My name is Calista White, and I am studying Integrated Wildlife Conservation at the University of the West of England. I have always been very intrigued by animals and their habitats, and the advanced acceleration of climate change is what has spurred me to turn my passion into a career. Whilst travelling across Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia with my sisters, we had the opportunity to interact with many amazing species such as elephants, dolphins and kangaroos. The months we spent out there really highlighted to me that I want to aid in conservation projects across the world.
As part of my university placement, I completed daily transect walks through a local field and woodland. Using the Mammal Society’s simple and accessible app, Mammal Mapper, I recorded any signs or sightings of mammals that I came across. Although my knowledge of common mammal species is adequate, the Mammal Mapper app was incredibly useful for ensuring I was identifying each animal correctly. On the app, there is information on each mammal’s dietary needs, preferred habitats and even information on how to identify certain tracks and signs of animals.
I completed these walks either before dusk or dawn, as I knew I would witness a higher number of animals at those times. Grey squirrels were in abundance throughout the wood, leaping from the highest treetops in search of food and occasionally emitting squeaking sounds, no doubt alerting their friends of my presence. Most days I would spot molehills, burrows and setts dotted around the area and often a new set of tracks. But somedays there would be no fresh sign or sighting of any mammals, and yet strolling across a peaceful landscape, surrounded by singing birds, was enough. My eyes would still be scanning for potential glimpses, but overall, the walk was not wasted, as being immersed in the sounds and feel of nature allowed me to take time out from the regular hastiness of life.
In one day, I was lucky enough to observe a stunning red fox and two young roe deer. The fox was stalking through the long grass, its luscious fur perfectly reflecting the sunlight, I was in awe. I stood as still as I could and, though it glanced my way, the fox barely took notice of me before disappearing into the hedge. As for the deer, they were a lot trickier to notice and much more skittish. The sun had set, and the woods were becoming dark, I was almost tiptoeing through trying to avoid any loud noises, when the tree 5 yards ahead moved, at least I thought it was a tree. I then spotted a white, fluffy tail which clearly belonged to a roe deer. Once my eyes had adjusted, I noticed there was another, larger deer not too far from the original one and I attempted to get closer. To begin with they had not noticed me, but one snap of a twig and they bolted. Although I did not witness them for long, it was still an incredible sight to see, and I am glad I chose that day to walk extra quietly.
What I like the most about ‘Mammal Mapper’, is that it is free to use and anyone can get involved! Whether you would like to complete walks like those I have done, or even report a one-off sighting, there are options for both. Complete with an identification guide with relevant and useful facts on mammals that can be found across Great Britain, everything you need to kick-start your own contribution to wildlife conservation efforts is on the app. It is inspiring to see that anyone and everyone can get involved and help in small or large ways, just through being outside and engaging with nature.
You can download the free Mammal Mapper app from your smartphone’s app store. Click here to learn more about the app and how your records are helping mammal conservation.