It is well known that dogs have an incredible sense of smell, which is 100,000 times more effective than that of a human. Stig the spaniel is a white and liver springer spaniel who puts this sense of smell to great use, with an extra special talent; seeking out endangered species of water vole. After training with ecologists, Stig sees the events as nothing more than a game. However, the results are much more substantial and are helping in the efforts to raise the numbers of the species. Stig has managed to search out endangered water voles, following their distinctive excrement scent to search them out. The handlers are ‘very proud of Stig’s work’ which has led to the reintroduction of one of the rarest creatures in the countryside into the environment. So far this summer, 176 water voles have been released into the riverbanks across Hertfordshire, thanks to Stig. They hope to continue with this initiative and hopefully bring back the creature which is particularly popular due to the likeness with the children’s book character ‘Ratty’ from the Wind in the Willows. Water voles have faced a substantial decline in the past decade, vastly due to the American mink hunting them down. This, combined with the pollution and water degradation of the water banks has been fatal, and lead them into a state of near-extinction, meaning they have vanished from around 94% of their former haunts. With a short lifespan of 6 months to 2 years, the voles burrow into canal and riverside banks, forming complex underground tunnels in an effort to protect themselves from predators. Why not head to a local canal and spot the tell-tale signs of a water vole, who are mainly active during the day, and will often leave neatly cut patches of grass near their tunnel entrance. To get a closer look, our range of binoculars are just the thing to spot the notoriously shy creatures. You can then log your findings through your smartphone via the free eNatureWatch app, and help with the reintroduction of the charismatic water voles. Photos courtesy of Nigel Cox & Peter Trimming under Creative Commons
Tagged with 'Conservation'
Although many have reported positive prospects for this partridge season, The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) are showing concern in the current numbers of partridge chicks and their capabilities to survive this winter. The GWCT are trying to engage farmers and landowners to make a special effort to help with the conservation of these animals over the next few months, taming their shooting habits and ensuring that they are doing all they can to protect the grey partridge for future years. These efforts include providing crops through the winter and maintaining grassy land - ensuring that they are not ploughed or destroyed until the springtime. These habitats allow birds a means of escape from predators as well as providing additional late-winter food. The advice being given to gamekeepers is most importantly, that if you are not putting any effort into the conservation of these partridges, then you should not be shooting. If numbers falter below 20 birds per 250 acres, then the population will struggle to cope with the dwindling numbers. It is also advised to never shoot partridges who fly in pairs. This could be detrimental to the following seasons, and although these numbers are not quite as bad as that of summer 2012, people need to be aware of this issue so that it can be rectified before it is too late. Dr Draycott noted that: ‘Though breeding success is not as bad as it was following the summer of 2012, which was the worst summer for grey partridges this century, chick survival could well be the lowest it has been since then. Consequently, care needs to be taken to ensure enough birds survive this autumn and winter to sustain breeding densities next spring.” If you are maintaining conservation efforts and having a successful season, why not treat yourself to some new country clothing such as a tweed shooting jacket, or get into the gift giving spirit with one of our shooting gifts! Image: Srikaanth Sekar under Creative Commons