Wiltshire is an incredible county supporting significant numbers of many of the UK’s mammal species of conservation, ranging from recovering populations of Otters and Polecat, to Brown Hare, Water vole, Harvest Mice and Hedgehog. The county also supports nationally and internationally-important sites for bats (such as the SACs mentioned above). Furthermore, recent surveys are highlighting important populations of rare woodland bats such as Bechstein’s and Barbastelle bats.
In 2013 The Mammal Society launched a national atlas project to update the current knowledge of the distribution of mammals in the UK and to promote further conservation effort. At this time, Wiltshire Mammal Group (WMG) and Wiltshire & Swindon Biological Records Centre (WSBRC), launched the Wiltshire Mammal Atlas Project to contribute to the national project and to enable the update of the previous Wiltshire Mammal Atlas, Mammals in Wiltshire, 1997.
WMG was galvanised into action, recruiting new members and rolling out a series of training events and surveys to promote mammal recording and monitoring, including basic mammal identification, owl pellet analyses, Hedgehog survey, Brown Hare survey and Dormouse Monitoring. During 2014 Wiltshire Bat Group (WBG) became a project partner and rolled out “square-bashing” surveys targeting the under-recorded areas of the county, yielding considerable new bat data. WBG delivered training events for members and established 3 new monitoring schemes. Additional datasets relating to long term monitoring of bats and other mammals were also gathered from existing projects and ecological consultancies.
The atlas can be downloaded here – Mammals in Wiltshire_2nd edition v1.0
The publication is web-based to ensure it is widely available, not least to the many recorders and organisations contributing to its production, and so it can be easily updated in the near future as new survey findings and data are added. The version number and future additions will be listed in the introductory pages of the document. It was supported by Wiltshire Natural History Publications Trust, whose grant supported the map production and data management by WSBRC. Huge thanks are extended to the many other contributors, including those writing species accounts, capturing data, surveying and submitting records and to Dr Fiona Mathews and Dr Patrick Dillon for providing their insights for the foreword.
The atlas project may complete, but we still need to continue the survey and monitoring of mammals across Wiltshire – we will deliver updates to the atlas as we make new significant discoveries and advances in knowledge. Help support your local mammal populations, whether by supporting the Hedgehogs in your garden, or supporting the survey work by the mammal group and bat group.
We also hope the atlas promotes the importance of the county, its habitats and mammal species, to a wider audience, promoting the importance of safeguarding important sites for mammals, now and in the future, to local planning authorities, statutory bodies such as Natural England and Environment Agency, as well as nature reserve managers across the county. This includes those sites where mammals are the feature of interest for designated sites, for example the bat species listed on the Special Areas of Conservation at Bath & Bradford-on-Avon and Chilmark Quarries, and Dormice included as features of the Savernake Forest SSSI.