Animal survey launched as mystery deepens over disappearing bunnies

Grey squirrel

A grey squirrel, one of the species seen during Living with Mammals. - Credit: Craige Mcgonigle

South Devon animal lovers are being asked to take part in a special survey.

For the first time, wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species is running its Living with Mammals survey throughout all of 2021.

PTES saw record-breaking numbers of volunteers taking part last year, thanks to more people being at home and having the time to watch wildlife in their gardens and/or nearby green spaces.

The result was a huge increase in the number of mammal sightings, from hazel dormice on birdfeeders to hedgehogs snuffling in gardens after dark. PTES is keen to build on this positive relationship with nature made during 2020’s lockdowns, which not only benefits the UK’s wildlife, but can also have a positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of those taking part.

Now, PTES is asking people to look out for and record sightings and signs of wild mammals (such as footprints and droppings) in their gardens or local green spaces throughout this year. To take part, visit: livingwithmammals.ptes.org

 David Wembridge, Mammal Surveys Coordinator at PTES, said: “Despite the challenges of 2020, one positive was the number of people seeing wild mammals more frequently, some for the first time. Connections with nature are so important - not only do we gain a unique insight into the lives of our wild neighbours, which is hugely beneficial for conservation, but wildlife watching and being close to nature is known to have a positive impact on our mental health too, which is needed now perhaps more than ever.”

 Over 2,000 people took part in 2020, which resulted in 2,400 surveys being submitted – two and a half times more than in any other year. The top five species most commonly recorded were: grey squirrels, hedgehogs, foxes, mice and bats.

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Despite being in the top five, hedgehog sightings slightly dropped from last year, from 41 per cent compared with 44 per cent in 2019. The most striking result is the continued fall in reports of rabbits. In 2020 only 8.5 per cent of sites surveyed saw a rabbit, compared with 13 per cent the year before and about 25 per cent a decade ago.