre, Starcross, Staplake Mount, Starcross, Exeter, Devon, EX6  8PE
  • Bristol Vet School’s Post Mortem Room, at Langford House, Langford, Nr Bristol, Somerset, BS40 5DU

Wiltshire Mammal Group is not able to collect or store carcasses or arrange for their delivery.

Please be aware; this is incredibly serious for the UK’s brown hare populations (its not yet known what the impact may be upon mountain hare populations), and it is likely to result in a massive reduction in hare numbers. In a county such as Wiltshire, this will be especially noticeable where hares are normally so frequently seen.

In parts of East Anglia, the impact upon hare populations is expected to be so significant that some shooting estates have ceased any shooting of hares (for either sport, pest control or eating) in order to support populations as much as possible.

This webpage will be updated with additional information as it comes available

(GOH 18/12/2018, updated 19/12/2018)

More information

Dr Diana Bell at the University of East Anglia,

Alex Barlow Veterinary Investigation Officer, APHA Wildlife Group,


Gareth Harris, Wiltshire Mammal Group,

WMG’s 6th Annual Owl Pellet Workshop! EVENT CANCELLED

Event Cancelled – due to unforeseen circumstances this event has been cancelled. Apologies to those who have booked places (you should have been notified already by email). A re-scheduled date is not planned at this time. Apologies! (11th January 2019)

In its 6th year, WMG’s owl pellet analyses continue – the next owl pellet analyses workshop will be held at Lackham College, Chippenham on Sunday 20th January 2019 9am till 1pm.

Thanks to a number of raptor workers in Wiltshire, particularly Major Nigel Lewis, Michael Groves and their colleagues, we’ve been able to analyse owl pellets from across Wiltshire, and in particular Salisbury Plain. In doing so, we’ve been able to generate a some great information regarding the distribution of some of our lesser recorded small mammals, making a gre

owl pellet analyses (c) Andrew Barrett

at contribution to the mammal atlas project.

The workshop is ideal for beginners and as a refresher for those who have previous experience identifying small mammal remains from owl pellets.

Refreshment will be available on the day. If you’d like to join in or would like further information, please contact Paul Wexler on

A plea to raptor workers: If you are interested in contributing owl pellet samples for these analyses (barn owl pellets generate the most data but pellets from other species add some variety!), please get in touch too. We are particularly interested in samples collected regularly from the same locations as these can yield changes in the small mammal assemblage over time. Please remember to record the bird species, a 6 figure grid reference and a date of collection for each sample, which ideally should include fresh 10-20 pellets. For further information, please contact Paul Wexler on

Harvest Mouse nest searches, autumn 2018

Its that time of year again when we can turn our attention to nest-searching for harvest mice. I’ve been out in the past week and the nests are still green (so possibly in use but much trickier to find – well camouflaged in the sward).

HM nest_SPTA-Enford_Oct18
Harvest Mouse, likely breeding nest, October 2018 (Salisbury Plain Training Area)                         (C) Gareth Harris

Later this month I’ll be leading two further harvest mouse nest searches in parts of the county not recently surveyed – once again, this is trying to plug gaps in knowledge and known range following the publication of the mammal atlas.  Last year we had great success, finding good numbers of nests on all sites we looked, ranging from four farmland sites (with thanks to Simon & Jemma from Black Sheep Consulting), to Langford Lakes Wiltshire Wildlife Trust reserve, and many more in between.

Confirmed dates:

Sunday 28th October, near Wilsford (between Urchfont and Upavon), meeting at 1230. (given this is the day the clocks “go back”, an earlier start seemed a little hopeful!).

Saturday 10th November, Corsham Estate, meeting at 10:00.

If you’d like to join us, please email and confirm – (replacing the “-at-” with the “@”).

Thanks. Gareth (county mammal recorder, Wiltshire Mammal Group).

Wiltshire Bat Group meeting, Thursday 8th November

The next meeting of Wiltshire Bat Group (second and final meeting of 2018) will be Thursday 8th November 2018.

