Cornwall's mammals

The current status of many mammals in Cornwall is poorly understood and urgently requires further research. To date, most survey effort has concentrated on species such as the otter, badger, bats and, more recently, on marine mammals, stoats and weasels. Very little other work has been carried out, even on once common mammals such as the water vole and brown hare.

This situation is about to change with the recent publication of Cornwall’s Biodiversity Audit and subsequent discussions to put into action the priorities identified to conserve the county’s biodiversity (or in plain language Cornwall’s habitats and species). The local audit follows the production of the National Biodiversity Audit and later Regional Biodiversity Plan; outcomes of the Biodiversity Convention that the UK signed up to at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

The Cornish audit was produced through extensive consultation involving local experts, amateur naturalist groups and the species records held by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust (formerly by the Cornish Biological Records Unit). There are enormous gaps in our knowledge of many species, including mammals, and further research is needed to assess the status of the county’s wildlife.

What we've got

A total of 70 mammals (excluding domesticated species) have been recorded in Cornwall or its surrounding seas. They include 14 bat and 17 cetacean species (mostly recorded as strandings), as well as now-extinct mammals, such as the red squirrel, and escapees such as the red-necked wallaby, coypu, ferret and deer.
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Water vole
Current distribution of the water vole?
Please help us to put mammals
on the map. Illustrations: Sarah McCartney.
Of these, 46 mammals have been identified to be of some conservation concern in Cornwall:

Thirty-five are of European importance, listed under the EC Species and Habitats Directive, and seven are also a national priority for conservation.

In Cornwall, 11 species (this includes the seven nationally important ones) have been identified as requiring immediate conservation action. These short-listed species are: yellow-necked mouse, water vole, brown hare, otter, dormouse, pipistrelle bat, greater horseshoe bat, red squirrel, harbour porpoise, common dolphin and grey seal. Another 11 species (seven marine mammals, three bat species and the water shrew) may require specific action in the future.

Our effort must be concentrated on these priority species, especially as Cornwall is believed to be a national stronghold for some - such as the greater horseshoe bat and harbour porpoise. The county may also be important for dormice.

We need your help

The Trust is keen to raise the profile of mammals in general in Cornwall, and in the coming year will concentrate its efforts on priority species recording. A programme of surveying and monitoring will initially focus on the nature reserves, as well as supporting the efforts of the various groups and organisations involved in mammal conservation. In 1998 it will launch its Mammal Group at a meeting organised by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Federation of Biological Recorders (CISFBR). This takes place on 7th March and includes training sessions.

What you can do:
- Come to the meeting on 7th March (see diary).
- Send in records of any of the priority species listed here. Survey forms will be supplied by the Trust.
- Join our Mammal Group - no previous knowledge necessary.

Tania Percy-Bell

Tania has been a Conservation Officer with the Trust since 1991. Mammals, dragonflies and wild flowers are among her main natural interests, and she is the member of staff primarily responsible for handling consultations from the county and district planning authorities.

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