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Taming the shrew in Dalby Forest

[Monday 13 August 2007]
The Doormouse at Dalby
Photo: Forestry Commission

Nature lovers are being invited to help experts compile the first ever atlas of Yorkshire's mammals.

The Forestry Commission is hosting a special workshop to shed light on shrews, voles, mice and similar species in 8,600-acre Dalby Forest, near Pickering, on 19 August.

Although a great deal is known about local birds and butterflies, the file on many little mammals is surprisingly thin. They include the fast moving shrew, which zips around the forest at such a speed that few humans stand a chance of spotting one. Dalby is also home to the diminutive, long snouted pygmy shrew, but efforts to find rare dormice have drawn a blank.

People will be able to join Yorkshire Mammal Group (YMG) experts checking traps and taking down the vital statistics of the normally elusive occupants. Data will be used to map the distribution of species across the region - a project that has already taken 12 years. The hope is that some maps will be published within a couple of years working towards a comprehensive atlas. But significant gaps in the records remain for both the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales national parks.

Brian Walker, Wildlife Officer with the Forestry Commission, said: "It is because small mammals are so tough to spot that we know so little about local populations. But we need to find out more about long term trends. Voles and mice, for example, are a key part of the diet of owls and other wildlife. If they are plentiful then it is good news for biodiversity in the forest."

Ann Hanson, from the YMG, added: "This is a long term project, but one which has the potential to help in conservation efforts. The records we get from Dalby will give us a more complete picture of the species found at different locations. But the event is also about sharing the secrets of these fascinating, yet little understood animals."

Ann is a licensed shrew trapper and has studied small mammals for over 25 years. Together with colleagues, she uses harmless "Longworth" traps laced with tasty peanuts, sunflower seeds and blowfly pupae to attract creatures.

The event is based in the Community Resource Centre in the Dalby Courtyard and also includes a presentation and chance to quiz experts. It runs from 9.30am to about 12 noon, although it may go on longer. The cost is £10 and booking is required on 01751 472771.

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