Saturday 27 December 2014

Cold threat to hibernating species

Published 20/03/2013 | 00:11

Spring's late arrival could affect wild creatures such as hedgehogs which hibernate, say conservationists
Spring's late arrival could affect wild creatures such as hedgehogs which hibernate, say conservationists

The late arrival of spring could hit wild creatures which hibernate such as bats and hedgehogs, conservationists have warned.

The cold weather has led to a significant drop in sightings of early spring wildlife compared with last year, according to reports received from the public by the Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar recording scheme.

Sightings of the common seven-spot ladybird and the peacock butterfly have been notably sparse in the North of England and in Scotland compared with 2012, and records of tree budburst are lagging behind other years, the Woodland Trust said.

There are also few records of blackbirds building nests in the Midlands and the North, and frog tadpoles have mostly only been spotted in the South West, according to the scheme which allows the public to submit sightings of nature to help monitor the changing seasons.

Last year the mild weather between January and March led to some exceptionally early sightings of wildlife, but this year's continuing cold conditions have delayed the emergence of many creatures and plants.

The Woodland Trust raised concerns that the late arrival of spring would hit species which hibernate because they would not emerge in the cold conditions, and may not have sufficient fat reserves to survive until warmer weather.

And those that do emerge will find little in the way of food, such as insects, the Trust's conservation adviser, Kay Haw, said, adding: "Species that may suffer are those that hibernate. Dormice and hedgehogs spend most of their time before hibernation fattening themselves up so they can survive this dormant period.

"However, if they do not have enough fat reserves, perhaps because of a lack of food or an extended period of hibernation due to a long cold winter, they can die.

"Bats are a similar story, and, even if they did come out, there would be virtually no insect food around because it is just too cold for most invertebrates at the moment."

People can visit www.naturescalendar.org.uk to submit sightings or to find out more about the project.

Press Association

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