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by Michael Thompson

Compared with previous years I have had fewer recorded mammal species with in the survey area of Ryedale Natural History Society, but of those species there are just as many records. Of the 19 species recorded, against 23 in 2000, none are unusual in 2002, but there are some interesting findings.

On two of the Society’s outings hedgehogs were recorded, an alive adult at Potter House Farm, Eastmoors, Helmsley on 11th June and a road death at Sykes House on 2nd July. However, both young and another adult at Sykes House were recorded in late July and September. Adults were recorded from Slingsby in March and July and from a garden at Gilling in June with at least 4 young present, indicating successful breeding.† Several hedgehogs were seen between 12th June and 23rd September in gardens at Kirkbymoorside, in which two juveniles were seen. The same recorder reported dead hedgehogs on the road between Scackleton and Sheriff Hutton and on the A170 from Kirkbymoorside to Helmsley. At dawn on December 8th, with a cold easterly wind, an adult hedgehog was observed crossing a lawn in our garden at Slingsby.† By mid-October the majority of hedgehogs are in hibernation, but, occasionally, in search of food, they move around in winter. The 2001 National Hedgehog Survey showed a marked reduction in road casualties, indicating lower populations nationwide and what had been suspected, for some time, that road deaths were one of the factors responsible for the decline in hedgehog numbers.

I only had two mole records, Gilling and Hovingham, presumably because they are so common that members do not feel that they are worth recording. Of the shrews, the common shrew was recorded dead on a path at Gilling Woods in June, the average life span of an adult being between 15 and 18 months. Adults were seen at Slingsby and at Thornton-le-Clay, just outside our recording area. Bat records were few, with the Bat Conservation Trust’s annual Daubenton’s bat survey on the River Rye at Nunnington being carried out at dusk on 6th and 20th August. The results indicate that these bats are well established and are not declining. The bats flying around West Ness bridge over the River Rye on the 12th June were the soprano pipistrelle (khz 55) Pipistrellus pygmaeus and Daubenton’s bat. A brown long-eared bat was found at Lockton.

Obviously, rabbits are common, but only three rabbit records were submitted during the year, a roadside at Gilling, in which one of the youngsters observed had a white pelage, as well as at Sykes House and Potter House Farm. Thirty nine hare records were received, indicating, yet again, that this rodent is well established in the area. The highest concentration came from the North York Moors, with 12 individuals being recorded on 12th April on Spaunton Moor and others from Loskey Bank. They were regularly seen by two observers along the road passing Welburn Grange, as well as by others at on Spaunton Moor, near Kirkbymoorside, Nunnington, Hovingham, Leysthorpe Fields, Gilling, East Newton road, Wombleton, Appleton and Riseborough near Normanby. There were two records for grey squirrel, Welburn Grange and Allotment Farm, Rudland Rigg. In September, at Slingsby, a nest of a bank vole was discovered containing 4 completely blind young that could not have been more than 5 days old.† The only field vole record in September came from north of Ampleforth at Pry Rigg Plantation.

The Yorkshire Mammal Group team which is monitoring the dormouse project have been allowed back into the wood in question, following the lifting of the foot and mouth restrictions. It appears that the dormice are still present and that they are breeding, which is good news. However, with this rodent being on its northern range here in North Yorkshire, it is still too early to say that the captive-release programme has been a success (Ryedale Nat. Hist. Soc. newsletter 2001 p.13).

Has anyone seen a house mouse? A flippant statement maybe, but it has a serious content. Since taking on the mammal recordership for the Society, I have only received one house mouse record and that is from Slingsby where I live. It may be that the house mouse is so common that, like the mole, members don’t think it is worth recording, or the lack of records indicates that it is becoming increasingly rare.

Of the carnivores, the fox has been seen on a number of occasions. Single animals were seen at Sykes Intake, Wass Barn road and on the Hovingham road near Coulton in January. The comment on the Coulton record in July was that its pelage was very dark. A large animal, probably a male, was seen near Welburn in February, and a youngster north of Coulton in August. A young vixen was held at bay by our two dogs north of Slingsby at the beginning of December, before she got away unharmed. Stoats were reported from Rudland Rigg in January, Welburn near Castle Howard in February, mid-summer from Fadmoor, two from Pry Rigg Plantation and one from Sykes House in September and a single record from just north of Kirkbymoorside. There were fewer weasel record this year, with one each from north of Slingsby, Sykes House, Fadmoor and Losky Bank during the summer months, and two more from Sutton on Forest, outside our recording area.

Besides seeing live badgers at the Cropton Forest site, all except one of the remainder of the records received were of dead badgers at road sides, namely from Cawton, Rye Hills Farm in June and Gilling in September. The live record was from Nunnington in October. Other deaths were recorded on the A64, but outside our area of recording. Otters are now well established on the rivers and streams that flow through Ryedale and they continue to breed. With the success of the otter release programme and the build up of numbers in Ryedale, some conflict between the trout farm and fishing fraternities and the conservationist is anticipated. A infant otter was found on Pickering Beck in February near the trout farm and brought to Gordon Woodroffe. Subsequently, it was cared for by Jean Thorpe, before being taken down to the Somerset Levels for re-habilitation and, hopefully, released back into the wild.†

Of the deer records, the most interesting was of two female red deer being seen at Hawnby in May, presumably part of the small herd based on Ashberry Pastures. There are plenty of roe deer records coming from the west of the Society’s recording area, with sightings of two does in Gilling Scrub, with singles in Hovingham Woods, the East Newton road in May and June and throughout the year from the Allotment Farm and Sykes Intake area. A roe deer doe with two kids was seen on the Castle Howard road just south of Slingsby in September, indicating successful breeding.

The list of mammals is: badger, bank vole, brown hare, brown long-eared bat, common shrew, Daubentonís bat, dormouse, field vole, fox, grey squirrel, hedgehog, mole, otter, soprano pipistrelle bat, rabbit, red deer, roe deer, stoat, weasel.

Records (mammals and amphibians/reptiles) received from Andrea Cooper, Jim Pewtress, Janet and Tom Denney, Gill Smith, Gordon Woodroffe and Michael Thompson.

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