Category Archives: Surveys

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 d.bell@uea.ac.uk. 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), Alex.Barlow@apha.gov.uk

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, d.bell@uea.ac.uk

Alex Barlow Veterinary Investigation Officer, APHA Wildlife Group, Alex.Barlow@apha.gsi.uk

Or

Gareth Harris, Wiltshire Mammal Group, wiltshiremammalgroup@hotmail.co.uk

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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

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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 paul.wexler@wiltshire.ac.uk.

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 paul.wexler@wiltshire.ac.uk.

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).

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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 – wiltshiremammalgroup-at-hotmail.co.uk (replacing the “-at-” with the “@”).

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

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 wiltshiremammalgroup-at-Hotmail.co.uk and we’ll compile a list of interested members and keep you posted.

Thanks. GH.

Bath and Bradford-on-Avon Stone Mine Horseshoe Hibernation Surveys

Dr Fiona Mathews and Domhnall Finch recently reviewed the data arising through the monitoring of the stone mines in Bath and Bradford-on-Avon, and specifically the hibernation counts.

Fiona and Jenny Bennett have produced the following summary for Wiltshire Bat Group members. These surveys have been supported by large number of bat workers from Wiltshire Bat Group and our friends from other bat groups – all are warmly thanked for supporting this work.

WBG supplemental_Mathews and Bennett February 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvest mouse nest searches – Success!

A huge thank you to the many WMG members and friends who contributed their time and efforts to the four nest searches undertake this autumn in Coombe Bissett, Swallowcliffe, Broad Chalke and Bishopstrow, where 16, 20, 10 and 21 nests respectively were found, by 6, 6, 17 and 4 surveyors! (19 people have supported these surveys and training events).

In all cases, surveys were undertaken in areas for which we had no recent records – so, all in all, a great result. That we find harvest mice nests on all sites surveyed certainly suggests that they are widespread across Wiltshire and likely to be found in suitable habitat.

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Superb harvest mouse habitat – an abundance of nests in a buffer strip adjacent to a small watercourse (C) G Harris

Thank you to the landowners who offered a warm welcome and great interest in this work and to Simon Smart and Jemma Batten of Black Sheep Consulting for arranging access with the landowners for us.

What next? Whilst we dont plan to organise further training events this autumn we encourage you to please keep looking for harvest mouse nests – a single nest is another confirmed location so keep your eyes peeled on your country walks! Let us know what you find…….

 

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mid-November and still finding fresh green nests (C) G Harris

 

WMG’s 5th Annual Owl Pellet Analysis Workshop

WMG is presenting it’s 5th annual owl pellet workshop to be held at Lackham College, Chippenham on Sunday 21st January 2018 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 greimg_7092-copyat 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 paul.wexler@wiltshire.ac.uk.

 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 paul.wexler@wiltshire.ac.uk.

Harvest Mouse surveys……updated plans

WMG’s last two harvest mouse nest searches will be:

Saturday 11th November – near Broadchalke, Salisbury

Saturday 18th November – near Bishopstrow, Warminster

More helpers are always welcome – If you’d like to get involved please get in touch. We are asking participants to “book” on to each event to ensure we have contact details for everyone to ensure everyone receives directions etc.

Thank you once again to Simon and Jemma from Black Sheep Consulting, arranging access to landholdings in areas where we lack recent harvest mouse records.

IMG_1433
harvest mouse nest in field margin, Easterton, Wiltshire (c) G Harris.

On each occasion we’ll meet at 10am; we’ll provide directions to the meeting place to those who contact us and confirm their attendance. The surveys will take 3 hours or more, depending on enthusiasm levels. Bring appropriate outdoor gear, food and drink.

No experience necessary but be prepared to walk a short distance across rough ground and to enjoy the great British autumnal weather! All training will be provided! Just bring energy and enthusiasm!

If you’d like to get involved, please email wiltshiremammalgroup-at-hotmail.co.uk (don’t reply to this website or contact us via facebook – please just email us).

More harvest mouse surveys!

It’s well known that you cant spend too much time looking for harvest mice – searching long grass doesn’t make you go cross-eyed!

The second of this season’s harvest mouse nest searches was another success, with  20 nests of varying ages found on arable farmland close to Swallowcliffe, near Tisbury in South Wiltshire; a part of the county previously lacking records. And in beautiful sunshine too!

With thanks to Lisa, Michelle, Paul, Gemma and Richard for today’s efforts – great work team! And to Perin and Sonja for making us so welcome.

The next survey event will be the 11th November 2017 in Broadchalke, South Wiltshire. If you’d like to get involved please see further information here; email us on wiltshiremammalgroup-at-hotmail.co.uk to register your interest.

 

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Harvest mouse nest, nr Swallowcliffe, S. Wiltshire (C) G. Harris

 

 

Harvest Mouse Surveys……..

Today, WMG completed the first of four survey events, searching for the nests of harvest mice in areas currently lacking records.

The recently-published Mammals in Wiltshire, second edition, highlighted that in recent years the harvest mouse has been very poorly recorded in Wiltshire – and yet, every targeted nest survey that we’ve undertaken has found them!

Todays survey, near Coombe Bissett, Salisbury, found 16 nests of harvest mice, including many which were still green and freshly-woven. We also recorded brown hare, roe deer, field vole nests, badger, fox, rabbit and roe deer, as well as grey partridge, linnet, skylark and stonechat.

Today’s survey produced new records for harvest mice in a part of the county previously lacking in records. A great outcome.

Thank you to Richard and Katie Jowett, Bake Farm Fruit Farm, Coombe Bissett, for the warm welcome, and to Simon Smart of Black Sheep Consulting for facilitating the visit. And, of course, the star surveyors – Simon, Lisa, Jenny, Annette and Paul.

The next survey will be on the 28th October, for more information see here. The more the merrier!

 

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harvest mouse nest (C) G Harris
IMG_4384
harvest mouse nest (C) G Harris