We are delighted to host Lisa Worledge, Bat Conservation Trust, presenting her talk entitled “The evolution of bats“.

Starting at 7pm at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s offices in Devizes. The meeting is open to anyone interested in supporting or getting involved in bat conservation in Wiltshire.

The meeting will start promptly at 7pm – please bear in mind that the meeting room is on an upstairs floor and so the front door of the building must be locked during the meeting. If you can avoid running late that would be great if – but in the event anyone is unavoidably running late, a phone number will be posted on the notice board by the door to call for you to be let in!

The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust offices, Elm Tree Court may be found off Long Street, Devizes SN10 1NJ. There will be parking available here, or nearby in town. If you’ve not been here before, allow yourself extra time to find it – the access into Elm Tree Court is easily missed.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Problems with Email addresses

We have just been alerted to the fact that there are problems with email addresses. Emails sent to their server are routinely bouncing (regardless of which email server they are sent from).

If you have provided such an email to either the mammal group or the bat group, and if you are no longer receiving emails (a series of WBG membership-wide emails were sent over the weekend, for example) then please contact the relevant group and provide an alternative email address. We obviously cant email you at the moment to request this individually!

Although this has only just come to light, it appears to have been an issue for some time.

Cheers! WBG.


A Review of the Population and Conservation Status of British Mammals

This report, from the Mammal Society, presents the first comprehensive review of the status of British mammal populations for over 20 years. The population size, range size, temporal trends and future prospects of Britain’s 58 terrestrial mammals are assessed.

Further details, and the technical summary, may be found here.

This publication has used mammal records collected from across the UK, from a multitude of source that includes the local mammal groups and local environmental records centres. So a big thank you to the WMG and WBG members who contributed to the Wiltshire Mammal Atlas Project, and who continue to share their records – your efforts are included in the recently-published Review of British Mammals.

Please keep those records coming in!

Barbastelle Bat Radiotracking

Barbastelle bats using the land between Devizes and Salisbury Plain have been studied since 2015, including the radiotracking of 3 females in 2015 and at least monthly roost monitoring. Further work was undertaken in May 2018 to learn more about this population, where they roost, breed and forage.

A big thank you to the trapping team who helped on the 19th May; a delightful catch of 5 Barbastelle bats (inc two retraps from 2015), 2 Bechstein’s and a series of Whiskered, Natterer’s, Brown Long-eared and Soprano Pipistrelle bats enabled us to place radiotags on two of the Barbastelle bats.

These two adult female bats lead us to a number of new tree roosts but perhaps most interesting was that one of them favoured the timber-clad dwelling that the 2015 tagged bats also favoured. Simultaneous emergence counts at the dwelling and a new tree roost on the opposite side of the valley produced counts of 6 and 7 adults respectively (I wonder how many we missed!?).

Both of the 2018 tagged bats foraged extensively around the Salisbury Plain military training area, foraging 10km to the south of their roosts not far from Tilshead. These bats are clearly “hard as nails” – they were foraging on the training area during military live-firing exercises (heavy artillery) with heavy use of flares to illuminate the landscape.

Huge thanks to the trapping team and the radiotracking team (Sarah Jupp, Lisa Wade and Kate Hand) – it was an epic week! Huge thanks also to all of the landowners who support this work and to the MOD’s Range Safety & Range Control.


The two tagged female Barbastelle bats, May 2018 (C) Gareth Harris




Small mammal trapping surveys 2018

During the coming spring and summer, Wiltshire Mammal Group will be undertaking some small mammal trapping surveys at a site near to Amesbury.

WMG Members will be welcome to participate in this work and to learn how to undertake such surveys.

More details including dates will be released in due course, but in the meantime, if people are interested in participating, please let us know and express your interest to and we’ll compile a list of interested members and keep you posted.

Thanks. GH.

Conserving all Wiltshire & Swindon's mammals