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Mammal Report 2002 (Records for 2001)

by Michael Thompson

This year’s records have been affected by the foot and mouth epidemic, limiting access to areas in which recorders might have found mammals. National surveys, such as the bat survey organised by the Bat Conservation Trust, were abandoned. Yet, some interesting findings appear in the Society’s records.

The hedgehog was reported again from Slingsby, with a full adult out and about at night on 24th April; records also from Kirkbymoorside and Thornton-le-Clay. However, the mammal recorder continues to get ‘dead on the road’ (d.o.r.) records from North Yorkshire. These records make up 89% of all hedgehog records received. The earliest date during any year for a d.o.r. has been 9th March and the last, before hibernation, 30th November. Most d.o.r. records occur in urban or suburban areas, with fewer in rural locations (Howes, 1976). According to hedgehog experts (Reeves, 2000), 40.9% of all hedgehog deaths are caused by humans, including road traffic accidents, the activities of gardeners and land managers, drowning in steep-sided garden ponds, attacks by pets and poisoning. The Highways Agency does not report annual hedgehog deaths on Britain’s roads, but gives the figures for badgers (37,500-50,000), deer (20,000-42,000), foxes (100,000) and otters (60- 86% of all otter deaths). The actual figures are likely to be higher.

Moles continue to be common and widespread, but I have found 2 d.o.r this year, one at West Ness. Common shrews have been reported from Gilling and Castle Howard in July and Slingsby in August, with a possible pygmy shrew from Gilling. I have had more bat roost inspections to carry out this year, most of which indicated the presence of the common pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus. The soprano pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus was also located, using a bat detector (khz 55). A pipistrelle nursery colony was reported to me from Thornton-le-DaIe in the summer. The only noctule records I have received have been from around Castle Howard estate, a site just outside the Society’s survey area. Records for the brown long-eared bat have come from Hovingham (a dead specimen), Gilling and Barton-le-Street. The Barton-le-Street record was of a nursery colony in a loft space, in which four or more adult females could be seen.

The brown hare continues to be well established in the area, with many records coming from Gilling and around South Holme, Welburn and Loskay near Gillamoor. Bank voles, like other small rodents, tend to be under-recorded. However, a breeding record from Slingsby, with young about 2 weeks old in a nest, was discovered on 14th September. Field vole runs in long, matted grass were uncovered in February at West Ness. The dormouse captive-release follow-up programme came to an abrupt stop because of F&M, with no access to the site being allowed. One of the least recorded rodents is the house mouse; possibly, because of the activities of the rodent control officers, it is less common. A family of 10 house mice was trapped out in a house in Slingsby in October, one of which was pregnant. No water vole records were received, but they are suspected of being on Wath Beck. Brown Rat is common as ever, probably due to a series of mild winters. There was a lot of evidence of them at Newsham Bridge in February.

Fox records came from Brandsby, Welburn and Slingsby. There were more weasel records than last year, with records from Hambleton, Welburn, Brandsby, Hovingham and Slingsby. At Slingsby, the weasel was hunting a young brown rat. Stoats were seen at Sykes House hunting in the garden, at Bonfield Ghyll on the moors feeding on a rabbit, Cawton, Gilling, Barton-le-Street, Castle Howard and Slingsby, where one was found dead on the road. Badger records were submitted from Castle Howard, Loskay and the A170 at Welburn. The much- observed sett in Cropton Forest continues to thrive, with successful breeding occurring. There were several roe deer records, with a single doe crossing the road at Barton-le-Street, sightings from Sykes Intake north of Fadmoor, Gilling, West Ness, Nunnington and Castle Howard estate. They remain common in Ryedale.

Last year I reported that 22 species of mammal had been recorded in the 10 km. square covering Gilling, Hovingham and Slingsby. The number now stands at 25, including the addition of the house mouse. This is almost half the British list of land based mammals. The list reads as follows:

Badger, bank vole, brown hare, brown long-eared bat, brown rat, common shrew, Daubenton’s bat, field vole, fox, grey squirrel, hedgehog, house mouse, mole, noctule bat, otter, common pipistrelle bat, soprano pipistrelle bat, pygmy shrew, rabbit, roe deer, stoat, water shrew, water vole, weasel and wood mouse.

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