Whilst much focus is rightly given to the wildlife and landscape degradation of Africa, Asia and the Americas – beautiful amounts of biodiversity and scenic landscapes can be found on our doorstep here in the United Kingdom. I have taken advantage of appreciating UK wildlife more times than I can remember, and always focused my conservation efforts to the continents stated above. When I saw The Mammal Society advertise the UK University Mammal Challenge (UMAC) on Twitter, I knew it was time to investigate what mammal species inhabit my local university town of Cheltenham.
My university is based in the heart of Cheltenham and it is known as the University of Gloucestershire. After accepting this challenge, I had to sort out a winning team to represent our university’s School of Natural Sciences department. My team members include Rea Atkinson (Bat Surveyor & Line Transects), Yolande King-Sanders & Nikita Yeomans (Habitat & Field Signs, Simon Loughran (Live Surveys and Footprint Tunnels) and myself Tolga Aktas as (Team Leader and Camera Trap Monitor). All of us study either BSc in Animal Biology or BSc in Ecology and Environmental Science at our university and have acquired the skills necessary to complete this challenge.
Our chosen site is one of the many campuses that form the University of Gloucestershire. It is a relatively sub-urban kind of habitat which has a few bits of green spaces scattered around the campus which enables small and large mammals to inhabit. During January 2019 when the challenge commenced, the team and I decided to do a trial run to see what species are actually present on our chosen site and to learn from any mistakes during this trial for future surveying. Longworth tunnel traps were set, footprint tunnels were placed all around the campus and continuous walks around the site with bat detectors to locate any sign of bat activity all occurred January 29th, 2019. All that needed to be done now is to set up some camera traps to capture some nocturnal activity.
We were suggested to place some traps near an inactive badger den by our bioscience technicians and we thought ‘why not, it’s worth a shot’. I set up the camera trap at 18:30 and came back to collect it the following morning at 06:30. I opened up the camera trap and looked at the view finder after I turned it on and saw a bristly figure captured on the screen without its head showing. I instantly Googled Badger photos to find that we captured Badgers on our trial. Unfortunately, the kind of camera trap we used only made me see that one image, so I had to run home with the memory card in my hand hoping we captured more than half a Badger. Fortunately, we did and managed to capture a curious Red Fox too.
Curious Red Fox investigating Badger site. A perfect example of interspecific interactions between two different species
Camera traps were set up again February 3rd, 2019. We managed to capture Badgers again, not only one but TWO this time!
Team UGlos Bioscience: Rea Atkinson (far left), Yolande King-Sanders (second left), Simon Loughran (third left), Tolga Aktas (far right) and Nikita Yeomans
For more information on UMAC2019 go to www.mammal.org.uk/umac.