FAMILY members in Worcestershire are being given a fantastic chance over the coming few weeks to spend time together, enjoy the outdoors and learn about the natural world.

They are being invited to take part in an important wildlife survey and might spot a deer, find the entrance to a rabbit warren, feel a bat swooping past in the twilight, come across fox tracks or find a badger run.

National wildlife charity, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTSE) is appealing for volunteers to take part in this year’s Living With Animals Survey. It wants members of the public to spend time – at least 10 minutes - looking out for signs of wildlife in a garden or other green space every week from this week through to Sunday June 24.

And the results of people’s observations in Worcestershire will not only form part of the PTES’s wildlife picture in the UK, but will be used in the next mammals atlas of Worcestershire produced through the Worcestershire Biological Records Centre, Worcestershire Recorders and Worcestershire Mammal Group.

The volunteers can choose any local green space to watch – it could be a rural or urban garden, an allotment, a park, or a green space near to work as long as the site is within 200 metres of a building. The aim of this survey is to identify wildlife living close to humans.

The PTES says in the UK we share the green spaces around our homes and workplaces with wild species and by carefully identifying and counting mammals living in and around built up land, we can begin to understand and encourage the biodiversity on our doorstep.

Once volunteers have chosen a suitable space to survey they should visit the site for a short time each week and record and mammal sightings, or signs they have been there such as droppings or footprints.

There is a guide to spotting mammals on the PTES website at and people can also record their findings here. The guide offers lots of help on how to identify different species of wildlife and the best way to find certain mammals.

David Wembridge, surveys officer at PTES, said: “Understanding how wildlife in our towns and cities is changing is essential in supporting our wild neighbours such as foxes, rabbits and hedgehogs.

“We’ve always shared our green spaces with wildlife, so by counting the number of mammals each spring, we can tell where conservation efforts are needed most.

“By identifying population trends, finding pockets where certain species are thriving or under pressure, we can ultimately encourage biodiversity around us.”

Many of Britain’s mammals, including hedgehogs, foxes, grey squirrels and bats, are typically found in household gardens, recreational areas, cemeteries and brownfield sites, but other green spaces close to buildings may also provide a home to them.

Last year volunteers put in a total of around 10,000 hours of survey time and the project involved nearly 150 new volunteers.

Last year’s results produced fewer recordings of bats, mice and brown hares and more of brown rates and muntjac deer. There was also a decline in number of sites where hedgehogs and rabbits were found but an increase in those where badgers were recorded.

The PTES says that urban environments are busy places. They are home to four fifths of people in Britain and are continually changing with habitats for wildlife being lost and created, improved and worsened, while wildlife changes.

It adds that our wild neighbours improve the quality of our towns and cities, clearing food waste from streets and keeping pests under control. It says without them we would be worse off.

Some mammals venture into the heart of our cities and species such as bats and rats will actually share our homes and sheds, while others such as urban foxes and hedgehogs, patrol gardens and parks in search of food after dark.

Wendy Carter, communications manager at the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, said the PTES Living With Mammals survey is very important and, as conservation organisations share their information, the results submitted for Worcestershire will eventually go into the next mammals atlas for the county – due to be published in 2020.

“It is really important to know where our mammals are. The information helps us to plan the management for them whether they are doing well or whether there is a problem. If there is a problem with certain wildlife we can ask people to make changes in their gardens to help them,” she said.

Wendy added that it is vital people record everything they see – common species as well as rare ones. She said previous records for Worcestershire showed hardly any evidence of mice and rats, but that was because people didn’t record them – not because there weren’t any.

Tips to taking part in the mammal survey

• Use a large scale map to help with recording your observations – after a while a pattern may emerge that will indicate a particular mammal’s behaviour. A hand lens or magnifying glass could be very useful in helping to make out details such as tooth marks or faint impressions made by hairs in a footprint.

• Measure any signs of mammal activity as different species can have similar behaviour – rabbits, deer, squirrels and voles all strip bark from trees. The more accurate and detailed the observations, the better the chances of making a correct ID.

• Most mammals use regular paths and runs, often following hedgerows, walls and streams. Some of the best places to spot mammal signs are alongside woodland paths, in the long grass or verges and field margins or headlands, river banks and puddles where tracks can be recorded, and dense thickets of bramble or bracken.

• The best time to see mammals is very early in the morning. Most of them are nocturnal but mammal hunting at dawn has the advantage that light improves rather than getting worse and as it improves volunteers have to chance to see fresh tracks and trails before they are destroyed by human traffic or melting frost, snow or the dew.

• Mammals are very good at sensing movement, smells and sounds so it is best to find a comfortable unobtrusive spot, like the base of a large tree, to sit and wait for them to appear. Do not wear clothes that make a noise when you move, strong perfumes or smoke.

• Places to choose for your mammal survey can include urban parks; commons and scrubland; wasteland and derelict land, churchyards and cemeteries; paying fields and golf courses; allotments; railway embankments and road verges, rivers and canals. Be careful when surveying rivers and streams and banks can be slippery. Also, don’t trespass on railways. Mammal activity can be watched beyond the fencing.

• People can also have some great mammal sightings from their cars. Urban mammals in particular are familiar with cars and, provided the engine is not running, seem to regard them as part of the landscape. By parking up on the edge of a park, cemetery or allotment you might find yourself in a front row comfy seat to watch animals going about their usual activities just metres away.

• Personal safety is paramount. Wear something reflective when walking along dark roads. If possible, carry a mobile phone and always make sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return.